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Tropical Cooking with Travel Man: 2nd Dessert - Tangkuwa Sweets

Updated on June 23, 2011

Out of the blue, three Tangkuwa sprouts came out during the summer of 2010. It was the middle of El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) that wild melons and squash (this Tangkuwa variety) started growing on the rice fields.

I've tasted those small wild sweet melons and most adults say it's poisonous, but kids loved it that the black ants were my guarantee that it's really sweet.

With this wild-hairy-white squash, we fondly call Tangkuwa, I don't have any information of its background whether the commercial white squash is cross-breeded from it or the other way around.

I used to saute it's young flesh, like the ordinary white squash but my mom usually make sweets out of its adult white-cottony flesh during fiestas or family gathering.

It's a seller, I may say as our relatives used to pack samples of it when they bade goodbye from us.

Tangkuwa, harvested from our backyard (Photo by Travel Man)
Tangkuwa, harvested from our backyard (Photo by Travel Man)
Tangkuwa sweets (Photo by Travel Man)
Tangkuwa sweets (Photo by Travel Man)

Making Sweets out of Tangkuwa

My mother's recipe required me to buy the following as ingredients for this regional sweets here in Bicol, Philippines. For four medium-sized adult Tangkuwa squash, we need:


  • vanilla essence
  • 1 whole orange, he rind will be used as zesty flavoring
  • 2 kilograms brown sugar
  • pili nuts, cleaned with seed coverings, endemic in Bicol area, also used as sweets (Pili candy bars, Pili Chocolate, Pili brittle, Pili custard swets, etc.)

We call this squash, Tangkuwa; I don't know in other regions, but is often an alternative to white squash when it's hairy fruits are still young. When old enough, the skin soon becomes hard, and fading green color (smoky green) registers, it's time to harvest it and make sweets out of it.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Grating the white, spongy flesh of Tangkuwa (Photo by Travel Man)It's done! Time to squeeze the juice with salt (Photo by Travel Man)Add the brown sugar and cook until dark brown in color. (Photo by Travel Man)
Grating the white, spongy flesh of Tangkuwa (Photo by Travel Man)
Grating the white, spongy flesh of Tangkuwa (Photo by Travel Man)
It's done! Time to squeeze the juice with salt (Photo by Travel Man)
It's done! Time to squeeze the juice with salt (Photo by Travel Man)
Add the brown sugar and cook until dark brown in color. (Photo by Travel Man)
Add the brown sugar and cook until dark brown in color. (Photo by Travel Man)

Procedure in Making Tangkuwa Sweets

  1. With a four medium-sized Tangkuwa squash, a special grater is needed to take the white, cottony flesh.
  2. After the initial task is accomplished, it's time to squeeze the juice out of its succulent flesh by adding a handful of rock salt. This will aid in squeezing more juice out from Tangkuwa flesh.
  3. Wash the squeezed flesh, three times, until the water is clear (out of bubbly mixture, due to the presence of the juice).
  4. Prepare a medium-sized frying pan and put the cleaned Tangkuwa flesh.
  5. Add brown sugar and let it boil. Turn the mixture occasionally. Boil for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Add the orange zest and pili nuts. until done.
  7. Add vanilla extract (about 4 tablespoons) as the cooling stage starts.
  8. Put in a clean Tupperware container and further cool it inside the fridge.


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    • travel_man1971 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ireno Alcala 

      7 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      Thanks, sailor. Tangkuwa sweets is a regional dessert here in Bicol. I don't know if other regions make the same. This kind of white squash can grow everywhere, without the day-to-day care and maintenance.

      You can just throw the mature seeds then forget it for awhile and soon you'll know that it's already bearing fruits.

    • thesailor profile image


      7 years ago from Seven Seas

      The sweets of Tangkuwa...WOW!!! Can't wait to taste it! Yum! Yum! Thanks travel man. You made me hungry!


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