This fabulously packaged tin of truffled salt arrived one day, a “pasalubong” (present) from a friend who had recently returned from a vacation in Italy. I knew immediately how I was going to use this fragrant and extravagant ingredient. A little amount sprinkled on the skin of the smallest lechon de leche before roasting, and sprinkled again generously just before serving. Imagine the wafer thin skin and the aroma of truffles. Pork and truffles. Hunter and hunted. Yup, that sure sounds like a good idea. The tin contains fleur de sel from the Ifaty region of Madagascar, which is then mixed with bits of Italian white truffles and some natural fragrance. I suspect this would be wonderful in a simple omelette of the finest organic chicken eggs as well.
I decided to write this post on nearly one and a half dozen different “pasalubongs” that have arrived in our home over the last few months. Friends of ours travel extensively for business or pleasure, and they always seem to think of something interesting or unique to bring as a pasalubong… and in our case, it is almost always food or an ingredient of some sort. I suppose our penchant for all things edible is obvious and these friends are frequent guests at our dining table, so maybe they hope some of the ingredients will inspire a new dish or something different to eat… We are most grateful for these little but not so little tokens, modern day postcards of taste and flavor from places near and far…
Friends know we are somewhat salt obsessed. And they seem to go to great lengths to increase the number and variety of salts we have tasted from around the world. Some come in their purest forms, others with herbs and spices already mixed in. In this tin, from that purveyor “Porchetta” in New York, is a mixture of Sicilian sea salt, wild fennel pollen, fennel seed, sage, rosemary and garlic. Great for seasoning large pork bellies or liempo before roasting in the oven, maybe over a bed of potatoes…
From Bali, Indonesia, comes relatively fine granule, and well-dried sea salt and herb mixture with basil and rosemary. Nicely packaged, too. The black band on top is a simple rubber band. This would be nice for seasoning whole fish, prawns and other seafood before putting them on the grill…
From Japan comes this little canister of wasabi salt. A mixture of salt, dried wasabi, maltose and seaweed, I have never used this before. And frankly don’t quite know what to use it on… Any bright ideas?
From Djibouti hail these unusually shaped salt “pebbles”. Lake Assal has the highest saline content outside of Antarctica, according to Wikipedia. I can’t imagine swimming in a lake which is nearly 40% salt. You could probably walk on the lake! The salt pebbles look like the tiniest remnants of used mothballs…
From Hawaii came these unusual and intensely black lava sea salts. They would make a wonderful garnish for something fresh like carpaccio or kinilaw. Ingredients include sea salt, flavoring and charcoal!
Friends who visited Vietnam brought back these two little bottles. The first (on the right) has these light amber crystals of salt flavored with concentrated nuoc nam or patis or fish sauce. Isn’t that kinda cool? The isn’t too moist at all, so I do wonder how they managed to dry this out.
The second bottle contains “L’epices des Minorites” which I gather literally translates into “Minority Spice” or does that mean native spices? Any ideas? I have NO IDEA what Minority Spices are or how to use them! They seem to be a seed or dried fruit or some sort, with a spicy, sour smell. If I were being unkind I would have described them as being like dried-kiamoy-scented turds.
Besides salts, teas are another gift theme. Mrs. MM and I prefer tea over coffee (actually I rarely drink coffee) so friends often send unusual teas from places they have visited. This rather mordernist packaging contains tea from Sri Lanka, apparently the “innest” place to visit this year…
…another can of Sri Lankan tea, this time flavored with bergamot to yield an Earl Grey style tea, is packaged in more English style tins.
From France comes this imposing looking can of tea, a blend called “Boudoir” that includes ceylonese, assam and darjeeling teas. Also with a hint of bergamot oil. This can screams SERIOUS tea. :)
This fancy tin of tea includes tea leaves and rose petals, also blended in France.
Good honey is hard to come by in Manila. Despite what you might think is a honey rich environment, I find that so much of the honey here is far too watery and lacks intense flavor. Often, the honey is FAKED, or at the least, doctored and unpure. So good honeys are always a welcome treat. This can above contains really delicious greek honey.
From the United Kingdom, via Singapore is a very atractive tin of Lyele’s golden syrup. I am told it is terrific with pancakes and waffles, in lieu of say maple syrup. Labelled as “partially inverted refiners syrup” — I have no clue what that is — I look forward to having this with French toast or oatmeal soon.
From Spain is this small, visually arresting little tin of smoked paprika. We use a LOT of paprika in our home so this will be gone in a flash!
Friends from Hong Kong brought this plum powder mixed with salt and other ingredients and it has remained in the pantry, uncertain of its future. I can’t imagine what to do with it other than to sprinkle it over sweet/sour fruit. Any suggestions you might have would be appreciated!
From Cambodia are two bottles of spices, one a mix of five spices that is used in “amok” a national stew of sorts. Chili powder is in the second bottle.
I have no idea what this is, other than it should go with some tempura as there is a picture of that on the label. I suppose it is some sort of flavoring salt/ingredient enjoyed with tempura and soy sauce. Again, if you are Japanese or Japan-based, bright ideas would be welcomed!
In case it was YOU headed abroad and you were in search of little pasalubongs, you might consider these three next items, all from the Bohol Bee Farm, with a small retail outlet in the largest mall in Tagbilaran, in addition to their original location/hotel on the island of Panglao. Here up top, a small bottle of organic sun dried chilies. Perfect for a chicken a la diabolo or even pasta sauces.
They also had bee pollen on offer.
And for friends in cold climates, how about some instant salabat powder, complete with honey from the outset.
They aren’t exactly food, but instead made from many spices and aromatics, these incense sticks from Bhutan include over 100 ingredients, including cloves, nutmeg, saffron, etc.
Now that I look at all of these wonderful presents together, I am amazed by the quality of packaging (mainly the tins) of several of these items. I wish we had easier access to this quality of packaging so that we could market a lot of our own ingredients or products in a much more visually appealing manner.