Asin Tibuok: That Rare Artisanal Salt from Bohol

June 30, 2022 Travel

Ever heard of this rare, artisanal salt from Bohol, commonly known as a dinosaur egg?  

Even though the process of making this salt has been around for hundreds of years, I only learned about the Asin Tibuok or Asin Tibook during the pandemic after photos of it went viral online. 

Dinosaur egg up close. This is a reject btw but posting because this is the first time I saw one.

The reason is that this salt is nearly extinct.

The very laborious process of making it along with its small price tag have driven many asinderos or salt-makers into abandoning this age-old craft. There is also competition from cheaper imported salts. The Act for Salt Iodization Nationwide (ASIN Law, which was enacted in 1995, requires all salt producers and manufacturers to iodize their salt, so this has also discouraged production of this ancient salt.  


Fortunately, there is a growing interest in reviving this dying tradition. Each dinosaur egg is now tagged as artisanal and considered to be the chefs’ and foodies’ choice salt and a gourmet pasalubong. It has also been included in Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, an international catalogue of endangered heritage foods.


And with its growing popularity, people have been ordering online this prized heritage food. Travelers have also been visiting the last remaining asinans or salt-making facility to learn the process and interact with the artisans. 


I had a chance to visit one when I joined the Bohol Food Trip Series Media Familiarization Tour organized by the Department of Tourism Central Visayas. One focus of the tour is Bohol’s heirloom recipes. 


We visited the last remaining tinapay crisp maker in Tagbilaran. Bohol’s tinapay is thin-crust square-shaped biscuits. We met the ladies of the Albur Kalamay Makers Association of Loay who make kalamays, which are sticky sweet delicacies traditionally packed in coconut shells. 


We also visited Cresencia Café in Baclayon for a demonstration and tasting of ube biko or rice cake made of Bohol’s ube kinampay, considered to be the queen of all purple yam variants and is believed to be the highest grade of ube available in the marketplace.


And in Alburquerque, we went to Asinan ni Tan Inong located at Eastern Poblacion.


Mr. Nestor Manongas, one of the keepers of this ancient craft, welcomed us in their manufacturing facility - a simple open-air building made of light materials with concrete floors. He walked us through the process, which takes months and requires specialized skills, honed through decades of experience. 

Mr. Nestor Manongas, one of the few remaining asinderos


First, coconut husks are left in soaking ponds for months to absorb natural sea minerals. These ponds are constructed among coastal mangroves that fill with seawater during high tide.


Then, the husks are taken out of the soaking pond, cut into smaller pieces, and left to dry in the sun for two-three days.


After drying, the husks are brought into the shack and slowly burned into ashes in large batches over a controlled fire. It usually takes three days and three nights nonstop until they are reduced to ashes. 


The ashes are then transferred to a container with a cone-shaped filter. More seawater is poured in until a more concentrated liquid or brine is produced.


The brine is then poured into specially made clay pots over a wood fire continuously burning for hours until it is completely dried up. The process continues until the clay pot is finally filled with hard rock salt. The pot eventually cracks exposing a solid mass of salt.


The result is a pre-historic looking orb, thus the nickname dinosaur egg. It has a sharp and earthy taste with mild smoky undertones. Tibuok actually means unbroken or whole salt.


The salt is usually consumed by grating a light dusting over food. Some brake it into chunks and dip them in dishes like porridge. It can also be ground up and used like traditional table salt.


I wanted to buy one to bring home, but they didn’t have stock available in the asinan. They did have some rejects though, so we were able to taste the salt. I was happy with that. My happiness doubled when I got to my hotel room and found a gift bag with an Asin Tibuok in my room. 


I am so thankful the Department of Tourism is helping champion heritage keepers like the asinderos of Bohol. This way, we keep products like Asin Tibuok in production and more importantly, on our plates. 


And hopefully I can also track down the makers of túltul or dúkdok of Capiz and Guimaras, which is made similarly to asín tibuok but is boiled with gatâ or coconut milk. It really sounds interesting.

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