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Friday, October 7, 2011

Sweet success at last: Young coconut bukayo with peanuts

Local delicacy makers of Arado village in Burauen, Leyte have known the recipe to one of the most distinct, best-tasting coconut desserts in the Philippines for nearly half a century. Their best kept secret seemed to be set to stay that way – a secret – until things recently took a nutty, gastronomic turn.

Their delectable peanut-infused version of bukayo, a sweet Filipino dessert from young coconut, had been adjudged as the most innovative product in the food category of the One Town, One Product (OTOP) National Expo by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) held on 21 to 25 September at the SM Megamall shopping complex in Mandaluyong City.

The accolade of being the year’s most innovative is remarkable for the Arado Sweet Delicacies Producers’ Association, given that it had been following the same recipe since the 1960s. This time, however, connoisseurs at the OTOP national expo had their first bite and affirmed that Arado’sbukayo was in a class of its own.

Cheeryl Ducentes, village captain of Arado, said being chosen as the best among the participants has energized their village of some 1,320 residents.

“We (in Arado) feel very, very proud. Our friends back home have been sending text messages over and over, asking if the news is real. The recognition got all of us excited,” said Cheeryl, who also serves as business manager for the 30-member association.

She added that, “We have a unique product. The DTI helped bring attention to it and gave us the chance to be here in the national expo.”

The road to victory for the Arado producers was a long one, with Cheeryl’s father serving a pioneer of the special bukayo recipe and cooking process.

Before dawn

In Arado, it’s already business as usual for the association members as early as 4 a.m. They line themselves up and carry with them the primary components of their trade: namely coconut shells full of shredded coconut meat, peanuts and other ingredients. Other secret ingredients give the bukayo a one-of-a-kind taste.

They wait for their turn to dip 20 to 30 coconut shells at a time into huge cooking pans (locally called kawa) filled with melted sugar that has thickened to a syrupy boil. The day’s cooking usually lasts until 3 p.m.

The bukayo remains encased in the coconut shell, which is then wrapped in brown paper before being retailed to prospective buyers.

The difference

Association members are very discriminating when it comes to the coconuts they use. Cheeryl said they always go for the butong coconuts, which she described as aged between raw and ripe. “The selection of coconuts for us is very stringent,” she said.

Also, Cheeryl said that the association had always made it a point to adhere to their quality standards.

“When it’s comes to food, sanitation is an utmost concern. We also make sure that our products are delicious every time, so that customers would keep coming back. We also strive for originality in our product,” she added.

Elated with their win at the 2011 OTOP National Expo, Cheeryl and the Arado Sweet Delicacies Producers’ Association have grown bigger aspirations for their bukayo. While they would want to have more people have a taste of their home-grown delicacy, they have also grown a stronger conviction to pass on their cooking tradition to future generations in Arado.

The Arado bukayo retailed for P100 per coconut shell during the 2011 OTOP National Expo. Interested parties may contact the Arado Sweet Delicacies Producers’ Association through Cheeryl Ducentes at (+63912) 7846407. Public Relations Office, Department of Trade and Industry

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