This Zambales salt is about to disappear


Renowned food vlogger Erwan Heussaff sheds light on one of the country’s lesser-known salt production industries

ANCX staff | February 07, 2022

There are a number of kinds of salt used in kitchens around the world. There’s kosher salt, Himalayan pink salt, Celtic gray sea salt, fleur de sel, flake salt, red/black Hawaiian salt, and more. Here in the Philippines, there are also different varieties of salt, and they are produced in different parts of the country.

Besides rock salt, which most of us are familiar with, there are types unique to us, such as duldul of Guimaras, asin suggestion from Pangasinan, asin tibu-ok of Negros, and Asin sa Buy-o of Zambales. Each of these salts imparts a different nuance of taste to the dishes we know.

What is currently ubiquitous in grocery stores, however, is iodized salt. This is thanks to the ASIN Act or the Nationwide Salt Iodization Act which was passed in 1995 to address micronutrient malnutrition in the country, particularly iodine deficiency disorders. . Manufacturers were required by law to iodize the salt they produced, which is essentially fortifying humble table salt with iodine. Suffice it to say, this has had a huge impact on our local salt production industry.

Popular food vlogger Erwan Heussaff recently featured the Asin sa Buy-o in a video documentary. An artisanal salt, he compares it to the rare and expensive fleur de sel from France. “It’s perfect as a finishing salt and has a nice fluffy texture,” Erwan said in an Instagram post. “It is made in salt pans where seawater naturally evaporates (this is called solar salts). What sinks to the bottom is ordinary sea salt, while the crystals that float to the top are the “blossom” or blossom. »

In comparison, producing Asin sa Buy-o de Zambales, as seen in the FEATR video, involves a long and arduous process. The salt workers first line up a large wooden colander, or tatabagan, with mud infused with seawater from the mangroves – this procedure filters the salty water. The liquid is then continuously cooked and stirred to create pure, fine mineral-rich sea salt. Finally, the salt is then packaged in a Buy-oa woven basket paw or palm, bamboo and rattan.

Currently, the Asin sa Buy-o is produced by the people of the Panayunan community at the Sambali Beach Farm in Zambales. According to the women salt workers in the FEATR video, the tradition was handed down to them by their ancestors from childhood. Salt making had since become their main source of income.

Producing Asin sa Buy-o requires a lot of manual labor. “Nakita nyo naman po kung papaano namin ginawa. Napakahirap po talaga“says Nanay Editha, one of the salt workers”Talagang po pagoda, pawis po talaga. Nasa tao nga po iyan. Pero napakalaki pong tulong.”

Thanks to the help of the owner of Sambali Beach Resort, Ching Camara, and Ritual PH, many are rediscovering this artisanal Zambales salt again. With more and more commissions, the younger generation is also beginning to learn the tradition from their elders.

“Many salt producers have been unwittingly impacted due to the lack of resources needed to comply with the iodization requirement,” says Erwan. “From almost 100% self-sufficiency in salt, we have come down to 20%. Today, we import 91 to 93% of our needs. Not only have many farmers lost their livelihoods, but the country has also lost some of its culinary culture.

Before this feature on the Asin sa Buy-oErwan also composed a story about the tibuok Negros salt. Through his efforts to shine a light on our heritage salts, we hope we can save them and the traditions of salt making from disappearing altogether while helping local salt workers improve their livelihoods.

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