This is Highly Recommend, a column dedicated to what people in the food industry are eating, drinking, and buying. Here, Kyle Beechey shares the condiment that keeps her winter citrus longings at bay.
There are a few different types of people in this world: garlic girls, hydro homies. But me, I’m a citrus girl. The more esoteric, the better. Nothing thrills me more than when winter rolls in and my local grocery store is teeming with Cara Caras and pomelos and farmers market stalls are bursting with finger limes and Buddha’s-hands. Now, as summer berries begin to creep in, I’m woefully reminded that I have many more months until peak-season tangelos return. This year, Pika Pika’s calamansi marmalade is getting me through these in-between months.
If you’re new to the tiny green fruit, don’t sweat it. Indigenous to Southeast Asia, calamansi has a striking resemblance to a lime but with an orange flesh. Pika Pika describes its flavor as if “a lime and a tangerine had a baby.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
As soon as I opened the jar of this calamansi marmalade, I was hit by its tropical, savory, and caramelly smell. I dipped a spoon in—the flavor was unplaceable yet delicious. I could taste the sourness of lime, the sweetness of tangerine, and the bitterness of a grapefruit. The jam had purely captured all the complexities of this citrus.
Gino Chua founded Pika Pika in 2021 after working as a creative director for fashion and lifestyle brands. He wanted to reimagine the classic flavors he grew up with in the Philippines in a new way, as in jam form. So far, Pika Pika offers just two products: my beloved marmalade and a coconut jam, a vegan take on dulce de leche made with coconut cream. “I wanted to make two products that both stood confidently in our roots and allowed us to expand the conversation around Filipino food,” Chua says.
After my first taste of the marmalade, my home cook’s wheels began to spin. I stirred it into salad dressings and marinades for added tangy sweetness. I mixed it with seltzer for a refreshing soda like nothing else on the market. I melted it on the stovetop and added a splash of water for a punchy glaze on my bittersweet Campari cake, my absolute favorite use to date. This calamansi marmalade can lean savory or sweet and its versatility keeps me on my toes. Up next, I’m thinking I’ll infuse it in a batch of mojitos or swirl a dollop into a cilantro-y salsa verde to serve alongside warm weather spreads of grilled vegetables.
This calamansi marmalade doesn’t just tide me over until winter citrus season, which I still eagerly await. It’s become a constant source of inspiration in the kitchen, all year round.