Get to know this essential ingredient in Visayan cooking.

By Sandy and Doc Rey

Are you familiar with Visayan home-cooked food such as kadyos, balbacua, their version of sinigang, etc.? I used to look forward to being served those, but my attention was on the obvious ingredients like the pork, langka, and beans.

Do you notice the mild sourness of many Visayan dishes? It’s very subtle; you know it is sour, but can’t tell exactly if that is how you should describe the flavor. This is attributed to the Batuan (Garcinia binucao). And no, you hardly find it in Manila markets.

Its other local names include ballok (Benguet); balukut (Ilocos Norte); bangok (Zambales); batuan (Negros, Guimaras and Burias Island); bilukao (Rizal, Bataan, Batangas, Camarines); binukao (Laguna, Bataan); buragris (Camarines); Kamangsi (Tayabas); haras (Capiz); kandis (Palawan); kanumai, kulilem (Cagayan); and maninila (Albay).

At one food show, I saw bottled Batuan puree by ECJ Farms. Got so excited and bought several bottles. It was the easiest thing to use and stock up on. The lady selling it said that when your boiled meat and vegetables are cooked, just add about two tablespoons of Batuan puree, remove from the fire, and stir. Just like that…and I was getting that delicate sourness.

During a visit to Bacolod, I was like a child when I saw a vendor with her woven tray marked Batuan! So this is how it looked when it was not yet mashed up. Wouldn’t have recognized it from my pureed version. Green in color and small, it looked like a young native tomato to me; others say it resembles a small unripe mangosteen.

Going through the research done on Batuan, I found that it is rich in vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and iron, and has trace levels of zinc, copper, and manganese. It is low in fat, high in water and fiber content, and it exhibited growth inhibitory effects on human breast cancer. It was shown to be effective for the treatment of the enlargement of the prostrate and to have potential as an anti-colon cancer drug.

Chef Gaita Fores, herself an Ilonggo, obliged us with a recipe using
Batuan. (Photo by Joy Jesena-Barcelon)

Given that it is indigenous to us, then it is logical that we look into using it to our advantage. It is similar to the tamarind that we export, so Batuan has potential. It is a common plant, widely distributed in primary forests at low and medium altitudes throughout Luzon and Visayas.

Now they are studying ways to propagate it. Before, since the product was not given attention, the supply was small. It propagated itself at the right time. The ripened fruits open up and scatter its seeds on the ground. Of course there are entrepreneurs who thought way ahead and have already planted hectares of Batuan. It’s still too early in the game to follow suit and plant the same.

It’s underutilized now, but its potential is great. Product development is ongoing for preserves in brine and chutneys. The leaves of the Batuan are also used in various ways like as stuffing for roasted chicken. We hope to see more products developed like powdered drinks, or powdered souring mix.

Being an indigenous fruit, it is important to conserve Batuan.

Sinigang sa Batuan ng Mga Yaang Dagat

Recipe provided by Cibo di M, Signature Caterer
Ingredients:
½ kilo scallops
½ kilo salmon fillet, cut into 25 grams each
½ kilo prawns
150 grams organic baby eggplant
50 grams radish
½ kilo tomatoes
100 grams string beans
½ kilo Batuan
50 grams water spinach
1 piece onion, chopped
Fish sauce
Salt
Pepper
Procedure:
1. Boil Batuan in water until soft. Peel the cooked Batuan, remove the seeds, and mash the pulp. Strain the mashed pulp to get the juice. Set aside.

2. Cook tomatoes and onions in boiling water.

3. Add the Batuan juice then bring the mixture back to a boil.

4. Put the prawns, salmon fillet, and scallops into the broth and simmer to cook.

5. Season with fish sauce and pepper.

6. Add the radish and once it softens, add the eggplant and string beans. Continue to simmer until the vegetables are tender.

7. Remove from heat then add the water spinach. Adjust the taste with salt.

8. Serve hot.

Bottled Batuan can be bought from the ECJ Farms outlet in Tiendesitas.

*****

Q: Are there small projects requiring minimal capital that we
can get into?

A: Perfect timing to ask us now. We are organizing tours to the different research centers of the Department of Agriculture… The tours are interesting and there is a great opportunity to see what is new and what procedures done are geared for livelihood projects.

If interested, join us on FB, or email us at spreadorganicagriculture@yahoo.com. Join Spread Organic Agriculture in the Philippines (SOAP) on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ spreadorganicagriculture/.

This appeared as “Conserve the Indigenous” in Agriculture Monthly’s May 2015 issue.