If you've been to bus stations for traveling to the provinces, which I figured most of us have as buses are the most common mode of transport here in the Philippines, most likely you've bought some snacks and local sweets. Ever wondered how these flat peanut filled panutsa (or panocha, or bandi) are made?
We had the chance to visit a "panutsa factory" in the heritage town of Taal one humid afternoon. The first thing vendors do when you step off the bus in front of the Taal Basilica is sell you either familia candles or panutsa. Its a cottage industry here, quite in a literal sense.
In a small dimly lit shack, several women are flattening hot caramelized unrefined sugar and peanuts on blackened ply boards using ring molds. The syrup is cooked in batches using a large wok over a wood fired stove.
I was surprised to know that this small operation is not so small at all. On a usual day, they use about 3-4 sacks of unrefined sugar, 5 sacks of peanuts, and produce more than 2,000 pieces of panutsa. Cost of labor and materials can be as much as Php 30,000 (700USD) per day.
When the syrup solidifies they are scraped off the boards and wrapped in plastic. The entire process per batch just takes minutes.
These disks of peanuts and brown sugar are simply too irresistible to people with sweet tooth most do not really care about the conditions these were manufactured in.
Mang J, one of the hands in the panutsa factory