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Growing up in Tacoma, Washington, I thought my Lola was the best cook in the world. In Tagalog, “Lola” means grandmother, but my Lola is actually my grandmother’s sister. She was a military woman – my Lolo was stationed at Fort Lewis outside of Tacoma – and because of her my whole family could come to the US. Everything Lola cooked tasted better. She would serve us all those American foods we didn’t eat at home like roast beef, lasagna. Filipino dishes like Lumpia were also different at Lola. I remember thinking, “Why does everything taste better when Lola can do it?” It wasn’t until I was older and started to cook that I learned her secret: Johnny’s Seasoning Salt.
Johnny’s Seasoning Salt is a mixture of sea salt, MSG, paprika, garlic salt, onion powder and other spices and is absolutely magical in a bottle. It’s similar to Lawry, but unlike Lawry, it doesn’t contain sugar. These days, Johnny’s makes a non-MSG version, but the original recipe is where it is. I use it in everything and there is nothing that doesn’t improve it. In my restaurant WeaselYou won’t find any real salt in the pipe – you will find Johnnys.
For the home cook, Johnny is all about convenience and versatility. Why have five bottles of condiments and condiments when you can have one? I call it in my recipes for Chicken Adobo, Wintergreen laing, Sarciadong fish, and Garlic Fried Rice, but it adds remarkable depth to any meat, seafood, or vegetable. It’s also life-changing on popcorn or salted peanuts with fried garlic. Just use a light hand at first – it’s so flavorful that you may need fewer spices than you are used to.
Who is this mysterious Johnny? John Meaker, who died in 2001 at the age of 96, was a Tacoma restaurateur who launched his spice line in the 1950s. Johnny’s Fine Foods is still independently owned and manufactured in Washington state. This is quite an accomplishment in an industry dominated by large spice and spice companies. Tried to get in touch with the company – sent emails and tagged them Instagram– Because you need to know how much this yellow bottle means to me. If anyone at Johnny’s Fine Foods reads this, thank you for those cherished childhood memories and for bringing my family together. Johnny tastes like home. When my cousins and I visit and someone says, “This needs more salt,” we all know that they don’t really mean salt. You mean Johnnys.