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The Perfect Pinindot

Life is indeed a never-ending learning experience. All my life, if somebody said pinindot, I would conjure an image in my mind of this local delicacy that is basically little balls of glutinous rice – malagkit, in other words – and tapioca – sago, pina-soci in English – cooked with a delicate balance of sugar and a pinch of salt in coconut milk.

I have seen variants with langkâ, ube or camote. These have never worked for me. I have always liked my pinindot plain. I am also quite picky about the thickness of the gatâ. Too thin and it does not work for me. Too thick and I am asking for trouble.

Other people inherit millions from their fathers. From mine, I inherited a stomach that can be treacherous in the most unfortunate of moments. Life is cruel.

That is why, for me, the perfect pinindot is one that is a tad sweeter than most people will prefer it; the salt can be discerned but not too much or it will make me want to retch; and the coconut milk has to be perfectly between too thin and too thick.

At any rate, this afternoon I was one of the judges of a cooking competition organized by SM Lipa, something called My Cuisine Season 2. There were two groups of competitors; one doing the pinindot and the other doing the bulalo.

We will ignore the bulalo group for this post.

All my life, I had never known let alone tasted pinindot made with caramel-coated crushed peanuts or another with pinipig. They do not make either in Lipa, that much I am certain of.

So, I asked the two nanays where they were from; and both said that they were from Taal. Both grinned happily at me when I told them that I was excited to taste what they were cooking; albeit, I frowned slightly at the slices of langkâ that was on the table of one of the nanays.

Before long, the first bowl of pinindot was served to us judges. Presentation was one of the criteria for judging; and having learned from the nanays that they sold their pinindot in the public market of Taal, I wondered out loud if the nanays would know anything about presentation at all.

I mean, my experience of buying pinindot in the public market is the vendor hastily scooping it into small plastic pouches. What presentation?

One of my fellow judges laughed at me and warned me not to be judgmental, notwithstanding the fact that we were all there to judge. But boy, did she have a point!

When one of the nanays sent over her pinindot, abababa! Malandî ang lola mo! The edges of the bowl were lined with crunchy pinipig and there was this caramel ball right in the middle! Shocking! Where did the nanay learn to do that?

The next nanay was even more malandî! This time, she meticulously shaped five pieces of langkâ into a star atop the pinindot and sprinkled caramel-coated crushed peanuts around the edges of the bowl. Aba ngâ naman!

Both presentations would not have looked out of place in a fine dining restaurant, in fairness. I thought the pinipig-pinindot shaded the taste contest, though.

The best tasting pinindot, as far as I was concerned however, was made by this young man who I suspected took formal lessons. The blend of sweetness and saltiness was exactly as I wanted it; and although there was langkâ as well, I did the sensible thing and ignored it.

My only issue with it was that the gatâ was way too thick for my liking. It made the pinindot richer, I know. But that also made it more dangerous for me and so thus, for that alone, it was still not quite the perfect pinindot for me.

In fairness to everyone, I always look for the perfect pinindot on the basis of that which I grew up loving – pinindot which a frail old woman peddled from house to house where I grew up, all the while shouting to the entire neighbourhood something that everybody had better hear right.

The last lady who came close was this chubby lady in the Lipa market who, regrettably, has already passed away.

Ah well, the search goes on, then! Meanwhile, I had to hurry back home just in case.