Somehow I missed the boat and didn’t discover calamansi until way too recently. I was at the farmer’s market at Chamorro Village and bought one bag of green and one bag of orange. “The orange ones are sweeter. They make great lemonade,” Ken, one of the growers, informed me. “Just squeeze them into a gallon of water and add some sugar.” That sounds so refreshing, I thought, as I stood there sweating in the noon heat. And so simple. I immediately wondered what else I could create with these little citrus beads.
While they are unmistakably in the citrus family, calamansi have a bit of a fake-out effect for those (like me) who aren’t as familiar with them. This tiny pod looks like a lime, yet when sliced open it makes your kitchen smell like an orange grove. Or depending on ripeness, it may look like an orange but tastes much tangier, like a lemon. Simply put, calamansi has a unique and intense flavor all its own, but the fact that it’s as versatile as a lemon means you can add it to all sorts of recipes.
I started out with basic substitutions where I could use calamansi instead of other citrus. After trying some of the freshly squeezed juice, I immediately thought it would make a fantastic dressing. So I experimented a bit and came up with this sweet and tangy recipe that’s great on salads, roasted veggies, and even as a marinade for fish and chicken.
Calamansi Poppy Seed Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed calamansi juice (about 4 or 5)
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup coconut or olive oil
1/2 tsp. poppy seeds
Combine ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together. Drizzle the orangey goodness over a bed of locally grown lettuce, mango and cucumber for a delicious side salad. Add a piece of seared fresh ahi tuna on top and you’ve got dinner.
My next venture was a simple substitution of calamansi for lemon juice in one of my favorite dinner sides.
Island Citrus Long Beans
1/2 lb. fresh long beans, snapped into 4-6” pieces
3 oz. fresh-grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup fresh squeezed calamansi juice
salt and pepper (to taste)
Add the long beans to a pot of lightly salted boiling water. Boil on medium-high for 5 to 7 minutes until tender but not soggy. Drain. While still steaming, pour beans into serving bowl and add Parmesan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Coat with calamansi juice and serve warm. Serves 4-6.
Finally, I had to try Ken’s lemonade suggestion, but instead of sugar I used locally harvested Boonie Bee honey and converted the recipe for a single glass.
1/4 cup fresh squeezed calamansi juice (about 7 or 8 orange ones)
3/4 cup filtered water
2 tbsp. honey (or sugar)
calamansi slices and mint for garnish (optional)
Why, yes, this tastes like a tropical paradise. Cheers!