Castanas / Roasted Chestnuts

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” is one of my all-time favorite lines in a Christmas carol or any song for that matter. chest1As the Christmas season draws near, I play that classic and it never fails to put me in the mood. I have roasted chestnuts on an open fire several times and it isn’t as romantic as it sounds! There is actually a specialized contraption that is used to enclose the chestnuts while you put them over the flames in your fireplace. Why, you may wonder… it’s because the bloody nuts heat up and often explode like firecrackers if they are not restrained! Nevertheless, the whole process screams “holidays are here” so I don’t mind the potential hot and fast trajectory of a wayward chestnut…

My Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson states that there are different species of chestnuts around the world, where they thrive in temperate zones. chest2The larger European chestnut (Castanea sativa) originated from Western Asia though it thrives in Southern Europe in Spain, France and Italy. These are the nuts they make into that sinfully sweet and rich delicacy Marrons Glaces (sugared chestnuts). Chinese chestnuts (Castanea mollissima) are the ones we see most often here in Manila and they are generally smaller but have great flavor and we know them best as roasted and sold still hot. Chestnuts have a tremendous number of uses in several forms, dried and pulverized into flour, used as stuffing in fowl, as desserts, in nut pastes, etc. But most of us in the Philippines simply remember the distinct fragrance that emanates from the supermarket or canto chestnut vendor as Christmas draws nearer and we usually cannot resist at least ONE small paper bag filled with ½ a kilo or so of hot chestnuts… then we begin the internal expletives when the chestnuts prove tough to peel, the skins stick to the insides, we use a particularly well-shaped tooth to make “kit-kit” the meat stuck in the shells, we don’t know where to discard the messy shells, etc. Don’t you just love them???


12 Responses

  1. Love castanas – we have an Italian guy who roasts these in the Adelaide central market and we can’t resist buying these from him.

    Just want to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!
    Thank you so very much for all the posts you have written and shared with everyone for this past year and we look forward to 2006.

    You are the BEST,MM!

  2. Linda, no greetings yet as it will jinx me… I am still rushing to do ensaimada, ham, gingerbread and Christmas cookies!!! Check back often in the next couple of days for the mad rush to finish my Christmas posts!

  3. this reminds me when I roasted some in the oven

    i forgot to score a few next thing I hear was pooopppp!!
    oh dear the oven was in a mess..

    yes MM we kit kit sa napilit.
    BTW I didnt know they sell chestnuts in the Phils.

  4. hi MM, i love marrons glaces and used to buy it a lot in Terrys Selection, have you by any chance experimented on your version of this? is it possible to make a homemade version using the local chestnut variety? a few years ago, i was given a bottle of chestnuts preserved in an Armagnac laced syrup, lovely but the marrons glaces still top my list.

  5. From what I understand, the chestnurs are soaked in sugar water for several days and the baths changed as well. What happens is that the chestnut absorbs an incredible amount of sugar but you retain the flavor of marrons…superb in small does and the caviar of sweets…

  6. yup im into chestnuts as well. warm & toasty, mmm… hey did you ever wonder what those black pellets are made of in the chestnut vendors’ roasting pan? I’ve always wanted to know…and what are they there for?

    looking forward to a local bone-in ham taste test!

  7. After cooking the chestnuts, it gets cold, then it becomes hard to peel off the skin. Do you have a tip on how make it stay soft and easy to remove the skin?

  8. Gonzo are they stones or steel ball bearing equivalents??? Not sure. But they are there to heat or roast the nuts evenly rather than apply super hot heat from a raging flame… Ray, not sure how to get them to remain soft, maybe throw them into a warm oven again?

  9. haha, just yesterday i received a joke thru email about this parrot named chet, who could sing when a flame was put on either foot. the owner decided maybe he should put a flame in between his legs–and so the parrot sang, “chet’s nuts roasting on an open fire…”

    i love chestnuts that are still small and “young”(?) they’re slightly sweetish pa and easy to peel. i think this christmas season, i’ve not had one chestnut! tsk, tsk.

  10. I stumbled on this website through PinoyCooks links. To answer some of the questions, the small black things in the huge wok where they roast the chestnuts are small volcanic stones normally found on the beach. Which beach where I dunno.

    Chestnut roasters here in Korea would cut a small half-inch slit on the bottom of each nut before roasting them over hot coals or stones. Nuts that have cooked would pop slightly out of its shell and more or less have not stuck to its inner skin. I love chinese chestnuts or mandarin chestnuts. It’s lucky we get it here all year round in Korea.

  11. hey do you guys know where castanas came from? is it from a tree or grows underground or what? and i’d also like to know how to grow them so that i wouldn’t wait for xmas season anymore just to eat them…

    awww.. im really addicted to castanas even most of my friends say its difficult to peel..

    thanks in advance!!




Subscribe To Updates

No spam, only notifications about new blog posts.