Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fruit of the south

On the first day of my trip to Zamboanga, we were squashed like sardines in a van taking in the sights. Many of the other fellow van-mates had not been back to Zamboanga in a long time, although they were born in the city. All of us were there to help a friend celebrate her daughter's debut, plus get a chance to relax in the newly retitled "Latin City of Asia" (I'm starting to collect these names of places I go; remember what Dumaguete's title is?).

We were through with the tour of downtown, and had just bought some yakan weave near the military camp. On our way back, we passed a wet market and one of the ladies asked to stop. She had spied marang for sale and wanted to share the taste with everyone.

Marang (Artocarpus odoratissimus) reminds me of three fruis - durian, langka, and atis. The fruit and it's tree are from the same family as the langka or jackfruit, but some people mistake it for a durian as the fruit has a similar squat shape. The smell of the marang can also be a bit pungent, but its less painful to the nose, and less likely to be as offputting (putrid) as the durian. Instead of spikey thorn like protrusions (as with the durian), the marang sports a shell of soft spines, observe those spines carefully as they indicate when the fruit is ready to eat. They turn color and look a bit more hollow when the fruit is ripe. Pull back the spines and squeeze the rind back for an opening then pull apart to get to the white globes within. That's when the fruit reminds me of an atis. Each tidbit of fruit meat surrounds a small seed. Eating a langka reminds me of eating atis, sucking off the sweet fruit and spitting out the seeds. This does not make for tight-assed, prissy eating, people. It's got to be eaten on a tropical island, wearing beach wear, right after a meal of fish or grilled meat and rice, a tall glass of water near by, and friends around gossiping about the latest nonsense. Use your fingers! Don't let that fork go near the fruit. Pluck a piece or two at a time, feel the custardy meat envelope your palate, lick the taste off your fingers. Spit the seed out. Repeat. After awhile, if it's just you and a couple of friends, you might feel like your tummies are full of eggy, creamy dessert. But it's fruit! Good for ya! One marang is enough to feed at least 4 people, or one hungry person when it's all I'm having for lunch.

We had the marang over in Zambo (P50 a kilo at the market) for our dessert after lunch, and most of us loved each and every tidbit.

I went to fruit market to buy some oranges and found a vendor with two marangs, rather puny but looking like they were on their way to ripeness. It was priced at P90 a kilo, but given how rarely I find it in Manila, I bought one right away. It's now ripening in my kitchen, and this morning I woke up, walked to the bathroom and was hit in the nose by the smell of something I couldn't define. Meaty. Smokey. Anyway, after trying to figure out what was putrifying downstairs, I realized it was just my marang. Waiting for the day (tomorrow? please make it tomorrow) when I can break it open and eat it, globule by sweet globule.

1 comment:

Katrina said...

Lovely description, Mila! Almost makes me want some marang right now...except that since I don't like durian (UGH!) and langka at all, I highly doubt I'd like marang. But I enjoyed reading about you eating it. :-)

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