By Nikka Garriga
BOLINAO, PANGASINAN – Locals in this town regard salt as more than just a mere condiment. For some families, it is considered the main source of food at their tables.
From ordinary rock salt, a product Bolinao is known for, locals now also produce what is popularly known as ‘gourmet’ salt.
Aro-En Gourmet Salt consists of seven varieties that are harvested in Bolinao by Salinas Corporation, the same maker of the locally produced Fidel Iodized Salt. The term ‘aro’ is derived from the Pangasinense dialect, which means “to love.”
According to Glenn John Khonghun, Business Development Manager of Salinas Corp, the concept behind Aro-En is to make locally produced gourmet salt a coveted ingredient among local and foreign chefs.
“We want to help propel Filipino cuisine and make it at par with other international cuisines,” Glenn explains. “And what better way to educate foreign chefs who want to learn how to cook Filipino food than by encouraging the use indigenous Filipino salt.”
How exactly is ‘gourmet’ salt any different from common table salt? There’s really not much of a difference except perhaps in the method of harvesting and processing which, consequently, adds a bit of a distinction in terms of taste.
For instance, the Fleur de Sel salt forms at the top surface of salt ponds. It means “flower of salt” and originated from the Guérande region of France. Fleur de Sel is considered a rare variant because it can only be harvested at a particular time of the day, at just the right weather conditions of the sea salt season.
The flavor is milder compared to other salts, making it an ideal pair for broiled, grilled or roasted meat, pasta dishes or as garnish for sauced foods.
Pangasinan’s Fleur de Sel salt is reportedly making waves in restaurants at the United States after it was popularized by Filipino-Americans Lenny Buenaflor-DiCarlo and her husband Anthony.
The DiCarlos are the founders of Xroads Philippine Sea Salts, which imports natural sea salts from the country such as the Sugpo Asin and the Ilocano Asin.
Besides Fleur de Sel, other variants from Aro-En include the Japanese-inspired Shio Salt; the Sel Gris or the French grey salt; Flakes Salt; Bitter Salt; Mineral Sea Salt; and Confectioner Salt.
Aro-En Gourmet Salts are currently available exclusively at the Center of Culinary Arts (CCA) Manila.
Get more information on Aro-En Gourmet Salts
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