Cooked Ripe Pili Fruit


Cooked “ripe” pili is a dish that few non-Bicolanos get to try, let alone enjoy. Unless you have been to Bicol, have friends who have brought back fresh pili to your town or you have a tree in your backyard, getting the fresh black ripe pili is rather difficult. It spoils very quickly (say two days) and doesn’t travel too well… I learned to eat this by watching my dad who used to eat boiled pili with such gusto by dipping the peeled boiled pili in pungent guinamos. Inevitably, the rest of the meal was eaten by hand or kamayan style as it just seemed to taste better that way. Not many people know that you can eat the hairy pulp that surrounds the hard nut within, but I have to say it is an acquired taste.

The last time I tried to cook this the pulp came out hard. apil2It seems the proper way to do it is to boil some water and when it reaches a boil, shut off the flame, wait a minute or so and drop the ripe pili into the hot water for just 3-4 minutes and it yields when pressed slightly. If the water is too hot or the dip too long, you get hard pulp which is almost inedible. When it is cool enough to handle, peel off the black skin and dip the pili in guinamos, patis and kalamansi or as I just learned on my recent trip, try it dipped in sugar! The pili fruit has a distinctive fragrance and taste and surprisingly, it was good with sugar. The farm manager was quite insistent that I should take some back to Manila so I could cook it and they harvested the fruit very late the night before I left and they brought it to the airport at 6 in the morning so I could load it onto my flight…I may only eat this once every 5 or 10 years but it’s a very distinctive and memorable experience every time…


7 Responses

  1. hi MM! got back from albay yesterday (wed). my host in legazpi told me about this particular way of cooking/eating pili. unfortunately, didn’t get a chance to experience it owing to a tight sked.

    i did get a chance to eat at waway’s and at a place called tago-tago. both were pleasant dining experiences. gorged on bicol express, pinangat (which is what they call laing) and cocido (which turns out to be their version of sinigang). very yummy

    had breakfast at gasthof’s and was happy with my hungarian sausage sandwich with dijon mustard dressing.

    bought a ton of bonbones and other pili candies in camalig, albay and twice had the snipes at the airport canteen(on arrival and departure, natch). very good!

    on honey’s recommendation, twice tried eating at gemma’s (front of aquinas hospital) but both times they didn’t have the bulalo. went once in the morning (they only had chicken tinola; wasn’t interested)) and another time at night (they were closed)

    mayon was hypnotically marvelous and the cagsaoa ruins evoked melancholy and a bit of creepiness.

    was persuaded into buying some boloes and scissors at the satellite market and also at the ruins. am not sure if these were smart purchases. i’ve been getting some weird looks from the wifey.i feel like such a gullible idiot.

    over all however, enjoyed the quick trip- especially the food and the sights and the warmth of the bicolanos (fueled by chili heat?).

    thanks for the tips, MM and honey! till next viaje. mabalos!

  2. I have a similar experience of getting handed a precious packet of ripe pili at the Legazpi City airport early in the morning before a flight back to Manila. :-)

    In our family, ripe, blanched pili is eaten with kalamansi and patis and a whole mess of crisp, fried abo (I think this fish is found only in Bicol’s San Miguel Bay—alakaak is a close relative). Folks in the know look for the “biti” in the abo’s stomach—a delicacy best eaten with the patis-kalamansi laced pili pulp and steaming maloto (kanin) with your feet up on the bench.

  3. Mr. MM

    they called it “kembayau” or somthing like it (not sure of the spelling) here and what they do is they peeled it in a way that it looks like they got striped skin then soaked in boiling water. They eat the flesh but throw the seed but i have no idea it is the pili nut hehe…the taste is good…and oh by the way the put a bit of salt in the water….

  4. marketman, you don’t actually boil the water for the pili. if you do, it becomes hard or it too soft. just heat the water and drop the pili in it until as you say, it yield slightly to pressure. it’s hard to tell if you got a tasty pili or not. if you get lucky, you get one that is “mananam”. if you’re not so lucky, you get a so-so taste

  5. Pili dipped in sugar is one of my childhood food-related memories! I was born in Legazpi but was raised in Manila. Each summer, I would go back and eagerly await the pili from the market. I would eat the creamy pili flesh dipped in the crunchy sweetness of the sugar, all the time gazing at the beauty of Mayon. Could life have been any more idyllic?

  6. i am from Sta. Magdalena, Sorsogon and this is my FAVORITE! We call it “nilanta” and as what Honey have mentioned, you dont boil the water. We just dip them in very hot water and yes, it goes well with sugar too… i love it with brown sugar. But its also great with any kind of bagoong and hot rice…. Gosh am salivating! I really miss this kind of food….

  7. hi. :) do you know any recipe for the pili pulp as gulay? with gata or something like it? Thanks.

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