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Pan De Sal: the bread of salt, a treasured Filipino tradition

“Bread is the king of the table and all else is merely the court that surrounds the king. The countries are the soup, the meat, the vegetables, the salad but bread is king.”
-Louis Bromfield, American novelist

Every morning at the crack of dawn, when the streets are bare and the atmosphere is misty, there exist familiar tunes that always make people get up out of bed and into the cold early dawn. It is something that people always look forward to in the morning, A Filipino tradition that has been around since the time of the Spaniards and is carried on until today by men wearing plain white shirts, riding atop a bicycle, honking their horns and shouting to the top of their booming voices. You might think that people will be angry at this early morning intrusion but on the contrary it is as welcome as the sunrise.  You see this men carry with them a delightful treat that Filipinos have loved for over five hundred years.  The Pandesal: the national bread of the Filipino people.

Pan de sal which means “bread of salt” in Spanish is a Filipino comfort food that is best eaten with a cup of coffee, butter, cheese, tuna, ham, egg, bacon, dried fish, jam, peanut butter, nutella  or… just about anything actually.   It’s soft, fluffy texture, rich aroma, crunchy crust and sweet taste is an absolute wonder to the taste buds.

In the Philippines, Pan De Sal is always available at any given point of the day; In fact there are stores that are open for 24 hours with the sole purpose of selling this beloved bread.  Sadly this Filipino staple is rare in foreign countries which are one of the things that many Filipinos miss. Pandesal is not just delicious bread but it is a symbol for the simpler times in life, a time when families are united at the breakfast table, eating and sharing stories together, a time when Filipinos can enjoy life in the Philippines without having to worry about how to feed their families.

Pandesal is something that is close to my heart, because it reminds me of the time when my late father would come home from work late at night, with a smile on his face and the familiar bag of pandesal in his hands. Even until now the scent of the warm bread reminds me of him.

Which is why I long to bring this Filipino tradition and introduce it here in Australia so that Filipinos can have a taste of home with them. Some stores sell pandesal but I feel that the taste is completely different, maybe because they’re not made by familiar hands whatever the reason is, as a true blooded Filipina, I feel it’s my duty to create these wonderfully soft bread.

“Oh, God above, if heaven has a taste it must be an egg with butter and salt, and after the egg is there anything in the world lovelier than fresh warm bread and a mug of sweet golden tea?”

–       Frank McCourt, ‘Angela’s Ashes’

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