I USED to think that the only edible part of the santol (cotton fruit) is the seed. I would open up a piece of santol by slicing it in half, then spoon out each seed, pop it in my mouth, and try to bite off as much as I could of the succulent white cottony fruit that envelops the seed, repeat the process until all seeds are gone, then shoot the skin straight into the trash can. Yes, I was aware of preserved santol—whole santol, with only the outer skin peeled, and cured in a vinegar-based mixture—but I did not like biting into the inner skin. It’s rough to the bite and sour to the taste, and its sap does not really go away.
But when I ‘discovered’ Sinantolan, or Guinataang Santol, I instantly loved it. No sourness, no sap, perfect with coconut milk, and simply marvelous. Maybe I was lucky I tasted good sinantolan. But then again, Sinantolan in general must be really good.
During the Enhanced Community Quarantine, which was enforced in March and lasted until May before it was shifted to a more relaxed General Community Quarantine, I relied heavily on my own cooking and that of my caregiving assistant. (My husband Raff suffered a second stroke last year, 2019, so I had to get a caregiving assistant to help me take care of him.) I also relied on the Facebook page of our subdivision in Cainta, Rizal, where enterprising homeowners posted food they cooked for sale at reasonable prices. A particular online seller makes really good Sinantolan, and I always order from her whenever she makes it. Curious about this simple but delectable dish, I decided to try making it, and Chef Heny Sison’s recipe came in very handy when she posted it on FB. It turned out really good, if I may say so.
Here, Chef Heny happily shares her recipe with those who want to cook Sinantolan, too.
5 pcs. santol, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
3 Tbsps. Magnolia Nutri-Oil
1 pc. white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 kg. ground chicken
1 pc. green pepper, chopped
1 cup chicken stock or water
4 cups coconut cream
1/4 cup shrimp paste
1 tsp. sugar
5 pcs. siling labuyo, sliced
1. Put the chunks of santol in the food processor. Pulse and process until coarsely chopped.
2. Transfer mixture to a food mill to extract the juice. Discard the juice.
3. Sauté chopped onion and garlic in hot oil. Add ground chicken. Cook for 2 minutes.
4. Add green pepper. Add santol and cook for 3 minutes.
5. Pour in chicken stock or water. Simmer for 3 minutes.
6. Add coconut cream.
7. Add shrimp paste and siling labuyo. Stir and cook over low heat for about an hour or until oil from the coconut cream comes out and the mixture is almost dry.