Atsarang Dampalit


One man’s weeds are another’s pickles… :) Dampalit is sometimes referred to as a weed, it grows wild and was once a delicacy known to more Filipinos than it probably is today. I have never seen or recognized live or freshly cut dampalit, but I have heard about it before. Apicio mentioned it years ago in a comment on papaya acharra, and I have wanted to try this “weed” ever since. And I was intrigued by this paper of Doreen Fernandez that describes dampalit as samphire, which I have enjoyed in Europe, so perhaps I have eaten this weed before. Samphire might be a European cousin of sorts. At any rate, it is a weed or herb gathered from the wild. So I was so pleased to receive a large bottle of atsarang dampalit which a friend brought over last week.

Asked how I would best enjoy this not so common pickle these days, they suggested pairing it with a fried fish or grilled meat. Like any atsara, it is sweet and sour and in this case, redolent with raw garlic as well. It was DELICIOUS. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you would know I am an acharra/atsara fan, and while I like my traditional green papaya pickles, this was a very pleasant variation. The texture of the dampalit is what made it unique, it was indeed weed-like, but not slimy at all. The vinegar and sugar sort of drowns out whatever natural flavor the dampalit possessed before being pickled, but the combination of texture, spices and pickling solution really resulted in a refreshing and interesting foil for fatty fried fish or caramelized pork barbecue. Made somewhere in Central Luzon I was told, by a little old lady who has been making it for decades, this bottle of atsarang dampalit was a pleasure to experience for the first time… Thank you N for such a delicious present! :)


31 Responses

  1. You reminded me of my friend Tina. She would bring this sometimes for lunch at work. She lives in Navotas and I think she lives in a street called Dampalit in Navotas. I have lost contact but by bringing this up I’ll try to find her address and write her because I don’t know her e-mail address. We all worked for Bank of P.I. in Makati.

  2. mm, do you think that they sell that in the market? where does it come from?

  3. >> The texture of the dampalit is what made it unique, it was indeed weed-like, but not slimy at all.

  4. Oops, my post got clipped.

    “The texture of the dampalit is what made it unique, it was indeed weed-like, but not slimy at all.”

    What is a “weed-like” texture??? :)

    Weeds are in the mind of the beholder, I think. What is one person’s weed may well be my dandelion greens (delicious when simply wilted in hot olive oil and garlic and tossed with pasta, or, if especially young and tender, raw in a salad) or purslane (a crisp and lightly acidic addition to salads…also cooked for some Mexican dishes). My first “harvest” from my garden this year was an armful of young dandelion greens for pasta. (Needless to say, no synthetic pesticides/herbicides are ever used in my garden.)

    There was a fascinating and highly entertaining essay written by John McPhee describing his trip with Euell Gibbons during which they essentially foraged for all of their food. It’s been republished in a collection of essays from the New Yorker (“Secret Ingredients”). I first read Gibbons’s books on “wild foods” when I was in my early teens, and never looked at food the same way again.

  5. I forgot to say that marsh samphire or glasswort (genus Salicornia) is not uncommon as a food. I have had it in a few places (Europe, California, Hawaii). It’s called pickleweed in California. When raw it’s somewhat crunchy and can be quite salty as this is a halophyte or salt-tolerant plant that grows in salt marshes and near beaches.

  6. Atcharang dampalit is best paired with halabos na hipon(suahe)and garlic fried rice.its readily available at Obando market,a small jar sells at p35.

  7. Actually I have never seen a dampalit before nor tasted it. I was just imagining that it it similar to kangkong. Thanks for sharing the picture, at least I now know how the atsarang dampalit looks like.

  8. I like atsara too and have in the recent years discovered pickled ampalaya and pickled kangkong. I remember having this dampalit as a younger me. It wasn’t slimy at all, not that I’d mind as I eat okra and saluyot.

  9. Ohh interesting.. my sister-in-law is “mentioned” in Doreen’s article. Samphire is often featured in the numerous cooking shows I follow; stir fried, pickled and used fresh in salads. Some Australian chefs would call it sea asparagus.

  10. This ones off topic pero I think is a feel good story from the Canes Film Festival
    Best Director: Brillante Mendoza for “Kinatay” Mabuhay ang Pilipino

    Best Director: Brillante Mendoza for ‘Kinatay’

    The Best Director Prize was awarded to Brillante Mendoza for Kinatay and presented by Terry Gilliam:
    “First of all I would like to thank the selection committee, who are responsible for bringing my films here for the past three years. And now with an award for Best Director, I would like to thank the Jury. And of course I’d like to thank my producer; thank you for the trust and faith in my films. I’d like to thank also a very committed staff and crew. I’d like to share this award with my daughter, Angelica, who has always been my number one critic and to an actor I really respect, Coco Martin. Thank you all for embracing my kind of cinema.”

    During the follow-up press conference, Brillante Mendoza talked about divided audience opinion:
    “After Serbis, last year, opinion was also divided. Some critics liked it, and some didn’t like it. So I’m kind of prepared, with this kind of film, that I’ve shown again in Cannes. Did I expect [an award]? Of course. I always hope for the best.”

  11. I first tasted dampalit in Pampanga and I have always been a fan since…

  12. Hey Everyone…Check out “A brief Holiday” page. I just made an offer to the make a Brioche à tête to the first person who guess right where MM and family are vacationing.

  13. Moni, yes I saw your post. Lets keep all guessing in “A Brief Holiday” page, so that we will all be on the same page….hehehe

  14. I hope you will also post pictures of these quaint and unheralded Philippine vegetables in their natural or uncooked state so we can recognize them in the market or in the wild…Like you I am also fond of eating unknowns – they not only taste better, very often they are very rich in nutrients.

  15. Sea asparagus or dampalit…harvested on the pristine shores of British Columbia waters according to West Coast Seafoods…they are selling frozen dampalit or fresh ones starting first week of June for ….get this guys…$70.00/ pound!!!!!

    I think I am just going to plant them! I found seeds on the web for $3.75 per packet!!!!

  16. I just want to say that I found the address of my friend Tina.Yes she leaves in Dampalit not in Navotas but in Malabon. I remembered their house is near the water, a very beatiful house. Now I can write her and tell her about the Atsarang Dampalit.

  17. I wonder who buys dampalit at $70/lb. an equally rich relative of the one who buys coffee luwak I guess. One is born every minute it is said and I bet you that rate could have accelerated even faster since.

  18. You got that right, Apicio!!!…a cousin too of the same guy who buys SQUARE WATERMELON grown in Japan at $100.00 per fruit or the bread from Poilane at $99.99!!!

    If I am successful in growing dampalit, Apicio, I will send you acharang dampalit! Hey, I think I will be successful since I am in the PACIFIC NORTHWEST …WHERE IT ALWAYS RAINS!!!!!!

  19. Betty Q. Thank you. if you noticed my comment in the Acharra in Baccarat post, I have a secure supplier of acharang dampalit, my brother in law who hails from Dampalit, Malabon.

  20. Dampalit is barrio in the town of Malabon,in between Hulong Duhat and Pinagkabalian. Used to be dotted with numerous fishponds, it is now mostly residential. Adjacent to the town of Obando,residents of the area used to cross from one town to the other via the fishpond mudwalls (pilapil). Dampalit plant is ubiquitous to the area. Origins of this atsara? Malabon, Navotas, Obando, Pampanga? Ah basta. Masarap ‘to.

  21. Speaking about atsara, I remember atsara from Batangas, made from either labong(bamboo pith) or ubod(heart of palm) red bell pepper, carrots, garlic, etc. The labong or ubod were cut to the shape of leaves or flowers. They were so pleasant to look at. One doesn’t see those anymore.

  22. It is summer of 1983 when I first taste this dish. I am 5 yrs old at that time. I remember my grandmother scolded my mother that I am malnourished. (You know all the lola’s of our country). Lola asked my uncle to gather some sort of grass near our house. I remember then the “dampalit” that it was abundant of that plant in our place (which my family owns a fishponds at that time). The plants shoots are green and the twigs are greenish and red. At summer time this dampalit is a good time to harvest. If December it is difficult to gather because it has flower already. The flower of this if mixed with the dish give a bad taste and it is not good to eat anymore. My lola Natividad Santos (known as aling Naty) is the best cook in our town (Dampalit, Malabon M.M) known in the old as Tabombong. I was born here. The ancestral house is just at the back of the Catholic church (I did forget the name of this old church because I am not a catholic, but it is sounds like Bartolome) which the Kasilonawan (a fertility dance) starts from Obando, Bulacan and ends to this church. We are the relatives of the Paez, Martinez, Sioson, and Santos’es of Malabon. ref: (

    This dish is my “spinach..” like the old Popeye. It should add bangus (milk fish) because it gives a distinct taste and flavor to it. Should be fresh bangus. But 10yrs ago the dampalits almost extinct due to the rising of water (baha). I felt bad to other generations including my sons that they cannot taste the original dampalit. My family inherited the original recipe of this dish from our ancestors ussually we cooked at fiesta’s. Hopefully if God permits I can eat this dish again.

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