Batuan / Batwan


The first time I heard of batuan or batwan was in the comments section of this blog. It seems Negrenses and Ilonggos are fond of this fruit that is used as a souring agent, sometimes in lieu of tamarind or kamias. I have never seen it fresh (probably because I have never been to Negros or Iloilo). But at a Negros fair I came across a stall selling brined and bottled batwan (from the Cojuangco farms) so of course I purchased some. Next problem was that I had no clue how and on what to use it on or with. A little research suggests that it is used in Negrense Kansi, which I have never made before, in fish paksiw, sinigang and even as that “secret” ingredient in a particularly authentic Inasal na Manok. But what the heck is this fruit that a few provinces hold in such high regard? Garcinia binucao (Blanco) Choisy is indigenous to the Philippines and possibly Vietnam, and it is a relative of Mangosteen. It even looks like a mangosteen with distinct sections to the fruit, though I understand this one remains green rather than turning a deep burgundy or purple. The batuan tree thrives in parts of Bohol and Leyte as well but it isn’t used much in those cuisines…

There is an interesting link here, with a fuzzy photograph of the fresh fruit. Also known as binukau or binukaw in Tagalog (from where its scientific name was derived), and balakut in Ilocano, according to this interesting article on the fruit, it seems the use of the fruit is dying out in most part of the Philippines except Negros and nearby areas that just love it. With my first two bottles of batwan, I experimented by adding it to my Inasal na Manok concoction, simply reducing the kalamansi that I added instead. I must say, it did bat2add a special something to the chicken, though many folks would be clueless if asked to identify the flavor after simply tasting the chicken… Nevertheless, we quickly ran out of the stuff. The other day, I stopped by the ECJ Farms stall at Tiendesitas and purchased another half dozen bottles of batuan. At PHP60, is seems like a good deal to me. And in this form, it is easy to transport to the U.S. and Europe for folks (many of them it seems) pining for this unique flavor from home… The bottle, which is labelled Batuan Puree, contains huge chunks of the fruit, with skins I think, and seeds mashed with some salt. It is a LARGE puree, if it qualifies as a puree at all. It is surprisingly dry actually and looks almost like a paste when scooped out with a spoon. It has a mildly sour taste with a little bit of “aphud” or astringent? mouthfeel. Next up, a great sinigang with batuan…


32 Responses

  1. i’m from leyte and my paternal grandmother was from cebu. batwan was and is ubiquitous in my relatives’ households in both provinces. it’s sometimes used for such dishes as fish tinola and kinilaw. a trip to the markets in tacloban and ormoc will reveal that batwan is indeed a much sought-after commodity in those parts. we love our batwan!

  2. Same here. The family (both on my mother’s and father’s sides) come from Leyte, Palo in Leyte to be exact. We use batuan as souring agent. I don’t know why others in the country (Luzon area?) aren’t very familiar with this but it is a much sought-after item as choy says.

  3. Just heard this from your site. Never seen fresh or bottled ones yet. I will keep my eyes open for them. If the Cojuangcos farming them – it must be something really good. Otherwise, they will not waste their energy and resources. It must possess an extraordinary acid content to wing chicken inasal to another level. I thought the secret ingredient in your inasal is the Star Margarine. When I spot one at the market, I will definitely take half dozen bottles home with me and make something good out of them.

  4. Ingredient din ito sa paksiw na isda. Another Bacolod dish that requires batwan is langka or kansi with mongo and gata. great din ito sa tinola na isda. In Negros, we basically use this to any dish that requires a souring agent instead of sampaloc.

  5. I miss the classic batwan dish at home in Negros–baboy with kadyos and langka, soured by batwan. Sometimes we add lemongrass (tanglad) to the broth and it smells so great!

  6. i dont see any batuan here in Cebu. i think its more available in Negros. Plenty of it in Iloilo and Bacolod but I dont really like it, its not that maasim para sa sinigang. But I like it in paksiw na isda.

  7. ilonggos even have a bugtong for it which goes like this:

    “there are many trees in the forest, bat wan is the best”

  8. yes, it is used mostly as a souring agent in Panay island – as we used to hear back when we were kids “Of the many trees in the forest but one (batwan) is the best” :)

  9. thank you MM, now I know where to source batwan here. I’ve been planning to cook the classic Ilonggo dish ‘KBL’, which uses this as souring agent. My only problem now is where to buy kadios here in Manila. Any idea where?

  10. I am ashamed of myself. I’m from Leyte and have no idea what this fruit is. Asked the help and she said it grows wild in the mountains. Guess I’ll be on the lookout for this on the next trip to the market…

  11. This is abundant in Samar too. Our version of isdang tinola is always with batwan :) You can almost always find pickled versions during fiestas.

  12. thanks for the info about this exotic souring agent. I am not Bisayan by birth but then here in Mindoro there are a lot of exotic “fruits” I see around which no one knows if they’re edible or not. I have seen such fruits/berries around the mountain forest but then I wouldn’t want to experiment since it might still be another variety. If the birds don’t eat it, then I don’t touch it. This batuan looks like mansanitas…or is it another name for it? Mansanitas are also sour, as I recall.

  13. @ bernadette

    no, mansanitas is different. I am sure of it because we had a big mansanitas tree before and I have lived in Negros for 4yrs and knew what Batuan looks like. They’re very much different.

  14. Batwan only grows in Panay or Negros. It is a huge tree and the fruits aplenty when it is in season. It is the only souring agent that we know. We even put a lot of batwan in paksiw na isda. It is not mansanitas. I’ve always dreamed of planting a batwan tree in Makati.

  15. Mangaranon, what about all the folks from Leyte that use it? Is this a different souring agent? Apparently it is also in Bohol but not used in cooking. And how strange that it has an Ilokano and Tagalog name as well… I agree mansanitas is different, but answering this more accurately will need tulip or some other botanists… :)

  16. It has Tagalog and Ilocano names because it used to thrive in some parts of Ilocos, Laguna, Mindoro.It is not something that ONLY grows in Negros or Panay. It is something ONLY used for cooking in the Visayas and Mindanao area. I have seen Ilonggos use it. My Antiquena sister-in-law uses it too.
    Mansanitas comes from a different family, the only close related fruit to batuan is mangosteen as Marketman stated.
    By the way, the reason why most people only associate Batuan to Negros and Panay is because its ebbing and almost in extinction. And this tree is found abundant in these areas na lang. It is actually good for the ECJ Farm to grow them.

  17. I was born in 65 and grew up having batwan all year round in our household in Manila up until a few years after my grandmama passed away in the late 80s. If i remember right, i think she was born in the 1900s somewhere in Masbate in the Visayas region, of Spanish and Portugese decent and had hectares of land in a few towns that produced batwan, rice, coconut, pili and other produce and livestock. I also remember that there is a town called Batuan or Batwan in that province. She would go home there riding a PAL during planting and harvest season and would come back to Manila in a ship liner as she would bring sakos of rice and niogs/nyogs? for it’s gata, bayongs of pili nuts, batwan, bananas, freshly made cow’s milk pastillas, etc., and in a few occassions i remember, a live pig, some of the biggest langka fruit i’ve seen and ate. Batwan yes has similarities or as you guys say is a family to the mangosteen fruit, specially the seeds if you get a big enough piece, and for me, with siniguelas and olives, because of the various sizes it comes, texture and color of skin. I ate it fresh, days old after harvest or pickled in salt brine, plain or dipped and or coated in mixed white sugar and rock sea salt, and sometimes thought of it as kiamoy or champoy. They would use it to cook in replacement of sampaloc sometimes, also candied in sugar, and served in cocktails or as pica pica or appetizer. Depending on how old it has been harvested, brined or cooked, the seeds sometimes come soft that i would just swallow it, or hard like the seed of a small olive. My mom used it as a decorative item in the bar and kitchen area, pickled and placed in those spañada wine green bottles.
    A few times since i’ve lived here in California, i’ve craved for it. So, does the Philippines export it to the US already?

  18. Is batwan in the states or can it be ordered online from overseas. Cheers. Lance Centreville Virgina

  19. Lance and Cindy, I am not sure if the batwan is exported; my wild guess is that it is NOT YET officially exported as the bottles are not labelled to conform to most large Western markets… i.e., there is no nutrition information, etc. which I think is a requirement before receiving legal importation approvals… but I suspect folks bring it bottled back to the U.S….

  20. i was from masbate currently working here in manila! when i read this i seem to miss the lutong bahay being cooked with batuhan or batuan. actually its not only the negrosenses or the ilonggos who are fond of using batuhan as an alternative for kamias or tomato, in masbate it is the most commonly used souring agent. we used it in sinigang, paksiw and some even processed it like pickles. In masbate batuhan is commonly growing in the uplands and is still quite plentiful.

  21. No sinigang as good as the one made with batwa…try bangkiling too as a aouring ingredient (small green berry like sour fruit)……great for pinamalhan na fish…..a dry style paksiw from Negros…oh the joys of all these goodies unique to Negros…but did you know that they also have bangkiling in Colombia? My Colombian aunt who married my mom’s brother and moved here for good in the sixties was pleasantly surprised to fing bangkiling growing in our garden in Cubao….she said that they eat this judt dipped in some salt….

  22. i am glad to discover that many indeed appreciate the exotic taste of batuhan (Garcinia binucao. I am a Masbatenyo who lived all my life with batuhan-flavored fish, pork and chicken sinigang. The fish tinola soured by batuhan is simply exceptional! I am currently doing a paper in my botany class at the de la salle university – manila. hopefully, all pertinent batuhan information may be included in this paper. this blog is eaqually informative and surely will help in completing my paper.For about 3 years now, I guess,batuhan candies are already being made by Leo Salubre Candies and Processed Foods in Masbate, aside from the sought-after batuhan achara (pickled batuhan) which many housewives produce on order basis.

    The city government of Masbate City has also started to plant batuhan seedlings (around 500 trees are expected to produce fruits in 5 years) and, if I am not mistaken, this was initiated last 2005. Interested buyers are requested to contact Mayor Ates (Socrates) Tuason.

    My cousin in Milagros, Masbate used to be a batuhan supplier to Iloilo way back in the 80’s. This was the time that my interest in the batuhan plant begun.

  23. elo…
    I once aksed a batuan owner on why our batwan tree doesnt bear fruits…

    and the aswer goes like this:

    shocking!!! well, as bs biology student
    i now know that batuan is DIOECIOUS,
    but what i do not know is that…

    anybody,everybody, anyone with a body, smart buddy, please help me…. hehe

    I’m from Iloilo btw and does anyone know where SM malls get their batuan?

    peace on earth…

  24. Hello there

    I travelled Western Visayas(Bacolod, Iloilo, Panay,Semirara Islands)due to the nature of my work. (it was my area of coverage as a Technical and field application Engineer).

    I came across with Ilonggo dishes flavored with batwan and it taste great and exceptional.

    Now that my area of assignment is Negros Oriental and Northern Mindanao, there is no chance that I can procure planting seeds for my farm here in Cebu.

    Any body who has available batwaan seeds please e-mail me coz I want to purchase a few dozen for my garden. I really missed eating batwan flavored dishes.

    Please e-mail me.

  25. cindy…i was born in negros island and since i was transferred to manila for work, i would bring tons and tons of batuan to manila. i would impress co=workers with my cooking using these stuffs. just like you, im here in california too, but i brought with me bottles and bottles of batwan…wonder how i did it? email me when u can. i can give suggestion how. he! he! he! some trade secret if i may say it.
    they said, if there;s a will, there’s a way, right?

  26. Yup, there’s plenty of this fruit in Panay. I haven’t heard of sampaloc being used by anyone in the island as their souring agent. Its always the good old batwan. In fact, I wonder what sinigang sa sampaloc tastes like.

  27. I came from de Leon St. in Iloilo city. There used to be a “PAKHA chinese woman, with small feet” her store was below the chiang kai shek high school, who sells pickled batwan 3 pieces for 5 cents, and I buy a glass of “SANSAW – gulaman drink in tagalog for another 5 cents to compliment the sweet and sour taste. That was 40 years ago.
    Ga tubod ang laway ko just thinking about this, let alone those tasty dishes you mentioned above, and while eating you sweat as large as the bangkiling as they say from the sarap.
    Yes there is bat wan tree in the forest!



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