12 Apr2014


Now that’s a “short-cut flavor packet” I love! Someone once told me that at a snazzy culinary school, the students at a large gathering were asked if they had ever cooked sinigang from scratch (meaning not using cubes or powders) and nearly 85% said they HAD NOT cooked sinigang from scratch. That struck me as being utterly appalling. Why bother to learn how to be a chef if you can’t cook some basic Filipino dishes from scratch? At the Tagbilaran market recently, I was amused and relieved to find these pre-packaged ingredients for a simple tinowa soup or other basic local dishes… all the right flavor sources, and NO MSG added. If we are to go with the commercially available flavoring shortcuts, all of our brethren will start to believe that the level of sourness of a sinigang must ALWAYS be identical, the consistency of dishes with gata or coconut cream will be thicker and glue-ier starchier than the real thing, that that MSG tingle on the tongue and heightened sense of taste is normal and that food coloring, sugar and perhaps salt mask all other essential ingredients…



  1. Connie C says:

    Indeed MM! And our choices for souring agents are numerous which add more depth of flavor and interest to sinigang one does not get from Knorr cubes and Magic Sarap!

    Nicely packaged too!

    Apr 12, 2014 | 9:35 am

  2. Footloose says:

    It’s hard to ignore the lure of convenience. Whoever thought of traditional combinations of panigang assembled in one neat package as pictured has chanced upon a way of offsetting one major excuse resorted to for abandoning cooking from scratch versus using instant flavouring mix. Some short-cuts are easier to ignore than others though. I may be impervious to Japanese curry or Ma Po Taufu mix but I hardly ever run out of packets of Knorr bouillon powder in the pantry.

    I agree, the harm in this is that the artificial taste provided by this ready-made mixes then becomes people’s point of reference. This is how millions of school children in North America end up rejecting macaroni and cheese made with real cheese.

    Apr 12, 2014 | 9:55 am

  3. Susan says:

    Footloose you are so right. We were baby sitting a little boy who requested for Mac and Cheese. Well, we didn’t have a box of it but I had some cheddar cheese, butter, milk and elbow macaroni and made it for him. He even came into to the kitchen while I was cooking with a puzzled look on his face. At the time I didnt think anything of it but he probably was wondering what I was doing with a block of some orange thing as I was grating the cheese. And after all that hard work he didn’t eat it. He said this is not Mac and Cheese.

    Apr 12, 2014 | 2:11 pm

  4. rowena says:

    Just the way my Mommy used to make our tinola.

    Apr 12, 2014 | 4:48 pm

  5. Getter Dragon 1 says:

    Agreed…its the co-dependency on convenience that has relegated Filipino food to the back seat among Asian cuisines.

    Apr 12, 2014 | 11:33 pm

  6. Ariel says:

    By the way, in the Asian supermarket chains have started doing this..sinigang, made made, papait. The meat, condiments and including the flavoring packet,i.e. Mama Sita Sinigang mix are included. Specially helpful for sinigang veggies so you don’t have to buy extras you will never use

    Apr 13, 2014 | 9:31 am

  7. Marketman says:

    Ariel, too bad they don’t substitute the sinigang mix with the real thing… Getter Dragon, not only co-dependence on convenience, but a bizarre desire and ability to be bamboozled by sugar and MSG too.

    Apr 13, 2014 | 10:49 am

  8. Natie says:

    MM, I still owe you Nanay’s Thesis on “Paaslums”.. I finally had it recopied and rebound, during my visit.. 26 Paaslums from Western Visayand and Cebu, with black and white pictures , acidity percentage! among other lab analysis.. And very simple recipes with the souring agents…It included the usual, and Roselle, Alumpilan, Libas, green bignay, , the little green tomatillos, even begonia.. I’ll ask my sister to send you a copy, a humble addition to your massive collection. I brought back 4 copies for brother, who is a great fisherman and chef. And for my daughters to inspire them to “pass it on”.. She defended her thesis in 1968..

    Apr 13, 2014 | 4:28 pm

  9. Eva Mondragon says:

    MM – That is, indeed, appalling. It is unbelievable. You would think that these future chefs have scoured all the wet markets or even fruit or vegetable farms to learn all about basic ingredients and how they are used in cooking.

    Footloose – That Mac and Cheese in the box is probably one of the worst food – if you can call it that – to ever come out of a package. It’s a disgrace that millions of children eat this regularly.

    Apr 13, 2014 | 5:34 pm

  10. Ron says:

    My father’s recipe for Sinigang na Baboy: Manggang Hilaw, Kamatis, Sibuyas na Mura, Saging Saba (hilaw), Banana Blossom, String Beans at Gabi. Walang MSG at walang instant pampa-asim. All natural ingredients lang with Fish Sauce (patis) ang panimpla nya.

    Apr 13, 2014 | 10:06 pm

  11. shiko-chan says:

    sadly, i’d have to be one of those young ‘uns who’ve never made sinigang from scratch. much as i would dearly love to–and i never use MSG in making anything else–i haven’t the resources to go to market regularly (the nearest public market is about 20min away by PUJ) and supermarkets just don’t have those “flavor packets”…yet. it comes down to a sad “MSG foil pack vs. kilos of stuff that will just rot in the ref” choice. (also, i live on my own, so large-scale sinigang production is out of the question.)

    i sorely miss the sinigang we’d have at home where we had an overachieving kamias tree and that’s what we always used to make sinigang. i have yet to see kamias even in a wet market here in (non-FTI, non-cubao) metro manila.

    Apr 13, 2014 | 10:40 pm

  12. Marketman says:

    Natie, OMG, OMG, I would be so grateful for a copy of that wonderful sounding thesis. I have compiled perhaps just 15 different souring agents for sinigang and other local soups and would love to see what else can be used. Gosh, that would be a real treat to read… salamat.

    shiko-chan, if I may suggest. This is what we do at home, and at our restaurants. Every once in a while, we buy unripe sampaloc in bulk, from markets, and if pressed even at large groceries in the city. Then you simply boil the tamarind in a pot of water (say 2-3 times the volume of water as the tamarind (skins and all)) until it is quite soft, say 20-30 minutes. Use a large spoon or potato masher to smash and smush it all and strain through a fine mesh strainer. Portion into approximately one soup pot worth of souring agent, then freeze in portions. Sometimes I make 10-15 portions for the house, and I always have natural tamarind pulp for soups. The work is only a one off thing, and you have 10-20 pots of soup flavoring without all the chemicals and MSG.

    Apr 14, 2014 | 3:25 pm

  13. misao says:

    I was about 10 or 11 when I cooked my first sinigang, with my dad teaching me how. He asked me to scrub the tamarind thoroughly under running water and place the bunch in the pot with the pork, onions and tomatoes. Once it’s soft, he told me to fish them out, put in a strainer and mash them right in there, using the broth as steeping/extracting liquid. That’s how I’ve been doing my sinigang (sa sampalok) for about 15 years.

    Then I moved to a place where I don’t have a predictable access to real tamarind so I had to depend on a mix. It’s just not the same… It’s all artificial-tasting acid without the fruity goodness of the real thing! So I rarely cook sinigang now. Just whenever I chance upon some tamarind at the Asian stores.

    Apr 14, 2014 | 9:50 pm

  14. Meg says:

    I stock unripe sampaloc in my freezer. There’s this big fear when one day i will run out of the real thing, and resort to using the MSG packets. One big gift i got from my dad is how to cook sinigang using all natural souring agents like talbos ng sampaloc, green mangoes, kamias and santol. I treasure those memories when we would even devour those soft sour fruits floating in our sinigangs.

    Apr 15, 2014 | 12:31 am

  15. kristin says:

    iba,santol,sampaloc…..the souring agents of much remembered soups of my childhood where the scent of the soup would waft through the kitchen and tempt our senses…

    Apr 15, 2014 | 8:15 am

  16. Cris J. says:

    Before the convenience of the sabaw ng sinigang packets, we cook our sinigang using kalamansi. Sinigang na baboy, sinigang na bangus, anything sinigang we used kalamansi. Ang sarap. :)

    Apr 17, 2014 | 8:51 am

  17. Mrs. Kolca says:

    I cooked sinigang sa miso just the other day and my visiting aunt from the province was surprised to know I was using sampaloc, siling haba at kamatis for the broth. I stopped using Knorr sinigang lately. Narealize ko kasi na iba pa din ang natural na pampalasa! :)

    Apr 17, 2014 | 9:31 pm


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