21 Nov2009

Marketman’s Luggage

by Marketman


People often smile externally but probably grimace internally, if not roll their eyes rapidly, when a discussion over the food contents of Marketman’s typical maleta might contain after a trip to the province or abroad. So here are the visuals. These are the contents of one suitcase when we returned from a trip to Cambodia and Vietnam earlier this year. :)


Bottles ground spices from Cambodia for curries and other flavorful dishes. Enormous and vibrant dragon fruit from the produce market in Saigon…


Two heads of frisee or curly endive for salads with lardons and a poached egg…


Wonderful kampot black peppercorns, fresh green peppercorns, makrut or kaffir limes and non-kaffir limes, pomegranates and huge cashews in the green foil packets.


Crystallized ginger, a dozen large artichokes, coffee beans, etc. Thank goodness Philippine customs doesn’t seem the least bothered by produce from neighboring countries… So what’s the strangest food item you have carried back in your luggage from a local or foreign trip???



  1. Rona Y says:

    My mother and I carried a whole salted fish from Bangkok back to Japan, and then half of it went on to Canada. I was very worried about getting stuck at customs (I wasn’t sure if Japanese customs would let it in), but we look so benign they didn’t even bother checking our luggage! And we double or triple wrapped it in aluminum foil and then in plastic to help keep in the stink!

    I’ve also snuck a sweet potato into Japan. Just one, because root vegetables are forbidden.

    I’ve brought a lot of less-interesting things back to Japan from Canada–like flour, beans, butter, cheese–things much cheaper in Canada than in Japan. Things like that are quite heavy, though, so I ended up buying a Rimowa suitcase to help lighten my load. 20kg luggage allowance doesn’t give a lot of room for stuff when your suitcase alone is more than 8 kg!

    Just to add–while not an overseas trip for my mother, she hauled back several kilos of vegetables from Baguio to Bacolod last spring. She said they were so much cheaper and in much better condition in Baguio than in Bacolod, so she couldn’t help herself! The only problem was that we had a week or so to go in Manila before she actually headed back to Bacolod, so the vegetables weren’t in tip-top shape by the time she arrived in BCD.

    Nov 21, 2009 | 8:59 am


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  3. Hunter Cruz says:

    some smelly french cheese from france!

    i put it in my luggage and the confined space and 10+ hour flight basically made all the contents of my luggage smelly. a lesson learned there…

    Nov 21, 2009 | 9:04 am

  4. Betchay says:

    Whoa!That’s a lot of fresh produce.Do you declare it in the customs form they make you fill up before the plane lands in Philippine soil?My heart always pounds when passing customs here and abroad.One time after a short trip to HK with my sister, we were both asked to open our luggages.Another time, again with my sister, this time in LA, my Balikbayan box was again searched.Of course in both times,they didnt find anything illegal or taxable.I just feel more relax when I travel with my hubby.Maybe he exudes confidence and power, never been stopped by customs officer when I’m with him!Ha!Ha!ha!
    Anyway, regarding your question, on our last trip to Singapore,I was bold enough to carry 2 kilos of fresh Bing cherries in our luggages and another kilo stuffed in my tummy!Burp!burp!burp!

    Nov 21, 2009 | 9:19 am

  5. millet says:

    a cousin i was visiting in the US was aghast when i insisted on going to the farmers’ market to buy stuff to take home. she had all a “boutiques and outlet stores” tour lined up for me :-) our family’s luggage coming home usually include favorite and new finds of cheeses, unusual spices, cured meats, (haha, even beef jerky!), nuts and fresh and dried fruit.

    “aplet” and “cotlet” (apple/nut and apricot/nut confections, similar to turkish delight), peppermint candy, that chocolate sauce (in different variants) that hardens when you pour it onto ice cream, from bangkok i wanted to bring home all kinds of dried mushrooms and spices, and from japan, all kinds of dried seaweed.

    Nov 21, 2009 | 9:25 am

  6. millet says:

    a pound of alphabet noodles, flours that are hard to find here, pastas in different shapes…

    Nov 21, 2009 | 9:44 am

  7. ECC says:

    When a relative is visiting from the Philippines or the times I’ve been, they or I bring this special bagoong made in Malabon. My aunt has them canned so that they are easier to transport and pass customs inspection. I keep them in the fridge and use them sparingly. It is the only food item I willingly take with me.

    Nov 21, 2009 | 9:52 am

  8. betty q. says:

    …went up North a few weeks ago and brought with me Indian Candy (smoked salmon jerky). Domestic customs officer said …I smell food! Then asked what it was and I said…Indian Candy ….I was going to offer him some but I didn’t want to go through all the trouble of unwrapping my quadruple FOIL (environmentalist’s nightmare!). I just told him I made them…next time I will give him some!

    …came back a few weeks ago from up North. The family I stayed with had quite a big farm and they have cows, pigs, etc. While I was there, they butchered 2 pigs, 1 cow and an elk. Guess what I brought back to the amusement of the domestic customs officer….the caul fat(sensal for my embutidos…yes, I have sensal, mga Mrs. here in Vancouver!), the lengua from the cow. I could have brought stuff for dinuguan but that would really gross out the customs officers and I would have a lot of explaining to do!….hahahahahha

    Nov 21, 2009 | 10:07 am

  9. mrs lavendula says:

    i brought home some cranberry and cinnamon goat’s cheese and a pack of cheese blocks i found in a grocery. It was so funny coz i placed it in my hand carry and they had to run my carry on luggage several times through the machine. i think the packaging may have looked like explosives in the xray. my hubby said we should have placed my car phone charger beside the cheese and then they would have been ultimately suspicious!! hehehe!

    Nov 21, 2009 | 10:12 am

  10. betty q. says:

    OH…if anyone would like to know how to evade the prospect of having your luggage opened?..maybe have the PENI FRESH ANTISEPTIC SOAP right up front in your luggage so when the duty officer opens your luggage, he will just roar with laughter and zip up your luggage again!…leaving the rest of your maletas to go through.

    Also, did you know that you can bring back say fresh mangoes for instance…you just have to declare it and it has to be FREE OF BLEMISHES!…no pimples…no nothing ! Also, only in reasonable quantities…not KAING!

    Nov 21, 2009 | 10:17 am

  11. thelma says:

    among the interesting food that i brought with me from the philippines last month
    were bottles of burong asan, burong talangka, fresh coconut oil and other stuff
    that i bought from sm supermarket. i also brought with me several cans of
    allies dried peanuts, boxes of candies from magalang, salted watermelon seeds
    all kinds of kakanin, tuyo and other dried fish . one thing that didn’t pass inspection
    were the chicaron from guagua….grrrr! even another lady’s bags ofchicaron were confiscated.

    by the way, ecc, sorry i haven’t answered your email. thanks for keeping in touch! i’ll
    be emailing you soon!!!

    Nov 21, 2009 | 10:18 am

  12. moni says:

    From Bangkok, I always bring back roast duck from MK. I put the plastic container in my luggage because it comes with a packet of hoisin sauce. From Saigon, my goodies consist of arabica coffee beans, cashew nuts, pate, black peppercorns, crushed dried chilli, honey and Golden Farm peanut butter. My Mabuhay Miles always come in handy.

    Nov 21, 2009 | 10:38 am

  13. cherryo, yvr says:

    One of my family’s favorite pasalubongs from the Philippines is Fresh Calamansi. We just love it and bring it with us or have friends and family bring it back for us. We declare it to Customs Canada each time and luckily, it has always made it. People have told us to buy the honeymansi but it isn’t the same thing (if you ask me, it’s blasphemous to even suggest it). We freeze the rind and the juice. We make bistek Tagalog and BBQ plus lots of calamansi juice. Sarap!

    One of the most memorable handcarries my Mom used to get in HKG was Chinese ham. She would buy several legs and we would hand carry them back to MNL…that and if going back to MNL from North America, yung rolls of toilet paper niya.. didn’t see a Charmin in the pics?

    When making hatid someone to the airport, I always wonder about the contents of each balikbayan box that I see at the line-up… I guess I don’t have to wonder anymore especially what’s inside MM’s and BettyQ’s. BettyQ, pahingi naman ng recipe ng embutido mo please?

    Nov 21, 2009 | 10:44 am

  14. pegi says:

    What I always like to bring are ginataang green langka, how I wish I could find a place where I can get those green jackfruit here .

    Nov 21, 2009 | 10:48 am

  15. Fran says:

    It wasn’t strange, but on my first culinary trip to Italy I brought back a kilo of Parmesan cheese from a farm. We are not allowed to bring in food from a farm. I had it in a carry-on with other valuables and I had a lock on the bag. I was nervous about it and when it was my turn, the Customs Agent was rough on me. She checked every single bag and item.

    But … in my nervousness I couldn’t get the lock open. Brune Hilda threw up her arms in frustration and let me go. I was fretting having to hand over my fresh parm, but it all worked out in the end and I savored every bite of that big chunk of cheese.

    Nov 21, 2009 | 11:28 am

  16. sgboy says:

    i hand carried a tumbler full of laksa (from queenstown) , a char siew slab. and a whole roasted duck from redhill hawker stall once…
    good thing i arrived in manila past midnight,
    officer is sleepy, lah! ahahah

    Nov 21, 2009 | 11:37 am

  17. Roseanne says:

    I brought home 2 beggar’s chicken from Shanghai – covered in clay and all. Had to hand carry it the entire 8k package through HK transit (as there were no direct flights then) but so worth it. Some of my friends think I’m crazy to be bringing home food from abroad but it’s such a nice way to share the “loot” with family / friends. And it somehow extends the vacation for me.

    Last month, I brought home Pierre Herme macaroons which surprisingly survived the trip inside the luggage. I put the entire box macaroons inside a tupperware and put it in my luggage and checked it in.

    On the flip side, I’ve brought bottles of San Miguel beer to the US at the request of friends (they only get cans there) and supposedly it doesn’t taste the same!

    Nov 21, 2009 | 11:49 am

  18. Rebecca says:

    Strangest thing I ever brought back to NYC had to be a bottle of homemade horse milk vodka from Mongolia. It was a gift to my husband from a herder that he struck up a friendship with.

    We poured it from its original glass container into aan empty water bottle, sealed it up with packing tape and wrapped it in some of our clothes. That bottle rode the train from the steppe in Mongolia through the Gobi desert to Beijing, China. It flew to Manila with us, and shocked my family with it’s odor. Then it was repacked as we went to Palawan and stayed hidden in our luggage as we went back home, crossing Abu Dhabi.

    When we got home, it was the 1st thing we dug out of our bags, to be put away for safe keeping. Every so often, we take a nip of it and toast the friendship with the gentleman that gave it to us. :)

    Nov 21, 2009 | 11:57 am

  19. farida says:

    Each time I come back from Cebu I have several bottles of calamansi juice, wrapped multiple times with newspaper, bottles of hot Zaragoza sardines, and carefully wrapped packages of dried fish. One time, lining up at customs in YVR the lady ahead of me, a Filipina, had a canine smelling her luggage so I hurriedly told my hubby to get away from the dog in case the handler will let it sniff our luggage too. Oh yes, I brought 2 dozens of beautiful mangoes and breezed through Canadian customs. So to bring them into the US we stopped at our friend’s house and peeled and sliced them and placed them in plastic containers. So we did not have any problems. bettq, when are we going to meet?
    MM, how does that dragon fruit taste? I see that in the Oriental store here?

    Nov 21, 2009 | 12:31 pm

  20. marcial bonifacio says:

    definitely the strangest items are the dried pusit from hongkong and the usual delatas brought from grocery shopping in grand cayman..but probably the most strangest thing that ive brought was the reused one gallon tin can of selecta ice cream which was full of freshly cooked adobong pusit that ive handcarried from leyte to manila, t’was a bittersweet experience i must say=D.. but definitely worth the trip.

    Nov 21, 2009 | 12:43 pm

  21. Hershey says:

    When I came home from Japan, I bought tons of food from their foodmart, the one from the basements of their department stores :))

    Nov 21, 2009 | 1:06 pm

  22. Rianne says:

    I usually have a large 2.5L bottle of freshly squeezed calamansi courtesy of my cousins,( I buy a Royal True Orange soda and recycle the bottle to put my calamansi juice). Then a few cans of Navarro crab fat, vacuum sealed tuyo from Rustan’s, some green mangoes from a nearby market, loads of packets of dried mangoes as pasalubong for friends, bottles of Zaragosa bangus sardines and cooked longganisa hamonado from Adelina’s and a few more stuff…kakahiya to mention!

    Nov 21, 2009 | 1:13 pm

  23. RobKSA says:

    From Philippines to Saudi – All kinds of kakanin, tuyo, pulboron and other goodies, laing (to hide the pork in it). A few pork delata, sayote (yes its so expensive here), boneless bangus.

    From Saudi to Philippines – chocolates, perfumes, tide (over 20 kgs, I don’t know why but the wife thinks its expensive in the Philippines), toothpaste, soap, cooked whole turkey, fried hamour (Arabian Gulf lapu lapu, the best in my opinion).

    Nov 21, 2009 | 1:17 pm

  24. natie says:

    i once brought back to the US (many, many yrs ago) fresh ube (the whole root!!) the size of my head!! must have been more than 15 yrs ago when they weren’t so strict..last year, half a balikbayan box of several kinds of daing and tuyo..i bring back lots of tuyo every year…this feb, i hand carried a small tupperware of ilonggo ginamus (bagoong), among other loot.

    brother would bring to iloilo a cooler of good steaks from COSTCO, rack of lamb, rib eye roast and pounds and pounds of keilbasa..i bring home the best seedless grapes and boxes of bing cherries from COSTCO

    Nov 21, 2009 | 1:35 pm

  25. Paula says:

    lamb brains from australia

    Nov 21, 2009 | 2:15 pm

  26. bernadette says:

    I actually admire your bringing endives over, MM! Never would dare bringing anything that fresh :-)!
    Would usually bring home fresh homemade jams (blueberry, cranberry, apricots,tuttleberries etc.)from Germany…lots of dark chocolates. Nothing beats their bitterness from over there. We bought some hershey’s dark chocolates here but still bland to my hubby’s taste.

    Would also buy big bags of spices like coriander and basil. Tried to look for them when in Singapore but found none.

    Nov 21, 2009 | 2:21 pm

  27. Paula says:

    hunter, was the cheese called epoisse?

    Nov 21, 2009 | 2:27 pm

  28. Melissa says:

    From France I brought back all sorts of cheese, from Italy – truffle paste, truffle oil, olive oil, bags of sun dried tomatoes, and dried pasta. I also brought home baklava from Turkey and nuts preserved in honey that dripped in my luggage and – nothing new here – olive oil from Corfu, Athens, Croatia and Hunter Valley.

    My mom on the other hand has brought back 6 pies from Ted’s in Hawaii (in perfect condition) and marinated kalbi ribs frozen in a cooler from the US. I could never go to the trouble of doing that!

    Nov 21, 2009 | 2:45 pm

  29. presentacion says:

    Hi MM,
    Going I usually bring with me daing na pusit, dried fish, green mangoes, bagoong alamang, suman muriekos, halaya, laing and kids vitamins
    Coming back I bring home the usual nuts, chocolates, cheeses, walnut and tartufo flavored oils, pink and green peppercorns, spices like garam masala, different styles ground coffee, vanilla in all forms, apricot and cherry conserve, my vitamins and other hard-to-find-in-Manila food ingredients

    Nov 21, 2009 | 2:55 pm

  30. Pecorino1 says:

    Durian from Thailand. (Frozen then vacuum-packed with my foodsaver before transport)

    Phadthai from an award-winning food stall in Bangkok

    Tom Yum Goong from Bangkok

    Black Pepper Crab from Singapore’s Jumbo Seafood

    Honey and walnuts from the Perigord region of France

    Truffle and truffle oil from Tuscany

    Nov 21, 2009 | 3:02 pm

  31. Lava Bien says:

    Cuban Stuff, ie. Cigars from Havana, some wooden instrument, homemade guava jelly and homemade cheese from Trinidad, Cuba.

    It is illegal for us to spend money in Cuba (US citizens) and definitely illegal for us to bring stuff back from Cuba to the states (no matter where you bought ’em).

    I was so nervous coming back to the states because I didn’t want to get stopped and be checked by customs and risking a US$7K fine(although I’ve never been inspected or stopped by US customs before).
    But my homegirl who travelled with me just walked through custom with an open ‘bayong” full of Cuban stuff like it was nothing (yup she said nothing to declare), my stuff was in my back pack, hers was just like right there, as in you can see ’em, with some rolled up paintings and everything hehehehe. Gotta love Mexico for letting us pass through without stamping our passports. (we just asked nicely)


    I was smoking that Cuban “puro” when we got home. My best trip ever! Though it was the most expensive trip I’ve ever taken as Cuba is a cash only trip.Two weeks of excitement.

    Nov 21, 2009 | 3:05 pm

  32. Lissa says:

    I brought a sans rival from Hizon’s for my sister-in-law in the U.S. in a keep-cool foil packet. Hehe!

    The artichokes look lovely MM.

    Nov 21, 2009 | 3:21 pm

  33. atbnorge says:

    We bought a whole moose from a nearby farmer and had some meat air-dried during the winter in the shed. Mother took some home to Antipolo so the folks there could sample the gamy taste of it. But here’s my list: saluyot, labong (hindi pa nababalatan, mind you), alukbati, bunga ng malunggay, talbos ng kamote, the list could go on. I don’t like lugging with me clothes and souvenirs…But the thing that hindered me from checking in at NAIA 3 years ago was the mahjong set that I inherited from my grandmother, hahahahaha.

    Nov 21, 2009 | 4:36 pm

  34. Helen says:

    From Cebu, I usually bring back Lechon, King’s Longganiza Hamonado (Frozen), BudBud Kabog, My Aunt’s Goat Curry.
    From Bangkok, Fresh Kaffir lime leaves, Spices and curry sauces, Fruits that are in Season, Cooked Phad Thai, Tom Yom Gong instant noodles.
    From the UK, Fresh Smoked Bacon, Kippers, Pork Pies, Scotch Eggs, Cheeses, Sauces, Teas, Coffees, Chocolates, Candles, Fresh Cherries(When they are in season).

    Nov 21, 2009 | 4:52 pm

  35. RobKSA says:

    @natie, “guinamos”, namit guid! Wow that word alone brings so many memories of Iloilo and Roxas City, I wish I could visit those places again!

    Nov 21, 2009 | 5:31 pm

  36. Mom-Friday says:

    Brought in a couple of Marang fruit from Davao, and whole salted ducks from Hongkong.

    MM, I’m really impressed with your selection of goods and produce, half of which I didn’t even recognize :-) last time I bought Dragon fruit it was like P100@!

    Nov 21, 2009 | 6:16 pm

  37. deebee says:

    an entire durian fruit from manila to europe, which i’ve done 2x already…not so much for the fruit (which can be had from asian stores here, frozen), but to show friends how the thing look like. another “strange” thing i have brought with me several times (in travels within europe) is fish which i would get fresh from the market, freeze, and wrap in layers of newspapers and plastic — a much welcome pasalubong among friends in eastern europe who very rarely, or have not ever tasted sea-caught fish.

    Nov 21, 2009 | 6:29 pm

  38. millet says:

    oh yes, legs of chinese ham from hongkong, and that canned yunan ham.

    Nov 21, 2009 | 7:25 pm

  39. Doddie from Korea says:

    From Korea, I would lug kilos of homemade (by my korean friends’ grandmothers) kimchi for my family and friends.

    From the Philippines, the strangest item I brought over is about 5 kilos of banana leaves from my mother’s backyard. Hey, banana leaves are sold here for $5 per leaf. Yes, they’re that expensive. I have also brought Chinese sausage (Fat & Thin brand), tuyo, daing, polvoron, dozens of Argentina corned beef cans (for hubby who likes it), Knorr seasoning, miswa noodles, etc.

    I know I’m forgetting a lot but then hey, you only come home sometimes.

    Nov 21, 2009 | 9:38 pm

  40. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    Calamansi cuttings to the U.S.

    Nov 21, 2009 | 9:41 pm

  41. Gina says:

    Oh goodness! I thought my family was the only one that trucked in food from overseas! So glad to know I’m in great company.

    My career in hauling food began at 18 when I brought in a box of the biggest monster grapes I had ever seen. They were Muscat grapes and the grocer very reverently cut off the bad grapes before weighing them. They were pricey so I was afraid to answer my father when he asked how much they cost. When he found out, he asked, “Why didn’t you bring more?!?”

    The weirdest? Two huge blocks of blacan all the way from the USA.

    Nov 21, 2009 | 10:26 pm

  42. denise says:

    several loaves of Gardenia Pandan from Bangkok. because Gardenia Philippines doesn’t make them in loaf form only the cupcakes, and even in Bangkok it was hard to find

    and frozen durian from Davao, which we had to wrap in several layers of newspaper.

    my roommate would bring frozen dinuguan and adobong pusit from our hometown in Bataan, which her mom would put in a nescafe jar, seal with packaging tape then put inside a tin, then seal with tape again then wrap in plastic then a third seal of tape!

    Nov 21, 2009 | 10:31 pm

  43. el_jefe says:

    I love those fresh ”ALCACHOFAS” =Artichokes!

    Nov 21, 2009 | 11:05 pm

  44. KitKat says:

    Inbound to Manila I carried my cousin’s wedding cake which I had baked myself. Vanilla cake with Kahlua, cookies & cream and Bailey’s filling. There were 3 tiers: 12″, 9″ and 6″ but still unassembled. Also 150 wedding cookie favors, 8 lbs of fondant and 2 bottles of dragees for wedding cupcakes which I baked in Manila and enough cake decorating supplies to fill a small Samsonite. 7 hours flying time, 12 hours travel time hand-carrying 20 lbs of cake, a garment bag with my gown in it and my 6YO son who was thankfully well behaved throughout the trip. And I did it all by myself :-)

    Nov 22, 2009 | 12:04 am

  45. Trish says:

    I remember as a kid, when we lived in Saudi (now living in Northern Cali.), my Tita who was a flight attendant w/ Saudia convinced my mom to bring back BACON in her luggage, from the Phils. My Tita even taught my mom how to pack it and hide it in her luggage. Thinking about it now just makes me laugh, all this for BACON. OMG. Anyway, to make a long story short, my mom got caught and never again did she try to bring BACON in again.

    My mom just came back from the Philippines for vacay and she hand carried 2 boxes full of heavenly ensymadas- (from White Plains). Thanks MOM, they were delish!
    I’m not into bringing food back but I am known for bringing back all the finds that I buy in Greenhills, which always makes me very nervous at customs. Ahhhh

    Nov 22, 2009 | 12:28 am

  46. JoannaQ says:

    my parents have instilled in me bringing loads of monay whenever travelling…these are “monays” as big as your hand when its wide open. my lola calls it “rasyon” and she brings them along too..
    weirdest thing(s) i brought back from a trip…hmmm, this is actually the first time that i realized how weird i was for bringing home patis from Thailand, a scoop of chili paste (which i sort of stole) from this chinese resto in HK, fried rice from the same chinese resto (this time bought), and enormous Japanese strawberries :-) hihihihihi…

    Nov 22, 2009 | 12:30 am

  47. terrey says:

    never had a problem bringing fresh fruits (tamarind, tambis or rose apples, etc), Thai sweet sticky rice but it gets too heavy already and the recipients back home always complain for not getting enough…duh, as if it is not that burdensome carrying all these stuff to begin with.

    Nov 22, 2009 | 12:50 am

  48. risa says:

    Hmn. Halva and burfi with silver leaf (milk based Indian desserts, a large box of various kurkure, papadums, dates, French lentils and dried chillies.

    (I didn’t have the guts to bring home one kilo of gorgeous pomegranates from Rajastan-Php70 per kilo only. Next time!)

    Nov 22, 2009 | 1:06 am

  49. betty q. says:

    MM…off tangent again…so sorry!

    PAGING BLUEGIRL…I was wondering why I haven’t received any e-mails…wala na palang lugar! So, had to delete soooo many nakasama ang e-mail address mo….ssooooooo sorry! If you don’t mind, PLEASE resend your e-mail address to me so I can we can continue our on-line baking class!…

    Maraming Salamat!

    Nov 22, 2009 | 4:51 am

  50. Chowhound says:

    That is a very impressive luggage MM, their produce look really healthy (fresh) no?

    Hmn… for me when I was still in the Philippines and I visit my parents in Quezon I always come home with suman sa ibos, hinalo, pasingaw, pinagong, home-made daing, patis (fish bagoong cooked in coconut milk and flavoured with lemon grass, dahon ng kalamansi and siling labuyo), adobong manok sa gata and alimango.

    Here in Vacouver Island, my favourite place to shop is the Old Country Market in Coombs. They sell stuff from all over the world at cheap prices. We stop there when we go up island and hoard lingon berry jam, Norwegian mustard, pure unadulterated maple syrup from Quebec, sambals, saffron, olive oil, Himalayan pink rock salt, fleur de sel, salt-cured capers, bagoong alamang (yes they have that too) and smoked salmon from Port Alberni. I also shop for produce and herbs from the farmer’s markets along the way so we end up with a trunk-full of stuff and hubby is not always happy when that happens.

    When I visit the Philippines again, I will get me a kayuran, palayok and a kawali. Oh, I’ll get itlog na maalat too.

    Nov 22, 2009 | 4:59 am

  51. betty q. says:

    Chowhound…can you not make your own itlog na maalat? I found a suki already for duck eggs in Cloverdale. Maybe you can find a source in the Island through Craigslist. Next time you are in the Lower Mainland, let me know and i will give you some and also Indian Candy.

    Nov 22, 2009 | 5:44 am

  52. marilen says:

    ha, ha, all the usual suspects, kindreth spirits – what we all have not done to be able to carry the comfort food, the to- die-for goodies (immigration and customs inspection either with bahala na attitude or trembling with fear nga baka macalusot) just enjoyed everyone’s stories.

    Nov 22, 2009 | 8:01 am

  53. Hatari says:

    Dressed quail, Bresse chicken, Duck and foie gras from Paris…frozen then wrapped in layers and layers of newspapers and plastic wrap before tucking them in my laundry bag with my soiled clothes.

    Nov 22, 2009 | 8:17 am

  54. hchie says:

    A kilo of Pangasinan rock salt had me opening my bag after passing thru the check-in xray at the NAIA2. Agents thought it was some illegal substance so I asked them to try and taste it to make sure it wasn’t but they refused with a smile.

    Nov 22, 2009 | 8:32 am

  55. gia mayol says:

    So many caravan queens and kings! As one commenter (Marilen) said, kindreth spirits all. As for me, when I get back from Cebu I’m planning to sneak in some spicy honey and garlic lechon manok from Tiktalaok. Can’t seem to find it here in Manila.

    Nov 22, 2009 | 8:51 am

  56. betty q. says:

    Oh, Hatari: I did excatly the same thing when we came back from Maui a few years ago. I found a can of El Rey chorizo in one of the grocery chains. I wrapped in a towel and placed that can in the maleta with all our laundry and in BIG BOLD LETTERS …marked LAUNDRY ON A PIECE OF PAPER….then the boys’ camisetas and shorts and underwear on top….mwahahahaha….Needless to say, we bypassed the customs inspection line…

    Nov 22, 2009 | 9:40 am

  57. Vicky Go says:

    As you know, they are very strict at US customs re bringing in foodstuff from foreign countries into the USA – only properly packaged preserved fruits & veggies (boxed, canned or in sealed packets) are allowed. No meat items even if canned. And certainly nothing fresh.
    But in 1993, I was able to bring in “cervelat” sausages from Switzerland in plastic food bags – re-wrapped in several layers of old newspaper – supposedly newsprint masks the smell. Also coming home from Japan, a half dozen gorgeous fuyu persimmons.
    But it’s not worth the anxiety and risk of being caught & fined. And they have very valid reasons for not permitting such traffic.

    Nov 22, 2009 | 9:48 am

  58. ntgerald says:

    To protect their agriculture industry, and plant life in general, from getting inundated by stray passengers in the stuff you bring in.

    I guess that from all these posts, it means everyone has lied on the official customs documents? Also became poker-faced at the officer who asked, “Anything to declare?”

    I was so anxious about the whole thing, but when everyone in my tour group of 37 except me had stuff in their luggage from Thailand pass through the line without ANY problem, I was so sorry I didn’t have the nerve.

    Nov 22, 2009 | 11:39 am

  59. Marketman says:

    ntgerald, etc. I have never brought fresh fruits, meats, etc, into countries such as Australia, U.S. and those in Europe. I have always brought unusual items back to the Philippines, and often declare it without any untoward incidents. I have declared cheese, fruit, steaks, etc. and the Philippine customs never raised an eyebrow. My worst experience was bringing back several fruitcakes and the customs officer suggested they might like one to try and I simply answered “with the cans labelled “Lola” or “tita” which relative do you want me to disappoint?” and they didn’t insist. I also declared a whole box of berries from Australia and they didn’t blanch either. Just recently, I arrived in the U.S. and ticked the yes box for “bringing food” and when they asked I said I had orange (kalamansi) marmalade and they didn’t even open my suitcases… I understand from some commenters that Canada is more relaxed with tropical fruits, hence the availability of fresh lansones, mangosteens, etc. in large Canadian cities…

    Nov 22, 2009 | 5:54 pm

  60. betty q. says:

    Sometimes, it pays to tell them the truth. Way back when in 19kopong kopong, I declared my bottled tuyo. Customs officer asked me if it was preserved or dried. I told her ” it was cured, bottled and processed, Ma’m”…and asked me quantities…she let me through and once again bypassed the inspection line.

    But then again …years ago we went on a holiday to California. We bought oranges to eat along the way…forgot about them as we crossed the California border…when asked if we had any fruits, we told them we had oranges that were GROWN in California…we hadto eat them right there!

    And no, ntgerald, not everyone has lied to customs …though I did the packing of our luggage, my husband did not know what was in it and he usually fills the declaration forms! Plus he did not ask me! Worst case scenario…they will just confiscate it! It also helped that we looked really sleepy and tired for we arrived at 7 a.m. and I told the customs officer that I hoped my boys have enough time to wash up and head to school that same morning.

    My sister brings back to the Pins for my Ate…XO, Barbecued Duck from Chinatown, Chinese Sausages, Vacuum packed frozen PRIME RIB ROAST, Chinese Mushrooms, MY SAFFRON (the real one from Iran)…and what does she bring back for me?…chicha-corn!

    Is there any difference in taste of the Fuyu persimmon grown in Japan and those we can buy here at 79 cents per pound? Howcan it compare, Vicky Go? ….just curious…

    Nov 22, 2009 | 6:34 pm

  61. betty q. says:

    Chowhound…next time you visit the Lower Mainland, I saw a KAYURAN and Kawali at a Vietmanese store along Hastings St. between Main and Gore on the north side of Hastings. I forgot the name of the store. You can’t miss it…they also had almires!

    Nov 22, 2009 | 6:40 pm

  62. Guia says:

    What can you bring to the USA? To summarize from the US Customs & Border Patrol web site:

    NO meat/poultry/soft cheese, cheese in water/fruits, vegetables, plants.   Nothing Fresh.     
    OK: Pastries, condiments, candy, chocolate, dried fish,  1 liter alcohol . Alcohol in larger quantities subject to taxes.
    Generally Admissible, may be denied entry due to diease outbreak:
    Cured hard cheese.
    Dairy items such as milk, yogurt, butter are generally admissible, although this is subject to change, depending on disease outbreaks. Eggs, salted, due to avian flu, make it very likely that they will be denied entry. To be safe, no dairy.

    They have different rules on meat/poultry, fruits if coming from Canada.

    Above are guidelines,  subject to change;  final decision is made by the customs agent. 

    Nov 22, 2009 | 7:10 pm

  63. Guia says:

    Also, from USCB web site,
    “Canned, cured, or dried meat is severely restricted from some countries.”

    So no ham, chorizo, longaniza, even if canned. My canned chorizo which was a special gift, added to my luggage, was confiscated after a nice visit 14 yrs. ago.

    Nov 22, 2009 | 7:16 pm

  64. Pilar says:

    In the early 80’s, my sister who was born and raised in Hong Kong came for a visit to Manila. She was with her husband and an aunt. We waited for 4 long hours before they came out. And when they did, they were so mad. When asked why, she said they brought along with them bags of camote flour (an ingredient for oyster cake from China which my mom loves). They were held by the custom officers since they were accused of bringing in shabu. The three of them can only speak Chinese. Unlike in other countries, our airport does not station interpreters for instances like this. To make the long story short, they were interrogated, pictured, and finger prints were taken. My sister was so mad since they were even threatened to be detained. From then on, she dared not bring anything that might be questionable to the Philippines.

    I always bring in shitake mushrooms, hebi, dried scallops, herbs, salted fish, ginseng etc. from Hong Kong. I also bring in Peking duck, fried pigeons, taro, and Wing Wah Bakeshop’s lotus filled wife’s cake. I have to hand carry them so that they are still in shape when I arrive. By the way, my maleta also contains convenient Amoy brand sauces. I can’t find one in Manila. Supermarkets here only carry Lee Kum Kee. I don’t forget to bring in fresh noodles as well.

    Flying to Hong Kong, I bring several kilos of big green mangoes (when they are in season) since they confiscate the yellow ones, dried mangoes from Cebu and spicy pork jerky from Eng Bee Tin. I also bring properly wrapped fried lapu lapu/palos, steamed crabs and prawns. And when it’s summer, I bring in ube flavored ice cream which can be bought at the departure area. MIL and BIL loved me for bringing these to them!

    Off topic lang po MM….

    Bettyq, puno na pala mailbox mo kaya my thank you email came back. Thanks for the rice flour recipe. Tried it but I like the cake flour plus tapioca one.

    To readers who love raddish or taro cake, kindly try Bettyq’s recipe found in the Cream Dory post. Yummy!!!!

    Thanks again!

    Nov 22, 2009 | 8:48 pm

  65. Pilar says:

    By the way, I was also reminded that in the early 90’s, I always bring in black chicken from Shenzhen to Hong Kong. In one of my visits there, the customs officer searched my bag and saw them. That’s the only time I knew that it’s not allowed. They didn’t only confiscated the black chickens but got details of my resident card. I was so scared that in my succeeding visits, I came back to Hong Kong without bringing anything edible. hehehehe

    Nov 22, 2009 | 8:55 pm

  66. betty q. says:

    Pilar…what is black chicken? is that the Silkie one?

    Also, you like the Pork jerky? Is that the same one as the Malaysian pork jerky? If you have the patience and if the weather is hot there now, I can give a ecipe….really close to the Malaysian one. Betchay, have you treid it yet? Do not go past 50 to 70 % dry…remember, you still have to barbecue each sheet!

    Nov 23, 2009 | 12:17 am

  67. Vicky Go says:

    @Betty Q – re Fuyu from Japan – when I brought them back (they were a gift) there wasn’t much being harvested & shipped from the West Coast (like you said “19kopangkopang”). I remember them as being bigger & color is so lovely – like in Chinese still life paintings. And they are tree ripened – well almost tree ripened. Travelling via trains in Japan, I could see the persimmon trees in the backyards of homes along the tracks. They’re denuded of their leaves & there were these beautiful rich reddish orange globes hanging from them – like Christmas ornaments – just lacking snow to vie w a Hokusai or Utamaro painting.

    BTW, I admire your ingenuousness & resourcefulness preparing all those wonderful & mouthwatering dishes & magnanimous generosity in sharing them with others. I wish you were my neighbor! But I’m still daunted at trying to follow your recipe for making XO sauce. I’ve never seen it in Chinatown in NYC – is it labeled XO or is the label Chinese characters? Can you name a brand like “Lee Kum Kee” or “Koon Chun” so I could maybe order XO sauce online?

    Nov 23, 2009 | 1:56 am

  68. kurzhaar says:

    I have very mixed feelings reading these posts…while I understand the desire to bring back home goodies from overseas, the import restrictions (in the US, mainly based on agricultural risk assessments) are there for a reason. If I recall correctly a large outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Canada years ago was caused by sausage imported from Europe. And for crops such as citrus that are of major importance to a state’s economy, it is simply not worth the risk of importing fruit. Even within the US moving unprocessed fruit/vegetables can be restricted if going into a state where agriculture is of primary importance (like my home state of California). I have friends who are fruit farmers who can explain better than I can how important the rules are.

    Sorry to be a wet blanket but what you think is a harmless indulgence is not necessarily so. I have learned to enjoy fresh cheeses and sausages and such where they are made, and to enjoy my own local foods at home.

    Nov 23, 2009 | 2:01 am

  69. Pilar says:

    Bettyq, “black chicken” are called “ulikba” in tagalog and “o diong kue” in Fukienese. They are the size of spring chickens, only their skin, meat and bone are all black. Good for si but soup and very nutritious as well. Actually, I see some at Aranque. It’s quite costly in Hong Kong and cheaper as well as tastier in China.

    Yup, pork jerky just like what Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia are famous for. The reddish sheets they barbeque. Sometimes, they even have it beef jerky. I do not like the Australian ones since they’re too dry. HIndi ba mahirap gawin?

    Nov 23, 2009 | 6:58 am

  70. bluegirl says:

    The strangest thing I have brought in my luggage was not food but spare parts. I brought back some parts for our generator. I didn’t look at them closely so I didn’t realize they looked like (#1) a bullet for a small cannon and (#2) 4-inch bullets. Because of them, my luggage was opened. At that time, I was just fuming why I had to be the one to bring the parts. On hindsight, I probably should have been more scared since I was all alone and had to open and unpack my suitcase in NAIA’s tarmac at 1030pm surrounded by 15-17 men. Lesson learned!

    BettyQ! So nice to hear from you. Will send you an email shortly!

    Nov 23, 2009 | 9:10 am

  71. Joyce says:

    strangest thing for me would have to be a small jar of caviar on ice and russian chocolates from mongolia.i always make it a point to stop by the local supermarket whenever i travel, nice to know im not the only one that stocks my maleta with mostly food items. i remember we were questioned in indonesia when my uncle brought in a bag full of spam and bacon for a relative from the phils. regarding what kurzhaar wrote, sichuan peppercorns were banned from the US because of the risk of citrus canker from that potentially harm US citrus crops since it was very hard to control. although checking again i found that the ban has been lifted on certain conditions.

    Nov 23, 2009 | 9:50 am

  72. Libay says:

    Hi Marketman! Have you tried the Vinamit of Vietnam? Its dried jackfruit. We love it so much that we bought a whole huge box for pasalubong to friends. We were held by the customs since they will not believe that we will not use it for sale commercially. Once, we brought some dragonfruits too and lots of lotus tea but we did’nt encountered any problems in the customs. I think, it depends on pagkakataon lang and the assigned custom officer na na-timingan mo.

    Nov 23, 2009 | 10:12 am

  73. betty q. says:

    Vicky Go: Thanks for the wonderful vivid imagery of the persimmons…I have never been to Japan…a must destination soon.

    Pilar…it is SILKIE chicken over here. Yup, MIL cooks it for me when I am sick. She makes it into a soup with all the “good for you but smells “iffy” stuff and then puts it into a ceramic container and steams it forever! The jerky is not difficult but labour intensive like ensaymada making. So facilitaye slicing the meat paperthin slices, partially freeze the pork, then marinate is good stuff which I will e-mail to you na lang at baka na ako mamura!!! …just having fun, MM!

    Kurzhaar: yes, I am with you regarding the fruit imports coming into Canada…like your oranges and cherries, have to protect them or it will be difficult to eradicate the pests. …just look at the PINE BEETLE! I just had a senior moment about the oranges which we bought at Washington (Pike Market)that is why we ate them at the California border. But then again, isn’t that why they quarantine the fruits if you declare them before hand?

    Vicky Go, …I can try to bottle the Xo for you and processs it in boiling waterbath. MC sent me a package of her sauteed Shrimp Paste with coconutmilk…excellent product if I may say so, MC!…and she sent it via Canada Post. So, let me make it in a few days and send it to you. If the strawberry jam reached Doc Connie , maybe the XO will reach you as well. Send me an e-mail for your address…better yet I will send you the dried scallops. The ones I sent to Doc and EbbaMyra also reached them as well…she is in the US!

    Nov 23, 2009 | 10:34 am

  74. betty q. says:

    Cherryo…embutido, I use tancha and smell the mixture method which I will describe later. I use: ground pork, not too fatty,
    roasted red sweet peppers, chorizo de bilbao (CWID uses the one from Costco), vienna sausage, pickle relish, raisins, finely chopped onions, eggs, sliced bread (soaked in milk and then squeezed dry), salt, pepper. Some people add cubed apples and cheese (I don’t). Now, mix everything together and THROW the mixture against the sides of the bowl until it is pasty-ish like the siu mai.

    At his point, I smell it…yes, it is a trick I learned from one of my mentors, too…Mang Pedring…you can smell themixture and it just smells right if I have enough salt in it….don’t ask me how!

    Then let the mixture sit overnight in the fridge for all the flavours to mellow. Next day, wrap in foil and bake or steam. Let it cool before cutting. EXCELLENT PALAMAN for pan de sal!

    I made this for the BOYS IN BLUE before and they liked it and asked me what it was. I told them it is a GLORIFIED MEATLOAF!….mwahahaha

    Nov 23, 2009 | 10:44 am

  75. Laura says:

    Before 9/11, I used to have no fear in bringing all kinds of food items to the US. I even brought back small plants [like pandan etc] with the roots wrapped in plastic then newspaper. Not anymore, they’re very strict now. One time, at the Detroit customs area, I was behind 2 Pinays and overheard the customs officer making sure they didn’t have balut in their luggage. I was amused that the officer knew about balut and even told the 2 Pinays that she has tried it. I think it’s just a known fact that Pinoys are notorious for bringing all kinds of stuff. I often get a note from the TSA in my luggage informing me that it has been inspected probably because of all the unusual things I stuff in it : ) I enjoyed reading all the comments here. Thanks!

    Nov 23, 2009 | 11:02 am

  76. sha says:

    Miami customs was suspicious of my small bag and asked how long will I be staying. I explained am joining a yacht etc had he asked me to open it, then a box of baklava, box of almond marzipan with rose water, a jar of bottarga, organic chocolates and Maldon….

    Nov 23, 2009 | 12:24 pm

  77. Belgin says:

    We have a long preparation of purchasing a lot of items whenever we go home to Iloilo for our yearly vacation to attend the grand fiesta in Barotac, my mom’s hometown
    I buy two Rubbermaid tote containers instead of using balikbayan boxes. The contents of the tote containers are usually the plastic wrap, sharpened kitchen knives and assorted sizes of ziploc bags.

    From Toronto the following items are all neccessary to bring – gravlax salmon, montreal style bagels, sliced proscuito, bacon, pickled artichoke, assorted cheeses and tons of chocolates.

    …..and then coming back here, several bottles of boiled batuan, kadyos, alugbati and saluyot seeds, guinamos, 20 kilos of assorted dried fish bought from Estancia and its a must to bring home Goldilock’s polvoron.

    Goodness gracious! I just can’t imagine if the sniffing dog can smell that heavenly scent of danggit and pusit at the Toronto Pearson Airport.

    Nov 23, 2009 | 2:53 pm

  78. Vicky Go says:

    To Betty Q: Thank you in advance! I’d be thankful for either – which is way too generous. But I hope it doesn’t get you into trouble w either Canada Post or US PS!

    I can’t see your email address in the posts (I think it’s to protect other’s privacy & it’s right that MM masks e-mails).
    But here is mine: evic846AThotmail.com. Remember to replace AT with @ : I wrote it this way because there are programs that automatically masks e-mails in posts & truncates anything after an “@” sign. You can send me a message at that email address and I’ll “reply” w my address.
    Again thank you in advance for your generosity & hope I can repay you with same kindness & consideration!

    Nov 23, 2009 | 11:42 pm

  79. betty q. says:

    Didn’t run into problems with Canada Post when I sent it to Doc Connie and EbbaMyra. I think this time of the year, they are used to people sending baked goodies or food. But can you get hibe in NY? If not, let me know and I will include it in the package.

    Nov 24, 2009 | 3:11 am

  80. cherryo, yvr says:

    Thanks for the embutido recipe BettyQ!!! Love it especially because it has roasted red peppers – a personal favorite of mine. Like you, no apples or cheese, too. Funny nga, because when I was reading your recipe, it reminded me of your yummy siomai, too. Sarap. Definitely making these this week… Thanks again!

    Nov 24, 2009 | 12:04 pm

  81. yam says:

    i enjoyed reading the other comments here :) interesting food items that people have brought in and out of the country.

    coming back from thailand one time, a thai friend packed durian for us. my mom and i wrapped it and placed inside a tupperware container. unfortunately, before checking in our luggage we smelled durian and it was obviously somewhere in our luggage. we had to eat some of it and then we threw away the rest. sayang! my mom got scared kasi we might get caught.

    Nov 24, 2009 | 12:26 pm

  82. betty q. says:

    Cherryo…Christmas is not that far away…I am so game too. I think ONie is as well. Le tme know what you want to make before hand and we’ll arrange it. I don’t know of anyone else who wants to come…maybe Farida but she lives across the border.

    Yes, I think the roasted peppers gives the embutido depth….like in the other post, I think it is that smoky taste that you cannot quite put your finger in it. Do I make sense?

    Nov 24, 2009 | 1:21 pm

  83. hvince says:

    Just last October, my grandmotehr asked us to bring A LOT of food from Hong Kong including Peking Duck, Chicken Feet, Dried Salted Chicken/Duck leg which is by the way SO GOOD when cooked in rice, Dried Scallops, Dried Mushrooms, and a whole more bunch of food

    Nov 25, 2009 | 2:01 am

  84. Chowhound says:

    Hi betty q! You won’t believe it but I found itlog na maalat and tuyo in Chinatown here in Victoria. I was so happy! I’m not sure about the neighbours though but oh well… Now I just need mangang hilaw.

    Mind you, I wouldn’t mind making it myself. I’ll look up the recipe in google and try craig’s list for duck egg like you suggested. That would be cool. If I ever get to do it, I’ll post it in my blog.

    Nov 25, 2009 | 1:52 pm

  85. carina says:

    Sir, how did you managed to put them in your luggage and still they all looked like fresh from the market! :)

    Nov 25, 2009 | 6:36 pm

  86. Marketman says:

    carina, the photo was taken BEFORE I closed the maleta or suitcase. :) But the stuff survived the short flight quite well, I must say.

    Nov 25, 2009 | 11:00 pm

  87. sha says:

    My grappa and lemonchello which I bought in Italy arrived perfectly safe… I checked which yachts were crossing from Europe to Florida and asked friends to bring my stuff that even included some white dry wines I bought in Ischia… a greek friend going back to Athens for the holidays and I already gave him a list of food he must bring back for me from Greece.

    Nov 27, 2009 | 12:00 pm

  88. moni says:

    I am now in Ho Chi Minh City and there’s so much temptation to sneak in limes and lemons in my suitcase when I get back. But I work in pest management and understand the quarantine issues involved, so I would just squeeze the limes on my pho bo here. I will however, bring home arabica coffee beans, cashew nuts, crushed dried chili, black pepper corns, honey and Le Fruit jams.

    Nov 29, 2009 | 12:08 pm

  89. maria says:

    I have have a few puto bong bong steamer in anyone is interested.

    Dec 4, 2009 | 11:53 am

  90. maria says:

    If you r interested email me at cabangon@unr.edu

    Dec 4, 2009 | 11:54 am

  91. Missy says:

    My sister who now lives in New Jersey once brought home 2 LARGE FROZEN TURKEYS when they made an emergency trip back to the Philippines due to the death of her husband’s father. It was packed inside their hand carried luggage and was wrapped with layers of clothes LOL!!!

    Their next visit home, they brought forth a luggage full of fresh berries (blueberries, black currants and other stuff whose names I don’t recognize)

    Maybe next time I will request another TURKEY…hahaha

    Its a good thing customs here are used to the Pinoy’s pasalubong mentality!!!

    Dec 12, 2009 | 10:58 am

  92. Jose says:

    Zataar from the spice souk in Dubai was one of the strangest (and most useful) thing ive brought back from my trip. I use it anywhere from pasta dishes to marinates yum!

    Feb 23, 2010 | 5:49 pm

  93. Ning says:

    Brought home lots of variety of coffee from Malaysia, ready-made sauce for laksa, their ayam brand of canned goods and dried mushrooms as these ones are cheap there especially during Chinese New Year.

    Jun 7, 2010 | 3:00 am


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