Thursday, December 1, 2011

Panutsa, comfort food from Taal Town

Taal Town - The Mixing Man
Stirring the mixture makes the air redolent with the scent of nuts and syrup
Peanuts.  That's what the mention of Taal town reminds me apart from the comfort and solace that its beautiful churches, Basilica de San Martin de Tours and Our Lady of Caysasay, offer.  It's nostalgic how each place reminds you of a particular flavor or fancy and Taal town reminds me of panutsa.  The gooey, sticky piece of peanut brittle maybe a reminder that if the balisong (fan knife) is symbolic of the infamous BatangueƱo temperament, the locals have a sweet and endearing quality to their persona.

On a recent DIY trip, it got our curiosity piqued so much that we decided to make a short detour from our visit of heritage houses and asked around where we can observe the making of the tasty treat.  This led our motley group to Serian, a short walk from the church of Our Lady of Caysasay where the women workers of Paula's were busy making batches of fresh panutsa

Taal Town Seiran Panutsa Making II
Ladling the mixture into bamboo molds take patient hands
We somehow dreaded what we will find out, remembering for example, the horror stories of how patis (local fish sauce) is made in not very hygienic conditions.   But our fears were assuaged by what we saw.  The process appears simple but is really hot, sweaty and laborious especially on the part of the lone man manning the stove.  Brown sugar is heated in a big wok or cauldron over hot coals until the crystal turns into syrup.  Crushed peanuts are then added little by little, folded repeatedly into the fragrant liquid.  The mixture is continuously stirred with a big wooden ladle that resembles an oar to keep the syrup from sticking to the wok.  It is then ladled into coconut husks and later, into bamboo molds of different sizes (small ones sell for P100 for six pieces, the bigger ones for P100 for two pieces) and allowed to cool before being labeled and packed in clear plastic.
Taal Town San Martin de Tours Seller by the Doorway
Panutsa anyone?
These find their way into the bus stops as well as the ambulant vendors around Taal and nearby towns. Dunno but I always buy more than I ought to from the vendors waiting outside the Basilica de San Martin de Tours, partly to help them make good buena mano (the first sale of the day), and maybe because I really find them comforting even at a time when so many sweets vie for my attention.  I ask the owner of Paula's how business is doing and she said that on a good day, they make and distribute at least a thousand pieces.  Really comforting to know that in a world that seems to be fast-changing, some things do stay the same.

Related reads:
Basilica de San Martin de Tours
Our Lady of Caysasay
Villavicencio Heritage House


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