What The H*ll Is Himalayan Salt? 5 Stores That Sell Rare And Exotic Ingredients In Metro Manila
We did the searching, so you won’t have to.
If you are a foodie, an aspiring cook, or even a homemaker, you know how frustrating it can be to find all but one ingredient for a recipe you are learning to cook. It could be a spice, an imported vegetable, or a rare fungus without which the dish just won’t taste authentic. And while substitutes are always an option, there are certain dishes that call for a particular product that you just have to find.
Have you been searching for a specific ingredient for a dish that you tasted elsewhere but couldn’t seem to find it locally? That ingredient might be indigenous to that place. But you don’t have to travel far anymore just to get a hold of uncommon ingredients. With Manila’s culinary scene flourishing even with the pandemic, there are now physical and online stores that carry a variety of Asian and Western flavors for that added exotic flair to your home cooking.
Here’s a list of stores where you can score hard-to-find ingredients:
Assad Mini Mart
If you’re on the lookout for some Indian flavor, Assad Mini Mart will be your go-to shop. Established in the early ’90s, Assad Mini Mart offers a wide range of authentic Indian products from rare spices, pastes, dishes, and even incense.
Their exotic spices include cinnamon sticks, used for beef curry, and green cardamom, which is found in Biryani, a type of fried rice popular in Mindanao. Other rare spices they offer are coriander, an ingredient that can be used in chicken adobo, and black mustard seeds for Kadugu Sadam, a traditional South Indian rice dish. Assad Mini Mart also sells ground Indian chili powder (Php 55/100g), for those who love spicy dishes, and Shan Virgin Pink Himalayan Salt (Php 190/800g) for use in your salad, soups, or pasta. Not only does Himalayan Salt enhance the taste and flavors of any meal; it is also naturally fortified with 87 trace minerals that are good for the body.
A variety of Indian pastes like the Madras Curry Paste, Vindaloo Curry Paste, Balti, Garlic Relish, and Pilau Biryani are also available at Assad, for when you want to serve an Indian menu at home.
Currently, Assad Mini Mart has three branches in Metro Manila: Paco, Manila; Bel-Air, Makati; and San Roque, Marikina.
Raja Rasa Philippines
Searching for a great kick of spice in your cooking? You might find it in sambal, which is made from locally sourced chili, spices, and natural flavoring. Sambal is renowned in many countries in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. This condiment is an uncommon yet adaptable ingredient and can be used in an array of Pinoy dishes like adobo, pancit, and kang kong, or you can use it to add (a lot of) spice to your favorite sawsawan.
In the Philippines, Rasa Raja takes pride in offering the first and only Philippine-made Indonesian homestyle sambal. You can say that their version is authentic because Mr. Suharjo, who co-owns the store with his wife, is a native of Indonesia.
The name “Raja Rasa” literally translates to “The King of Taste” in Bahasa, that’s why each bottle of sambal is bursting with not just spice, but also flavor. Try Raja Rasa’s Sambal Terasi, or sambal with fermented shrimp paste, which sells for Php 280 per 200 ml bottle, and the Sambal Matah , or Indonesian salsa in corn oil. This condiment is best paired with roasted or fried meat dishes like lechon, lechon kawali, and chicharon.
Gerald.ph offers premium European products, from imported meat and seafood, cheese and dairy, supplements, ready-to-bake pastry mix, spices, and even hard-to-find ingredients.
They have a wide range of imported and gourmet seafood like anchovies (Php 250/78g), which is a key ingredient in some recipes you may have tried. These filleted small green fish are preserved in olive oil and salt to bring out the umami flavor that one would taste in a Shrimp and Anchovy pasta recipe. You can also drizzle some of its oil and add anchovy bits to your Caesar Salad, or top your pizza with it for that extra flavor.
Another product that’s quite difficult to find in Manila is tahini (Php 275/200g). Widely used in Middle Eastern cuisine, tahini is made from 100% ground hulled sesame seeds with no added preservatives or artificial flavorings. If you’re making salad dressings like green goddess or maple, or preparing a hummus dip, tahini is a great substitute for mayonnaise as it is dairy-free.
Visit Gerald.ph online.
Ever tried truffle-based dishes – pasta, fries, rice -- from local restaurants and attempted to replicate them at home? This unique flavor does not come cheap, and for good reason: truffles are extremely rare to find. But thanks to Urbani Truffles, a leading producer of truffles from Italy, this luxury of an ingredient can now be found in the Philippines, and at a more affordable price.
Truffles are considered rare due to their wild nature -- black truffles, for example, can flourish as deep as two feet underground and thrive near oak trees and hazelnuts. They require special attention and care to be in perfect condition and are only available for picking on certain months of the year.
Urbani Truffles offers a variety of products like Black Truffles with Mushroom (Php 579/180g) and White Truffles with Porcini (Php 579/180g ). Try mixing these in your fried rice (and pair it with porchetta!) or add some to your cream pasta for an instant upgrade.
Visit Urbani Truffles online and in their physical store at the Gateway Mall, Araneta Center, Cubao.
If you’re on the hunt for a rare ingredient, a haven of world-class gourmet products and other imported goods can be found at Säntis Delicatessen, from dairy and dry products, to meat, fish, sauces and spices.
One exotic spice they carry is the pink peppercorns (Php 20/10g) which are known to grow in the coast of Brazil. This spice has a unique sweet and mild taste that can enhance dishes like roasted salmon, mixed greens, fried chicken, and even tilapia.
Another rare herb is the saffron thread (Php 446/1g), which are thread-like red stigmas that give off a yellow hue to rice dishes such as paella. What makes this herb expensive and exotic is that it is tricky to harvest. Once its flower begins to bloom, it must be harvested the same day or it will wilt.
The search for that elusive ingredient is finally over! Which of these rare ingredients will you be adding to your pantry?