Citrusy, tart and about the size of a quarter. That’s the calamansi fruit for you.
Formally known as calamondin, the calamansi fruit is widely popular in the Philippines. The fruit resembles citrus-like features and is fairly small (about the size of a quarter).
Don’t let the size fool you though. Whether its orange or green, the calamansi fruit packs a serious punch despite their diminutive size. They’re extremely sour, so don’t bother popping one of these in your mouth unless you’re the daring type.
The calamansi fruit is one of those distinctive flavors; you can’t really describe the flavor, but once you taste it, you instantly know it’s a calamansi fruit.
My parents had a calamansi tree in our backyard. The tree, which is there to this day, produces the citrusy pearls year round, so calamansi was always within my family’s reach.
However, for a family of three, a 9-foot calamansi tree always produced way more than intended.
Eventually, my family found ways to use the surplus. On some days, they’d be displayed in a pristine bowl for aesthetic purposes. On other days, they’d find its way in plastic bags ready to give as gifts to friends and family.
But, almost everyday, the surplus of calamansi was used for one important thing: consumption.
Calamansi is a main staple in various Filipino dishes. Dishes such as sisig and arroz caldo were not complete without a squeeze of calamansi right on top. However, the juice of the calamansi fruit always found its way in one dish: pancit.
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An enormous serving of pancit.
Pancit, which are noodles with different types of vegetables and meats served Filipino-style, feels absolutely naked without calamansi juice on top. The bright acidity of the calamansi fruit among the hearty flavors of the pancit brings the dish in complete harmony. It’s unexplainable and out-of-this-world.
Calamansi also found its way in juice form. My dad always kept a bottle of calamansi juice in my household. Stir in some water and sugar, and you have yourself a calamansi-ade. My dad always considered that drink a specialty (often called his “Best in the West”), and truthfully, I never was a fan due to its potency. But, on days where my throat would give out, I would sneak a cup of his specialty just for my own sake. Don’t let him know!
I don’t know what it is about the fruit, but its bright colors and citrus smell scream nostalgia to me. Whether it was watching my parents pick calamansi straight from the tree or taking a bite of pancit after squeezing about two calamansi fruits right on top, one thing is for certain: this sour, citrus fruit sure has a home in this Filipino-American’s heart (and stomach).