Pasalubongs From Friends & Family…


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.


30 Responses

  1. MM, you are so loved by your friends. So many pasalubong! Your pantry must be full. I been reading your old post lately and would like to thank you for the May 2005 post on churros. Churros is my daughters fave snack. I dont know how to make it and she can have it during our visit to Manila only. She loves Dulcinea. I copied your churros recipe MM. It turned out very good. She loves it sooo much, Thanks MM!

  2. can anyone be luckier than you MM ? ur so blessed to have generous and thoughtful friends. about the plum powder, i remember my sister-in-law ( a chinese) made a delicious pork stew with this powder. if i remember correctly, she diluted the powder with a little water and then marinated the pork with this mixture along with other spices. and after cooked it into a stew ( she cooked it slowly under low heat) . it was very succulent.

  3. Thanks for sharing, MM. Again, I learned something new and interesting today ….:))

  4. In Singapore and Malaysia they sprinkle plum powder on sliced guava. It’s really yummy!

  5. I assume you can sprinkle the wasabi salt on your avocado since one way of eating avocados here in Japan is by mixing a little bit of wasabi paste and soy sauce to pour over the avocado and eat as is.. It’s so good!
    The youki brand salt is a dipping salt for tempura instead of the regular soy base dipping sauce. Some tempura shops offer both salt and dipping sauce.

  6. Plum powder: taiwanese style crispy chicken is showered with this powder, chilli and black pepper powders. So you can make your own breaded chicken or pork and sprinkle some of this, instead of just sliced fruit.

    Have you seen pink Himalayan Rock Salt? It is soooo pretty! I think it tastes less salty than normal rock salt, if there’s any thing as salt being less salty that it.

  7. This wiki is a thousandfold more informative than an up-to-date set of encyclopedia at home and more accessible and specific than a copy of Harold McGee with regards to food info. As it turns out, as anyone who has dabbled in candy-making knows, melted regular sugar crystalizes at the slightest provocation (nababalas in Tagalog). Add at bit of acid such as citrus juice or cream of tartar and it remains clear and runny. This process is called inversion, where sucrose (regular sugar) is broken down to its components, fructose and glucose.

    Lyle’s syrup is a staple here (a vestige of British influence no doubt). Dribbled over anything or used in any recipe where treacle is called for. Exactly the same flavor as the very viscous clear molasses in bamboo cylinders (ginaok) from Pasudeco they sold in the school yard of my youth oh so many years ago and distantly responsible for my toothless dotage.

  8. Footloose, hahaha, I should have known you would know what Lyle’s syrup was… thank you for that explanation. Mimi, yes, I do like the himalayan salt. bijin, thank you, I suppose you just get a bit of the powder with the hot tempura, is that right? A friend of ours said that at some tempura “bars” they serve several powders or salts to dip the fried shrimp or veggies in… valerie, thanks, I actually have had this with guava, was just wondering if there were more savory uses as well. frenchadobo, hmmm… will have to try and look that up somehow. Sheryll Ann, glad your churros turned out okay!

  9. For the plum salt, their website says to mix it with rice (for onigiri, like ones uses furikake), or use it with fish or meat–“meat” usually refers to beef more so than pork. You can also use it as a garnish.

    The unknown salt is matcha salt. It’s frequently used for tempura. I’ve noticed in Japan, fish and other seafood are usually dipped in salt, not the tenyu (tempura dip), and only vegetables are dipped in the tenyu. It might be nice as a finish for salted matcha caramels, though!

  10. What treasures!! MM. If those were in my pantry, I would be looking at the stash with the love and care that others reserve for designer bags and shoes, etc.

  11. I’ve been looking for that Wasabi salt here in the States. Thanks to you now I know what to look for. I’ve watched my cousin in San Diego use that to salt a baked salmon. So I guess, you can use it with any other fish or meat. And it was great!

  12. Heheh. Looks like I’ve finally found a household that’s even more salt-obsessed than mine. :)

    My cupboard currently has kosher salt, sel gris and fleur de del from France, coarse pink Himalayan salt (which we put in the salt grinders), black Hawaiian salt flakes, and some kind of white flake salt from Cyprus. What’s missing (and will always be missing)? Morton’s table salt. lol

  13. for the wasabi salt. we use it with deep fried fish or chicken. use it as part of the batter or you can use it at the table to sprinkle on the deep fried items.

  14. I am so jealous!! I love all the different items especially the wasabi salt, how cool is that? My family all just met up in San Francisco for our annual reunion and my Paris based sister brought me some fleur de sel. I am determined to conquer making caramels. I suck at boiling sugars, but I feel this will be my year.

    Bonus of SF! I got my Saigon cinnamon. Every since the cinnamon roll recipe was posted, I have been dying to try it and now I am one step closer.

  15. out of curiosity, MM, for your tea, do you use water at certain temperatures for certain types of tea? e.g. 80 degrees F for green tea and not boiling?

  16. we sprinkle a wee bit of matcha salt over chocolate or caramel…it sort of balances out the sweetness. :)

  17. I love high quality coarse salt. sprinkle them on a roasted pork belly or beef, salad or any other food before serving.

  18. Hi MM, for the wasabi salt, how about sprinkling some on extremely fresh tuna sashimi to replace soy sauce?

  19. yes, just as tikboy mentioned, plum powder goes very well with sliced guavas (the big ones)..a favorite in our household

  20. Some of the previous comments have already said it so I’m simply agreeing that the wasabi salt would be fantastic on fish (salmon comes to mind), or if you have the late night munchies, sprinkle them on freshly roasted potatoes or on a sour cream/mayo dip for those same potatoes.
    I use the plum powder as a rub for pork/lamb/rabbit, then braise the meat with soy sauce or tamari, garlic and ginger.

  21. food pasalubongs are a favorite as well better than any tourist shirt or trinket hands down. i always make it a point to visit the markets and groceries of the places i travel to. i agree with the others ( hi mila!) that wasabi salt it usually great with fried food and the like.

    one of the strangest pasalubongs i got was a package of kala namak salt from india that tasted vaguely of sulphur and rotten eggs.apparently its suppose to be really healthy for you and used widely in indian cooking.

  22. Yahooo !!!!! My Residency in the Phils is approved !!!!

    MM….Advance book me for the next eyeball.

    And if your pantry gets robbed….I cud be the Unusual Suspect.

    Be careful when using the Himalayan Salt…increases toot factor, but great for people who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Hypertension.

  23. @Joyce, China : Try to flavour 500 ml Tamarind Water, Paste of Green Jalapeno chilles as per taste, Paste of Fresh Green Mint, 1/2 teaspoon Cummin Powder, and Kala Namak to taste and paste of Dates if you prefer Sweeter.

    This is a favourite summer drink which is also used to fill Puris,

  24. @jack hammer thanks for the tip, been at a lost on how to use the kala namak since the only indian food i cook so far is curry and chicken tikka masala

  25. I love Lyle’s Golden Syrup! My last can is almost gone, good thing my brother gave me his one and only can (pabili from the UK). It’s great for baking. I am not used to the strong taste of molasses so I usually use a combination of molasses/golden syrup to soften the taste in my breads, cakes, and cookies! Glad to know that it’s available in Singapore! I tried looking for it in HK but I couldn’t find it. Wish it’s available here.

  26. WOW. I’ve been looking for Lyle’s Golden Syrup ever since the last tin was gone….. I am desperate to get some Golden Syrup as i need it for my Hot Toffee Sauce recipe. Does anyone know where it’s available in the Philippines? OH and Marketman, your very lucky having that Golden Tin…. Here’s my recipe for Toffee Sauce so you can try it with that Golden Syrup of yours.
    * 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon soft dark brown sugar
    * 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
    * 3/4 stick unsalted butter
    * 2/3 cup heavy cream
    * Serving suggestion: Vanilla ice cream

    Put the sugar, syrup and butter in a pan and slowly bring to the boil, allowing the butter to melt and the sugar to dissolve. Let the mixture bubble for a couple of minutes before carefully adding the cream. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until the sauce is thick, sticky and glossy.

    Serve with a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream.

  27. Wasabi salt is great for egg/chicken salad sandwiches. Put lots of chopped celery in with the salad and the wasabi will brighten the celery flavor beautifully.



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