This 'Dinosaur Egg' Salt from Bohol Is in Danger of Disappearing
Home cook and history buff John Sherwin Felix was looking for exotic, artisanal ingredients for his Instagram page, The Banana Leaf Kitchen, when he came across asin tibuok, a solid ball of salt shaped like a dinosaur egg.
“I usually feature traditional and reconstructed Filipino dishes. I do a lot of research about our cuisine in my free time. I noticed that many people don't know that we have a lot of unique ingredients,” Felix tells Esquire Philippines.
John Sherwin Felix
His research led him to a seller from Alburquerque, Bohol, where the dying practice of making asin tibuok is making a last stand. Felix will not allow it to die out without a fight.
“We only have a few references and photographs available online about our indigenous ingredients, which I think is one of the factors why people are unaware. So, I decided to collect these valuable food items from all over the Philippines and present them to the general public.”
According to Felix, asin tibuok (unbroken salt) is an artisanal salt from Alburquerque, Bohol. Making the peculiar salt involves tedious work and a very long process.
“This dinosaur egg-looking salt has a sharp, smokey flavor. You can break the rock salt into chunks and grate it over your food. You can also sprinkle some salt in your condiments such as vinegar,” says Felix.
When Felix interviewed locals, they told him that the unbroken salt was typically dipped in rice porridges or stews.
“Sabi ng mga Boholanos, pinaka the best eh simpleng kanin o lugaw lang then isasawsaw mo yung asin tibuok, tapos huhugasan at itatatabi. Naikuwento rin sa sa akin na naghihiraman ang magkakapit bahay noon ng asin tibuok pang ulam,” Felix says. “Nakakalungkot nga na yung karaniwang kuwento, eh hindi na raw nila nakikita ngayon.”
(“The Boholanos told me, the best way to use asin tibuok is to dip it in rice porridge, then wash it and set it aside for the next use. I also heard unique stories about how neighbors would borrow each other’s ball of salt for their meals. It’s sad because according to them, they no longer see asin tibuok in use these days.”)
“Since the salt is a product of hard labor, a piece of asin tibuok can cost around from 300 up to 700 pesos. You can buy it directly from our salt farmers or asinderos in Alburquerqe, or you can buy it online on Ritual PH, an online store based in Makati. I got mine from a merchant from Alburquerque,” says Felix. He contacted the merchant through social media, and they arranged shipping.
Felix plans to experiment with his asin tibuok. He wants to recreate manok tibuok, a delicacy that specifically requires the Alburquerque salt.