29 Jun2010


In 2005, we visited Baguio and located a shop called Sabado’s Handicrafts on Outlook Drive, near the golf course of the Baguio Country Club. I went through their retail space and was underwhelmed by the huge selection of highly varnished pieces ranging from salad and fruit bowls, to boxes, vases, a smattering of local “phallic in your face” carvings, baskets, etc. On a lark, I asked if they had any “unfinished” pieces. After an initial confused look, the saleslady took me around the corner and down several flights of stairs to the work areas where there were hundreds upon hundreds of works in progress. The mother load of local wood carving for export, as it were. I spied two large narra salad bowls, just barely finished with the hand sanding process and asked if I could buy them…


They resisted at first, hesitated a bit later, but when I offered as much (PHP1,200) as they would get if the bowl were totally finished and varnished, they agreed. So I left the shop with two wonderful, large and totally unfinished salad bowls. I featured the bowls in this post from nearly five years ago, and have since gotten dozens and dozens of enquiries about it. So now you know, Sabado’s Handicrafts, 16 Outlook Drive, Baguio City.


On our recent trip, I returned to Sabado’s hoping that they still had the same salad bowls because several friends had mentioned that they would love to get one for themselves. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any of the same style of bowls… After I explained how I got them the last time, they sent someone down to the work areas and he came up 10 minutes later with 12 individual salad bowls, in nearly the identical shape as our original large salad bowl. I was thrilled all over again. I picked out 8 bowls with the best grain, and after some bargaining, managed to get the small bowls for PHP120 each.


This set of large and individual sized bowls will be great for caesar salads made table side, or for a buffet set-up for a large gathering at home. I always wonder why we have to go so overboard on the design of everyday items. And what’s with all the varnish? Do people really want to eat a salad with a vinegar based dressing from a highly lacquered bowl? Don’t they realize that the acid in the vinegar is probably dissolving some of the varnish and adding to the ingredients of the salad? At any rate, these natural narra bowls, if treated properly, should last a good 15+ years. We just occasionally oil them to prevent them from drying out too much and cracking…



  1. Tony says:

    That’s good you have one of those bowls. I bought mine in Intramuros. However, none of our crew believe me when I tell them not to wash it ever!

    I am sure you know already that you should just wipe the bowl with a piece of paper towel to rub the olive oil from the salad dressing into it.This highlights the grain and keeps the wood from drying out. Mine is at least ten years old and it stills looks great. I use it about once a week because I like the French custom of serving salad after the main course.

    By the way, my favourite lettuce is now the mesclun from Santi’s. It has a good variety of leaves in it.

    Jun 29, 2010 | 6:54 pm


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  3. Seigfred says:

    i love visiting these places. and i’m glad they are still sprawling in the philippines. when most of the supposed to be handcrafted items that we put on display in our houses here in the west are under the suspicion that they are mass produced by machines, in the philippines, you can buy it directly from a craftsman which is most of the time, a stone’s throw away from your house.

    We can’t even bring them here in Australia. Hmpf!

    Jun 29, 2010 | 6:57 pm

  4. Tricia says:

    Egads, I buy my wooden bowls in this store!!! :) I thought it was a secret within the family hahaha!!! I got a number of kamagong bowls and other items from them years ago. Almost bought a narra table then.

    Jun 29, 2010 | 7:42 pm

  5. robin sabalones says:

    i always avoided buying wooden bowls in the philippines PRECISELY because i could only find them lacquered and always wondered about the shellac seeping into the food….here in italy natural wood bowls are never treated, but merely tempered with olive oil and they cost a fortune, Euro 100 and upwards. mas maayo pa sa ato….this will be a definite stop next time i’m home.

    Jun 29, 2010 | 9:37 pm

  6. Vanessa says:

    Marketman, can you describe how you oil these wooden bowls? Any specific type of oil that’s best on them? Thanks!

    Jun 29, 2010 | 9:57 pm

  7. sister says:

    You might want to rub the wooden bowls occasionally with mineral oil. I’d use them for fruit bowls but have stopped using wooden bowls for salad a long time ago because of sanitary concerns. Salad bowls made of glass or crystal are far cleaner and do not retain flavour. Pottery is fine but throw them out when they get chipped as bacteria can lodge in the chips, ditto for plates. China is good for salad, too, as it cleans well.

    Jun 29, 2010 | 10:31 pm

  8. Jen Laceda says:

    They are gorgeous! Would love to get my hands on them!

    Jun 29, 2010 | 11:03 pm

  9. Mom-Friday says:

    Beautiful bowls! Though I bought a kamagong bowl from the Baguio market some years back, like Sister, I also now prefer glass bowls for my salads.

    Jun 29, 2010 | 11:38 pm

  10. erleen says:

    I am interested in the 2-toned long tray(?) in the 3rd picture.

    Jun 29, 2010 | 11:42 pm

  11. ta says:

    I have this question in my mind for the longest time.Can you use wood products as food bowls from trees if any part of it is not edible.Recently someone told me you can only use chopping boards from trees with edible fruits.

    Jun 30, 2010 | 12:38 am

  12. Footloose says:

    You want to stay close to wood from trees that are not poisonous. In Canada, we have maple, oak and fruit trees such as pear and apple wood. You want to stay clear of hemlock or oleander. Back in the Philippines, kamagong is safe since that’s what give us fragrant mabolo. I do not know about narra, the Chinese avoided using them for pillows. But your immediate concern really is the pathogens that the open pores can harbor as sister suggested above.

    Jun 30, 2010 | 1:47 am

  13. fried-neurons says:

    I use food grade mineral oil for my wood kitchen things (like bowls and butcher blocks) because I read somewhere that olive oil / vegetable oil can get rancid even if used for this purpose.

    Jun 30, 2010 | 6:09 am

  14. Risa says:

    You really learn new things everyday! I did not realize that the mabolo comes from kamagong. I assumed it was from the mabolo tree, haha.

    Thanks, Footloose!

    Jun 30, 2010 | 12:08 pm

  15. Nadia says:

    Beautiful bowls MM…but NARRA? I am hoping against all hope that they use salvaged wood! In this day and age…Narra and Kamagong bowls produced in those quantities (and for export at that!) are all from illegally sourced wood.

    Please please please please tell me, MM, that I am wrong in this case.

    Jun 30, 2010 | 11:50 pm

  16. Candygirl says:

    Oh, I’d love to buy a big wooden bowl as a proofing bowl for my bread doughs.

    Jul 1, 2010 | 2:25 am

  17. joy from la says:

    can anyone tell me where monkeypod is from? growing up, we had a bunch of those
    wooden bowls plus figurines and always called it monkeypod….i may be spelling it wrong.
    by the way, my mom was from bagiuo (mountain province). that’s where the bowls
    came from. is it the same wood?

    Jul 1, 2010 | 6:58 am

  18. Bel says:

    Maybe P-noy’s speech should have added “walang illegal logging.” Unlike wang-wang (only we Pinoys would call sirens this way) and tong, illegal logging actually kills. Come to think of it, I don’t think he said anything about the environment, or about agrarian reform, as someone pointed out.

    However, other than smoking, he seems to have another vice: consuming chicharong bulaklak and chicharon something from a restaurant he frequents at Morato, where he made a side trip last night. Maybe someone should gift him with an unvarnished salad bowl and order him (as in utos ng mamamayan, his boss) to eat more veggies.

    Thank you for this tip MM. But like Nadia, I hope all the wood the outlet uses are legit. Such manufacturers/producers should have proper permits prominently displayed and indicated on their products.

    Jul 1, 2010 | 10:56 am

  19. Giancarlo says:

    Never realized that. I now have to replace the varnished eating stuff. Thanks.

    Jul 1, 2010 | 3:57 pm

  20. kurzhaar says:

    Mineral oil is better than olive oil or other vegetable oil for treating wooden kitchen items like butcher blocks because it is a highly purified petroleum product that essentially won’t oxidise. Vegetable oils all have some unsaturated fats which do oxidise.

    Interestingly, plain un-oiled wood has some antibacterial properties itself and if you are scrupulous about not contaminating it with raw meats or eggs or such, washing with hot water followed by thorough air-drying is pretty effective.

    Jul 2, 2010 | 2:35 am

  21. Odit says:

    Monkeypod, I believe, is Acacia

    Jul 2, 2010 | 10:34 am

  22. Quillene says:

    Hi MM! I just learned something new on oiling wooden salad bowls…. Thanks to your wonderful blog.

    Where do you get your mineral oil?

    Jul 5, 2010 | 9:51 am

  23. elisa says:

    looking for 30″ round unfinished decor plates to be painted
    pls, reply any information
    thank you

    Nov 14, 2011 | 10:00 am


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