Suha or Pomelo (Citrus grandis) is the largest citrus fruit of all with fruits weighing up to 3.0 kilos. According to the Oxford Companion to Food authored by Alan Davidson, the Pomelo is an ancestor of the grapefruit and is believed to have originated in the Malay Peninsula or Western Indonesia. From there it migrated westwards and now thrives in several tropical climates around the world. Pomelo is believed to be derived from the Malay word pumpulmas which evolved into the Dutch pompelmoes and truncated by the English into pummelo or pomelo. Sometimes called Shaddock for the sea captain who brought them from Polynesia to the West Indies in the mid-1600’s. Several varieties are now being grown and the pomelos from one country to the other vary tremendously. Indonesia has huge fruits that sometimes have a milder flavor. Thailand likewise has large juicy fruit that is either yellowish or light pink in color. The Philippines tends to have smaller fruit and while I would say at best, erratic quality, the good pomelos here are really good. I like the smaller fruit as long as the texture, color and taste are top notch.
While generally viewed to be in season from November to January, it seems that suha this year is running a little late and only now am I getting the abundance in the markets that I would have expected two or three months ago. I am such a suha lover that I tend to buy it as often as possible, even though my experience suggests that 1 out of 3 suhas that I buy are substandard. That is a pretty bad failure rate but it’s a bit like shooting craps. I have tried picking unblemished skins, smaller vs. larger, name brand vs. no name brand, heavier vs. lighter, suki vs. unknown supplier and it is very very hard to establish a real fail-safe method for buying suha. Perhaps the best odds come from a friend who lives in Davao who can go to a favored supplier and send the crate on to you in Manila. At any rate, the best specimens have just the right degree of juiciness (not too much), plump pulp bits and a nice sweet/tart flavor. Generally speaking, I buy fruit that is heavy for its size and whose skin looks relatively healthy. There is not one main supplier I rely on for this fruit.
I do not have the patience to peel suha so that they come in nice whole sections like in the photo above but that is the best way to serve the fruit. Suha neat is suha heaven. Recently I have started to eat it in other ways that are intriguing. First, suha with a good alamang bagoong (shrimp fry paste) – an unlikely pairing but at a meal at a friend’s house I was served very sweet suha with a condiment of salty bagoong. The pairing was simply superb. Salt and sweet and tart all at the same time. Somewhat akin to the pairing of prosciutto and sweet melon, this combination was an eye opener and I never turn it down when it is being served this way. Suha in spicy salads is also a nice way to enjoy the fruit. The Thais serve a nice pomelo salad with chillies, lime, mint, etc. that is splendid. I have also used suha in fruit salsas that are heavily spiked with chillies. Finally, I threw some suha into a fennel and citrus salad I made a few days ago…recipe to be posted soon.
I am also told that the pomelo peel or rind (of which there is a LOT) also makes a nice candied citrus peel and is delicious if dipped in dark chocolate. I haven’t tried this yet but will as soon as I get the chance. Suha prices can vary tremendously… at the height of pre-Chinese New Year they were running P150 a kilo (absurd!) and yesterday I bought 3 pieces at about P80 a kilo. These were Nenita branded (or so they say, ever wonder if someone just prints stickers with Nenita and Chiquita printed on them?) and they were very good. Out of the 3, 2 were really good and one was dry. I didn’t set that up… what did I say about 1 out of 3 fruit being substandard??? For those of you who will invetably email me if I don’t put suha’s other local names…here they are: Baungon or Buongon in Cebuano, Aslom in Samar-Leyte, Luban in Ifugao, and Lukban in Iloko and Tagalog, according to Doreen Fernandez’s book on Philippine Fruit.