The pack of kasuy or cashew nuts that you usually buy as pasalubong in Coron, Palawan has a story to tell. It involves a rather long and laborious process – from harvesting the cashew fruit and then meticulously splitting each seed, from removing the seed’s kernel and then drying the nuts under the sun, and from deep frying the nuts in a hot wok and finally ending up as the delicious bite-sized delicacy in your hand.
For Nanay Lita Escarda, the business of cashew nuts is all these labor-intensive processes, plus so much more. These irresistable goodies have provided a steady source of income for her family through the years. She started out small back in the 1970s and since then, Coron’s famous pasalubong is already synonymous with her lastname.
My friend and I dropped by Escarda’s, on our last full day at Coron many months back. Nanay Lita regrettably told us that afternoon that all her cashew nuts have already been sold out. But she advised us to come back the next day. We then reserved a few kilos (Php 700.00 a kilo) and had it re-packed by 100 grams as well.
The cashew nuts may seem expensive but we would later find out this price tag is quite reasonable. Since we arrived early the following morning, Nanay Lita was kind enough to allow us to take a peek at her cashew factory which is just located at the back of her house. I expected a modern production line but instead saw a few tables, some baskets, and a large wok. The only important tool there is a custom-designed cashew cutter. They have to do everything else by hand.
Although each process is repetitive in nature, there is a degree of difficulty and lots of skills involved in every step. For example, extracting the cashew nut from its kernel may look easy. But this, I observed, leaves a sticky stain on the fingers. You must also be very adept with this step so as to maintain the desirable half-moon shape for each nut.
Indeed, our wait paid off that morning in more ways than one. We got fresh deep-fried cashew nuts that were also the best I’ve tasted so far. It was surprisingly not greasy after swimming in hot fat earlier. The seasonings also did not overpower the original flavor of the cashew.
I now have a deep appreciation for the cashew nut, and all foods in general – from those that are served on our table up to those that end up as pasalubongs for our loved ones. Some are the end result of years of perfecting a single heirloom recipe. While there are others that were mere novelties, yet were still pursued despite the risks at the onset.
Whatever the circumstances behind our food, each of these have stories to tell. It is a story that is often frought with dedication, hardwork and in certain respects, pure love. And in that regard, Nanay Lita’s delicious cashew nuts, is clearly no exception.
L.Escarda’s Coron Harvest
Barangay Tagumpay, Coron, Palawan