Never heard of this fruit before. Thank goodness I had my camera to record it for this blog. We were at a large sprawling home in San Mateo, Rizal last Sunday, where some relatives of my wife were having a mini and rather impromptu family reunion/lunch for 70! I knew the hosts also had large poultry farms and a vegetable farm and I was hoping I could sneak in a tour (no luck, the farms were half an hour away from their home). But when one of the guests arrived with the makings of kinilaw, I was totally intrigued when this “tabon tabon” emerged and was used in the preparation of her kinilaw. A little web surfing hours later yielded its scientific name,
hydrophytune orbiculatum (correction: a reader below suggests atuna racemosa as the correct scientific name of this fruit, but not much other information on this fruit at all. Apparently it is native to Northern Mindanao and Camiguin Island (again, if atuna racemosa, it has close relatives in other parts of Southeast Asia and the South Pacific). It physically looks like an elongated chico, with a hard shell, but the pulp inside looks unusual and somewhat like a split brain. It does not appear in several of my reference books on food/produce so it must be considered relatively obscure to non-natives.
Apparently, according to Michaela Fenix, Doreen Fernandez and other blogs on the net, tabon tabon was the key to the assertion that Filipinos enjoyed kinilaw well before the Spaniards arrived (refuting the seviche/kinilaw relationship), because tabon tabon shells were found near fish bones in a cave/anthropoligical site in the south… The pulp is used to remove the “fishy” taste of fish (langsa) and may have other medicinal properties as well. All I know is, it was part of a superb tasting kinilaw, photos and recipe up next! If you are familiar with this fruit, please leave a comment if it has any other uses or plays a role in any other recipes from the South, thank you!!!