09 Feb2006


What do my favorite sinigang, spicy sampalok candy and the ash used to de-hair goatskins have in common? They come from the surprisingly versatile block2tamarind tree. I kid you not, ash from tamarind wood is used to tan leather and de-hair goatskins…how’s that for trivia? And you can read more at the Purdue University website. Yesterday I was out at the beach, feeling a little bit “redneck” like so I put on my plaid lumberjack shirt, a hat to conceal my thinning hair from the noonday sun, grabbed myself a large chainsaw and went out back and made me a chopping board out of a fallen sampalok tree…nothing to it. Heeheehee. It is photographed above under my Global chef’s knife with cool dotted handle…

We had a couple of nice sampalok (tamarind) trees behind our property but apparently one fell over the day before I got to the beach and it severely damaged block3some of our other trees and nearly cracked our wall. After using the chainsaw to slice off a nice chunk of trunk, the bark was chipped off the edges and after some drying in the hot sun and some sanding (if you prefer it extra smooth) I have a terrific chopping board that is natural, made from a naturally felled tree, heavy, hard, durable and bug resistant. And no, I didn’t really do it myself, the roving groundskeepers did all the actual work in exchange for a large plastic bottle of Diet Coke (gross taste) and a generous tip… I would probably chop off my own foot if I operated a chainsaw!

If you don’t fancy power tools and have difficulty locating a newly fallen mature sampalok tree, you may want to head block4over towards the Batangas City port as there are dozens of vendors on the roadside selling sampalok wood products. At the Saturday Salcedo market, I purchased this huge wide flat cutting board (here under my irregular natural specimen) that seemed like a deal at PHP600. I have only had it one month and it is cracking. My sister bought a bigger one from the same stall and hers is molding. I don’t think it was properly dried. Worse, I think it is cut against or with the grain (whichever means not like disks out of the trunk) and that is causing some funny movement in the wood as it dries…I would say avoid this vendor until those kinks are worked out. At any rate, tamarind wood cutting boards are extremely durable and useful. Tamarind wood is also used for mortar and pestles, tool handles, boat decking, etc.



  1. lori says:

    I know of that vendor you’re talking about from the Salcedo Market. I’ve been eyeing one of her boards for a while now, and I’m dismayed to read that yours is already cracking. Actually, I’m not so good with wooden chopping boards. The one that I had warped after 1 use and rendered itself unusable. Now I’m staying away from them until I get a good recommendation for another wooden board.

    Feb 9, 2006 | 5:18 pm


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  3. Chris says:

    When buying wood products, make sure they’re kiln-dried. Kiln dried wood won’t warp and are termite resistent too, I think.

    Feb 10, 2006 | 12:34 am

  4. Chris says:

    Oops, I meant resistant. Sorry. I recently bought a kiln dried laminated wood board that’s 6 feet by 2 feet from a free lance supplier who got it from one of the furniture exporters in Pampmanga. Paid a little under two thousand Ps for it. I’ve only had it for three months, but so far so good. Initial quality is excellent though, I just hope it lasts for years.

    Feb 10, 2006 | 12:42 am

  5. Gigi says:

    I know that vendor you’re talking about too, MM! I wanted to get a chopping board too as part of my goal for the year to be immersive in the kitchen. Here’s a question — are you not supposed to “lubricate” or “polish” the board with EVOO (ev. olive oil) before first use — like how those wooden salad bowls you buy in Baguio — so as to protect the wood? Just a thought. Thanks MM for saving me P600 and the trouble of lugging that board from the curb to the car. That’s a mighty work-out ain’t it?

    Feb 10, 2006 | 9:38 am

  6. Gigi says:

    MM— That is one beautiful knife, Man.

    Feb 10, 2006 | 9:38 am

  7. arlene says:

    Hi MM, Ive been wanting have a good chopping board, can you recommend me where I could buy one …

    Feb 10, 2006 | 11:55 am

  8. Kai says:

    Marketman, you buy all the expensive stuff. I buy loads of tamarind chopping boards, as many as I could carry, which is just actually one given their weight, at the ultimate cheapskate shopping destination – Divisoria. They are sold in roving carts along the busy roads. I got a fair-sized, really thick one for P35, down from the initial sales pitch of P70, and it’s been in service for 2 years now, no crack, not even a single minute complaint.

    Feb 10, 2006 | 12:13 pm

  9. Marketman says:

    Kai, I do get bamboozled once in a while, but I do hunt out bargains on occasion as well. I bought the huge smooth sampalo chopping board because I hadn’t seen one that big and it’s perfect for hacking away at crabs or big animal portions… At PHP600, it was pricey but unusual in shape and heft. I did however, get the onex from the backyard for a lot less…so it all evens out in the end. Glad the ones from Divisoria are good…will keep that in mind the next time I am there. Arlene, a sampaloc board is a good choice in Manila. In the states, I buy Boos Blocks which are great, they are made of fused maple and extremely durable. More than just a chopping board, it’s more important that you keep your boards separate – one for meats, one for foul, one for veggie and one for fruit. Otherwise, strange odors and bacteria can transfer from one to the other. Gigi, I do lubricate salad bowls with oil… hmmm, I didn’t think to do that for the sampalok… Chris, if the wood went into a kiln, that’s a far better product than the naturally dried versions on offer…also, I find if you buy thick enough it may have less chance of warping??!? Not sure if there is a good reason for that belief…

    Feb 10, 2006 | 7:45 pm

  10. lmc says:

    Hi MM – I’ve been dreaming about that Global knife for quite sometime now. I guess it’s one of the most expensive brands around. But based on the reviews, it’s definitely one of the best. Is it really lightweight? I settled for a Calphalon instead but my goodness, it probably weighs like your chainsaw! (: Haven’t given up on the Global knife dream though…maybe someday. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

    Feb 11, 2006 | 12:30 am

  11. ces says:

    me too! been dreaming about that global thingie! *sigh* next on my list…i’ll head first to divi for that tamarind block!

    Feb 11, 2006 | 3:04 am

  12. Chris says:

    I’ve observed that too. Perhaps the thickness makes it a lot more rigid. I’ve also found that the downside is, if it’s not properly dried, instead of flexing (i.e. warping), it has a tendency to crack. I had a four inch thick laminated bamboo board from thailand that split right in the middle. In frustration, I told one of my cooks to throw it into the pugon! Never saw it again, so maybe he took me seriously and recycled it into firewood. Heheh.

    Feb 11, 2006 | 3:10 am

  13. santos. says:

    i think i bought the brother of your sister’s board from the same vendor–gorgeous, hard to resist something that size with that grain. the first thing i did when i got home was oil it down. i’ve only had it two weeks so i can’t say if there’s a problem, but so far, none. and the smaller boards i bought in october are still doing well; there was a little cracking in the beginning, but i think that was due to the airplane journey–all that depressurization and altitude is bad, bad, bad. now i oil the boards up before i take them on the plane if i’m particularly worried.

    Feb 11, 2006 | 12:27 pm

  14. santos. says:

    oh oops, i forgot to mention that perhaps olive oil isn’t the best to season a board, you’ll want to use something that won’t go rancid like food-grade mineral oil (sorry to be so self-serving, but i have a post on how to oil one of those salcedo boards….)

    Feb 11, 2006 | 12:33 pm

  15. Marketman says:

    santos, GREAT comments, thanks for the link… Other readers will surely appreciate it as well!

    Feb 11, 2006 | 1:39 pm


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