Monday, 1 October 2007

Pa Oroi - Swamp Liquor

This flower, that grows in the heart of the coastal swamps, is the flower of Nipa fruticans, the nipa palm, grown in brackish waters as a source of nipa thatching. The nipa palm is fairly innocuous, but it's flower looks like the heroine of 'The Little House of Horrors', and could earn a starring part in the 'Thing from the Black Lagoon'.

The enormous, almost obscene, flower sprouts from the dark, still waters, and it conceals a dark secret.

It's the source of my regular delectable liquor, Pa Oroi, sani wine, or nipa wine.

It eventually fruits into a football-sized cluster of seeds, each as large as a pigeon's egg.

Inside each husk there is a white ball of seed material that can be used as 'vegetable ivory', by judicious drying, after which it can be carved.

But, in certain areas, they don't wait for the fruiting. Like the coconut flowers, which are tapped for sweet sap to make tuba, the nipa flowers are cut off, and the stem bent over to collect the sap overnight.

By morning, the sap has naturally fermented quite a bit, and all that remains is to distill the liquor into something stronger.

This can take most of a single morning, and by lunchtime the liquor is fully aged, matured, and ready for consumption.

It costs just $6 for a 5 gallon jerry can, so I ensure I always have a ready supply in the house, next to the drinking water, which I really don't trust that much.

In the beginning, I had good intentions of making fruit liquors from it, soaking coconuts, guyabano, calamansi, mangoes, etc, for months, but my eagerness to taste the results always ensured that not one of those delicious concoctions ever matured.

Nowadays, I fill the container with coconut shell charcoal, which filters out the most awful tastes, and drink it with Coke.

It's quite acceptable, and visitors are charmed by being given a local delicacy. None of them has gone blind, as yet.

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