Just a Splash – Fruit in the Philippines

Mangosteens in the market

The Philippine streets are splashed with color. From the flamboyant rickshaw carts serving sweet merienda (snacks), to the bins piled high with Triassic tropical fruit, to the pinstripe umbrellas above casting hued shadows, the scene is anything but gray. And this vivacity translates directly onto the Philippine plate – in appearance, yes; but also in flavor.

The Philippine islands are home to much exotic fruit. There’s the rambutan, a hairy –but sweet – specimen. There’s the durian, described by a 19th century British naturalist to have a flesh of “rich custard highly flavored with almonds.” The atis, or sugar apple, also reminds of custard. Lanzones are sweet and succulent and look like small yellow potatoes, and the chico smells of beer but tastes exceptionally sweet. And then there are the mangoes, avocados, watermelons and plums, bananas and coconuts… Fun fact: the Philippines is the world’s leading producer of coconuts. In the year 2010 alone, they spun out 19.5 million tons.

All of this fruit contributes substantially to the country’s culinary palette. It features prominently in savory, in sweet, in breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is cooked, fried, fermented; it marinates, tops, and colors. And an especially great use of all this fruit is to make wonderfully refreshing beverages.

santol, or wild mangosteen
santol, or wild mangosteen

Our hostess Isi has a friend named Kalel who is an expert on the topic. A beverage consultant and mixologist in Quezon City, he loves to create his own drinks with local, unusual fruits. One of his favorites is the santol, or wild mangosteen. Its flavor is both sweet and sour. See below for how to make Kalel’s santol mocktail.


Santol (wild mangosteen) Beverage

  1. Remove the pit of a santol and steep the pit in honey water (1-2 tsp honey for 4 oz water, depending on desired sweetness; additional sugar will be added later) for at least 2 hours (up to overnight)
  2. Remove the pit from water, reserving the steeped liquid, and take off the outer layer. Grind the pit slightly using a mortar and pestle.
  3. In a small pot of simmering water, place the ground inner santol pit. Boil for 8-10 minutes.
  4. Strain the liquid from the ground pit. While the strained liquid is still hot, dissolve sugar in the water, to desired sweetness. Let cool slightly.
  5. Add the sweetened liquid to the steeped santol water previously reserved. Add additional water to reach desired sweetness, if needed.
  6. Enjoy! You can make individual servings, or just a big batch to share with friends.


Santol drink


Just a Splash – Fruit in the Philippines