Salt is one of the most essential ingredients in cooking. It enhances the flavor, texture, and aroma of food, and also preserves it from spoilage. But not all salts are created equal. In the Philippines, there are different salt varieties and they’re produced in different parts of the country. Apart from rock salt, which most of us are familiar with, there are kinds unique to us, such as the tultul, sugpo asin, asin tibuok, buy-o, and ted-ted. Each of these salts lend a different nuance of taste to dishes we’ve become familiar with.
Tultul is a salt block made from seawater and coconut milk. It is produced in Hoskyn, Guimaras, an island province known for its sweet mangoes. The process of making tultul involves boiling seawater with coconut milk until it forms into a thick paste. The paste is then molded into rectangular blocks and dried under the sun. Tultul has a mild and slightly sweet flavor that complements fish and seafood dishes. It is also used as a condiment or a snack by itself.
Sugpo asin is a naturally pale pink sea salt that is harvested from prawn ponds in Pangasinan, a coastal province in northern Luzon. The prawn ponds are filled with seawater during high tide and left to evaporate during low tide. The salt crystals that form on the surface are then collected by hand using bamboo baskets. Sugpo asin has a delicate and briny flavor that enhances the freshness of prawns and other shellfish. It is also used to season rice, soups, and salads.
Asin tibuok is an artisanal salt that looks like a dinosaur egg. It is made from Alburquerque, Bohol, a town famous for its sandugo or blood compact monument. The process of making asin tibuok involves boiling seawater in large clay pots until it becomes thick and syrupy. The syrup is then transferred to smaller clay pots and covered with banana leaves. The pots are buried in the ground for several months until the salt hardens into a round shape. Asin tibuok has a rich and complex flavor that adds depth to meat and vegetable dishes. It is also used as a gift or a souvenir because of its unique appearance.
Buy-o is a sea salt that is wrapped in woven palm leaves. It is produced in Botolan, Zambales, a town located near the Mount Pinatubo volcano. The process of making buy-o involves filtering seawater through sand and charcoal to remove impurities. The filtered water is then boiled in large metal drums until it crystallizes into salt. The salt is then packed into palm leaves that are shaped into cones or cylinders. Buy-o has a clean and crisp flavor that balances the sweetness of fruits and desserts. It is also used as a decoration or a toy by children.
Ted-ted is a three-month pile into a stalagmite-like mound of salt. It is produced in Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte, a province known for its windmills and empanadas. The process of making ted-ted involves pouring seawater into bamboo tubes that are arranged in rows on the ground. The water drips slowly from the tubes onto piles of sand or gravel that are covered with straw mats. The salt crystals that form on the piles are then scraped off and stored in sacks. Ted-ted has a strong and salty flavor that accentuates the sourness of vinegar and citrus fruits. It is also used as a fertilizer or a disinfectant by farmers.
These artisanal salts are more than just seasonings for food. They are also expressions of tradition and culture that reflect the diversity and creativity of the Filipino people. They are products of nature and human ingenuity that have been passed down from generation to generation. They are treasures that deserve to be appreciated and preserved for future generations to enjoy.