14 Jul2007

Patis / Fish Sauce

by Marketman


Patis is perhaps the single most important ingredient in Filipino cooking. Or at least one of the top 5 ingredients, if one had to include rice, pork, salt (often replaced by Patis) and lard/vegetable fat and sugar. And yet, to be honest, I (and maybe most of you) don’t know much about it at all. Considering how much patis we use in our lifetime (over a 100 liters at least), you would think that most Filipinos would be extremely discriminating about this critical flavoring in so many of our dishes. Besides one or two large National brands, there doesn’t seem to be this incredible move towards artisanal and superior quality patis manufacturing, what when the vast majority of the public has become almost single-mindedly cost rather than quality conscious… At any rate, I usually buy whatever the cook wants, Rufina, Lorins or other bulk grocery purchase. And frankly, I find that it is usually too strong for my tastes… sometimes I find it “burns” my taste buds/throat when I have too much of it pure (without the addition of kalamansi or vinegar). For my own cooking, I tend to use Thai fish sauce (nam pla) or Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc nam) when I can get them. Somehow I have this perception that the Thai and Vietnamese brands are “smoother” and less salty tasting…

But then again, I have no history and no expertise in patis manufacture. A little book research points to a relatively simple process of fermenting small fish (or shrimp), usually dilis (sometimes fish in the mackerel family) or other plentiful fish that travel patis2in large schools, with a brine mixture of water and lots of salt. This is allowed to ferment naturally outdoors for up to 24 months (though much less for mass produced patis) until such point that that a protein called hydrosylate is formed. The pungent liquid is siphoned off and the first batch of liquid (the fish sauce equivalent of extra virgin olive oil from the first pressing of olives) is considered the finest quality fish sauce… That liquid is then “aged” in sunlight until it achieves the ideal amber or caramel color, aroma and taste. But lots of factors can subtly alter the quality of one’s patis – the fish you start with, the manner in which fermentation is undergone (vats, heat, etc.) and the care with which the first liquid is drawn off.

A little more research, yielded my little aha! moment for the day… According to my Harold McGee book called “On Food & Cooking,” there was a similar ingredient in Ancient Rome and thereabouts. Called “Garum,” this critical ingredient was actually a fermented fish sauce that Pliny described as “consist(ing) of the guts of fish and other parts…so that garum is the liquor of putrefecation.” Nice description, don’t you agree? The method for preparing this garum is very similar to our own patis. At any rate, it is incredibly interesting that this ingredient garum is mentioned in nearly every savory recipe in the famous cookbook attributed to Apicius who lived in the first century A.D. (the source of the name of Apicio, one of my favorite commenters on this blog)… most of this information from the McGee book, and some googling. It seems that sometime around the 16th century, the penchant for using this ingredient disappeared, and the closest similar product very much in use in the Mediterranean today are salted, but not fermented, anchovies… Cool, huh? Oh, does anyone know if they sell a modern translation of this Apicius cookbook?

But I want to take instruction from a patis expert or connoisseur; someone who can really explain the differences and pick out the “finest” patis. I want to have a pantry filled with different brands, or home made brews. Some that are particularly good for cooking certain dish and react well with fat and flame. Others that are best as dipping sauces. Still others that meld well with kalamansi or chilli. But I wouldn’t know where to even begin looking. And I have a very funny feeling that seeing the process of patis manufacturing could seriously gross me out. What brought on this interest? I was at the Tiendesitas Mall this afternoon stocking up on Batuan puree (the subject of an upcoming post), and I came across a store in the Native Delicacies section selling products from Malabon. This clear recycled Tanduay glass bottle was filled with Patis with an incredible amber color. The lady manning ths stall urged me to try the patis, and even uncapped the bottle for me to smell. It did in patis3fact smell very good; smoother, less raw salt and oddly, without salt crusts forming at the bottle opening. The vendor vouched for the patis, something her neighbor made in Malabon from a decades old tradition of manufacturing in small batches. They had no labels, no ingredients list, no contact numbers in case I keeled over from food poisoning. She assured me that she didn’t think anyone else carried this patis outside of Malabon. And the verdict? It’s pretty darn good. Not sure it’s the best I have had, but it is noticeably better than the mass produced grocery brands. And at just PHP50 for this large ex-Tanduay bottle, I thought it was cheap. I took out the Lorins that is the standard patis in the kitchen and checked the ingredients list: round scad (mackerel) fish extract, iodized salt (no wonder it has a strange chemical hint), caramel (that seems like cheating to me) and potassium sorbate. The Thai fish sauce I use is extremely smooth and it lists ingredients as Anchovies 65%, salt 30% and sugar 5%.

So this homemade patis discovery has piqued my interest… I would really like to try more artisanal and different types of patis in the future. How about you guys? Do you think the patis makes a big difference in what you cook or eat? And what is your favorite brand or source of the finest patis? Are there dramatic differences between patis from particular provinces?



  1. carma says:

    my family doesn’t use commercial patis. my mom grew up in malabon, so they get their patis straight from where it’s made traditionally. it’s very very good. my american tito likes spooning it directly into his mouth. LOL.

    Jul 14, 2007 | 8:17 pm


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  3. allen_ebersole says:

    I love nilagang baboy served with patis-mansi dip. But I’ve noticed that local patis brands I buy usually smell bad, rotten even rotten… I’m planning to go to Tiendesitas to look for your patis vendor. Thanks for the tip ;-) What’s the sign on her store?

    Jul 14, 2007 | 8:52 pm

  4. Marketman says:

    allen, sorry, I didn’t get the name, but the stall was directly across the Connie’s Kitchen stall. If you don’t want to go to Tiendesitas, try any good premium Thai Fish Sauce at the big groceries and compare to your commercial pinoy brand… you’ll see a difference there as well…

    Jul 14, 2007 | 8:55 pm

  5. tulip says:

    Like carma, we dont use commercialized patis, we also get unlabeled bottled patis from what they call “Konsignasyon” in Malabon. I think that is a fish dealers area, where they market for wholesale.
    I wonder if you’ll be adventurous enough one day and might consider a trip to Malabon. See how they process patis and how bagoong is made plus there a lot of food finds there.

    Jul 14, 2007 | 9:04 pm

  6. Pong says:

    I grew up with Thai fish sauce (I didn’t see many Pilipino brands of fish sauce where I come from). My favorite is Squid Brand fish sauce, but I prefer Vietnamese fish sauce for dipping.

    Jul 14, 2007 | 9:19 pm

  7. Apicio says:

    There has been a few translations and testing of the recipes found in Apicius’s Ars Culinaria but (I) never looked into them mainly fearing that because of their limited access to good ingredients and flavorings (even at the broadest of Roman imperial reach) it would pale as a culinary interest specially on top of what we already have acquired at this time, a cosmopolitan taste. If Pliny the Younger’s allusion to its manufacture turned you off of garum, their fondness for dormice will definitely do it for you of Roman cooking (unless you have travelled to the Andes and liked cuy). Besides, it was not a subtle cuisine, as witness Petronius’s extended description in Satyricon of a dinner at the newly rich Trimalchio’s home. On top of that, there was this socially sanctioned bulimia which one classical author succintly stated thus: edant ut vomunt, vomant ut edunt… they ate to throw up and threw up to eat some more.

    References to garum (and later, salsamentum) are not detailed enough to determine whether the word referred to something basic like Ilocos bagoong (which I suspect is more likely) or to a quintessential extract like patis. Of course, this distinction is lost to all except perhaps us and certain Asian neighbours. Btw, a phial of garum is as unavoidable on a Roman table as a cruet of patis is on ours.

    MM Please excise anything that may offend.

    Jul 14, 2007 | 9:59 pm

  8. Kim says:

    Since Thai fish sauce became available in our market, we’ve been using it in our household. I totally agree with you MM, we find it better than the pinoy patis. It’s perfect for use in our daily cooking or as a dipping sauce. And just like Lori, I’ve been intoxicated with Nuoc Nam as well! It is THE ultimate asian dipping sauce, in my opinion :) MM, have you ever done a post on asian dipping sauces? (including nuoc nam hee hee hee)

    Jul 14, 2007 | 10:31 pm

  9. Ed says:

    I remember reading about a year ago in Saveur that there was actually a supplier of (Sicilian-style?) garum in the US. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy that issue, and I have no idea where to get the contact info. I don’t even know if the supplier is still around.

    Jul 14, 2007 | 10:38 pm

  10. elaine says:

    I use patis sparingly to cut on salt intake. But I do use it mixed with a bit of kalamansi over fried fish, and I’ve always used the Thai brand. I would love to try the Malabon-made..thanks for the tip!

    Jul 14, 2007 | 10:58 pm

  11. ykmd says:

    I have all three- patis (Rufina seems to be the only Philippine brand widely available here), nam pla and nuoc mam. I agree with you that the latter two are generally smoother and less salty. I made the mistake once of using patis for Vietnamese style pork BBQ and the patis completely overwhelmed the taste of the other ingredients (honey/scallions, etc).
    Thanks MM and Apicio, I learned something new from you guys (as usual) :)

    Jul 15, 2007 | 1:53 am

  12. mrs m says:

    i find that our patis produces a very strong odour when used during cooking. the smell lingers for a while and there is a “constricting” aftertaste (some brands) when used for dipping – maybe the iodized salt in the ingredient as you have mentioned above. you tend to drink more to drown the taste during the meal. the thai and vietnamese brands i use seems to give off less of that strong odour and excellent for dipping as well.

    Jul 15, 2007 | 2:13 am

  13. Maria Clara says:

    We are a Rufina patis patron from sautéing tinola to vinegar/kalamansi based sawsawan Rufina patis never fails us few dashes goes a long way.

    Jul 15, 2007 | 3:39 am

  14. kaye says:

    I also love patis and use it more than plain salt. i just wanted to share a popular brand of patis widely used in Pasig called “Rooster Patis” and it’s not sold commercially. it comes in long neck bottles pretty much like the liquor bottles. It is delivered to my hubby’s aunt’s sari-sari store and when you buy it you should bring a bottle or container along since you don’t get to take home the bottle. if you intend to buy the patis with the bottle then you have to pay more. Am just not sure how much but my hubby says it would only be around 35-48pesos without the bottle. i have been planning to try it since most of the people i know from pasig are familiar with it so maybe when my supply runs out i would try to get a hold of that rooster patis. :)

    Jul 15, 2007 | 3:41 am

  15. perkycinderella says:

    Back home, we use Patis Balayan. Subtle and flavorful. Sa family namin eto ang the best! We ordered this in large quantities sa Balayan, Batangas pa. Puede nang ulamin ang band na ito.

    Jul 15, 2007 | 4:31 am

  16. edee says:

    well i find the thai fish sauce being sold here in ireland too pungent compared to our patis……sadly no more of our patis are being sold in any of the pinoy stores here (i prefer nellicom brand)…..so toyo’t kalamansi na lang ang usual na sawsawan…….

    Jul 15, 2007 | 6:04 am

  17. peanut says:

    The fish sauce we use is a Vietnamese nouc mam.When we were choosing the brand,we asked our Vietnamese grocer about a brand that had 3 Crabs brand and the 2 Crabs brand as there was a difference in price as well.He advised us that the 3 Crabs was used mainly for dipping while the 2 Crabs brand was mainly used for cooking.And it’strue,the 3Crab brand is much more”smoother” and better than the 2 crabs one.So we are using 2 different fish sauces at my house.

    Jul 15, 2007 | 7:18 am

  18. kulasa says:

    Thanks for the post MM. I’ve been looking for a source of patis Malabon for a long time. We had an uncle who supplied my mom with what he calls “Unang Patak” from Malabon. Same recycled Tanduay bottle with no tags. The patis was as you described. The liquid was clear and had none of those dark sediments. It don’t know if my mom cleaned the bottle top frequently but it also didn’t have those salt crusts – which my dad used to call “saltflakes”, she ways hindi nag-aasin yung patis. The flavor was different and that the smell was not overpowering as the local brands available today.

    The local brands do seem to really smell and taste stronger. I even think they get darker and smell more pungent over time. The Thai and Vietnamese patis comes close to the Malabon patis but I find a hint of sweetness.

    I and am no patis connoissuer but my taste buds have been aching and craving for the old patis I grew up with. Thanks again for letting us know where you found one.

    I am no con

    Jul 15, 2007 | 7:28 am

  19. paolo says:

    Is it just me?

    I don’t buy or eat these stuff regardless of whether it is Thai, Vietnamese or Filipino. Anyone can make “Fish Sauce” from scratchs and therefore, some of the products are moonshine from who knows where.

    Case in point, there’s an outcry of products Made in China these days after it has been known to contain toxic additives during its manufacturing. How in the world in your right mind could you trust Fish sauce from bottles without labels, sold
    at nearby Sari-Sari stores, doesn’t contain any contaminants or unhealthy substances. For all we know, it could have been made under the most unhygienic means known to man!

    Sorry, but all of you who love that stuff must be a little descriminating in your “tastes”.

    Jul 15, 2007 | 8:08 am

  20. Marketman says:

    Paolo, if you saw the open air vats that patis is fermented in, you would throw a fit. But actually, salt is one of the CLEANEST ingredients you can use when dealing with food… that is the reason long-aged hams covered in mold and good bacteria are amongst the best tasting and most expensive products in the world (think jamon jabugo or iberico), and the finest beluga caviar from the Caspian sea is swimming in salt, or that soy sauce is so good, the black color coming from literally rotting or fermenting soy beans and salt. It is also what makes dried fish so utterly delicious and keeps hundreds of millions of folks alive around the planet. Think bagoong, patis, traditional tapang usa, baboy ramo, baka, etc. and you will realize it isn’t too strange at all. So yes, while I would be concerned about hygiene, I think Patis is critical if you are to enjoy any authentic Filipino food at all… And since I am feeling fine the day after I tasted the patis, the risk, however minor, in this case was well worth it. I would take the same risk to discover superb vinegars anyday… after all, the good ones locally have live vinegar eels in them, all you need is a low-powered microscope to see them… aaah, yum. :)

    Jul 15, 2007 | 8:21 am

  21. moni says:

    I love fish sauce, but Thai (nam pla) and vietnamese (nuoc mam) only. Since I travel to Vietnam often, I stock up on patis (nuoc mam). It is less salty and has more fishy flavor. Various types of Vietnamese patis can be found in supermarkets in Saigon. There are brands made from big fish or anchovies. There is a difference in taste, my Vietnamese friends say. Every province in south Vietnam prides itself with producing the best patis and it is considered “liquid gold”. My Vietnamese friends have given me Phu Quoc brand patis from Kien Giang province. It is great stuff, well-packaged with two long-neck bottles placed in a box, rather like bottles of wine from Napa Valley.

    Jul 15, 2007 | 8:45 am

  22. Arlene says:

    Peanut, I’m with you — we have 2 different kinds of patis at home, 1 for cooking and 1 for dipping. The Vietnamese are quite passionate about their patis. They tell me that the taste of the dipping sauce a wife serves is a gauge of how good a wife she is :) Like the Thais, they mix their patis with diff kinds of stuff (ginger, sugar, etc.) depending on what food the dip will go with.
    Marketman, I agree with you. Most Pinoys are, sadly, just purely cost-conscious now. These “artisans” who try and aim to improve a craft are just too few; my impression is because it’s not in our culture to reward them (with business and appreciation). Sites like yours help though to elevate it. Though a tiny fraction of Pinoys get to appreciate it (how may have Internet access?), it still does make a difference. Keep it up.

    Jul 15, 2007 | 8:59 am

  23. Marketman says:

    Yikes, I only bought one bottle of patis! When I featured mangosteen jam, the vendor ran out the next day. And now there are no more wild blueberries at S&R! Shucks, I should have hoarded…hahaha. No, seriously folks, if you are going to buy local items seek out the best, and reward the manufacturers by being willing to pay more for quality…

    Jul 15, 2007 | 9:10 am

  24. carma says:

    i forgot to mention that good patis never forms salt at the rims. that’s a sure sign of bad quality patis.

    Jul 15, 2007 | 9:34 am

  25. bernadette says:

    thanks for that very informative entry about patis as well as all the commentors’ feedbacks! I grew up with the Rufina patis jingle in my head so whenever i am in the grocery I go for that! I usually opt for rock salt whenever I season and very seldom patis because it simply offends my husband’s western sense of smell. But then I resort to patis because it really has this flavor that gives body to say pinakbet or kare-kare. My father also said that when he was serving as a soldier in Vietnam, his American counterparts would cover their noses whenever the Pinoys would use the nuoc nam as dipping sauce.

    Jul 15, 2007 | 10:21 am

  26. allen says:

    I noticed bubbles on the local patis also, is this a good sign? I guess not… I bought a bottle of patis last night that says it’s imported from Thailand, smells better than the local patis and the taste is milder too. Thanks again!

    Jul 15, 2007 | 11:41 am

  27. fat girl says:

    hi market man, i have a question. I bought Spaghetti Squash the other day and I made it into a creamy soup (pretty good). Do you have suggestions or recipeswith what I can do with the squash?


    Jul 15, 2007 | 12:01 pm

  28. RobKSA says:

    I like the Thai patis called “Tiparos” here in Saudi. Last month, I saw them at the food fair and I asked my sister in-law to try them which she like. I reckon they should be available in some stores right now as the vendor at the fair is a pinoy.

    Jul 15, 2007 | 12:23 pm

  29. Chinachix says:

    it is interesting that like, the milagrosa rice variety, the Thais seem to have taken over what could have been a product with a strong Filipino identity: patis. i agree with MM that Thai fish sauce is smoother, and they have less residue as well. it pains the patriot in me to say this, but our favorite brand is the Thai-developed Squid Fish Sauce.

    Jul 15, 2007 | 12:29 pm

  30. Lani says:

    I also grew up in Malabon, so every time I visit my mom, I usually buy patis there. The one you bought from Tiendesitas is the same as the one I usually buy from Malabon. No label but very delicious. I think it’s the first extract, so it’s really pure.

    I agree with Tulip, you must see Malabon. You will find so many good food there. But don’t visit Malabon during rainy season.

    Jul 15, 2007 | 2:06 pm

  31. Marketman says:

    Lani/Tulip, I would like to do a “tour” of Malabon, but I have to find local guides… Chinachix et al, hmmm, I thought it might just be me, but how interesting that Thai and Vietnamese beat out Pinoy Patis big time according to the responses above… fat girl, I have never cooked a spaghetti squash before, but besides a soup, it sounds like it would be great as a pasta sauce of some kind. allen, I am not sure at all, but I suspect bubbles and salt crusts are not signs of really good patis…

    Jul 15, 2007 | 2:40 pm

  32. Cumin says:

    My family wasn’t finicky about patis, I don’t recall any brand loyalties, although like Bernadette I can still remember the Rufina patis jingle!

    Maybe twenty years ago, a tabloid newspaper featured a story of a patis factory worker who got dizzy from the fumes and drowned in a vat of patis. For a while I may have boycotted patis!

    But nuoc mam is very big in Vietnam, and so I became aware of it again. A shopkeeper in my street in Hanoi sold several grades (unbranded) of nuoc mam to a constant line of men and women in bicycles purchasing by the gallon. The best was reportedly produced in the southern island of Phu Quoc. They sometimes described it like wine or olive oil, and could tell the quality based on the colour and smell. One test of quality is to drop a grain of rice into a small bowl of nuoc mam. It it floats (because of the high level of protein), then that fish sauce is akin to extra virgin olive oil. :-)

    Jul 15, 2007 | 2:55 pm

  33. det says:

    i grew up with rufina patis and until now that i am transplanted in the states it is still my favorite brand.green mangoes isawsaw sa patis oh my gosh,heaven!what my concern is with the non-branded ones ay yung paggawa kasi i saw sa tv kung papaano ginawa ang ibang patis,you wont believe it but napaka dumi ang pagka gawa.i am sorry pero it was really disturbing.

    Jul 15, 2007 | 4:01 pm

  34. Katrina says:

    Det, I remember that expose about patis manufacture, too — but if I’m not mistaken, it was actually a KNOWN brand that produced patis that way! After seeing how even mainstream local brands of patis, tuna, etc, can be disgustingly unhygienic, I would think that the small, home-based, artisanal producers might actually be more trustworthy.

    Fat Girl and MM, I’ve never cooked spaghetti squash myself (hardly cooked anything by myself), but I’ve eaten it several times. It’s called that not because they turn it into pasta sauce, but into noodles! Not sure if it’s boiled/baked/steamed (I’m sure there are recipes online), but once it’s cooked, you take a fork and pull it across the flesh, which then makes spaghetti-like noodles. It’s fun to watch, actually. Many American moms use spaghetti squash to sneak veggies in their kids’ diets. Once the tomato sauce is mixed in, they can’t tell it’s squash anymore. And it tastes good! :-)

    Jul 15, 2007 | 4:25 pm

  35. paolo says:

    About Spaghetti Squash…

    Bake the whole squash for an hour at 350F.

    Split open,scrape the content with a fork. Comes out in long spaghetti strands. Pour your favorite sauce over and Voila, ready to serve and eat.

    Jul 15, 2007 | 5:46 pm

  36. Marketman says:

    Katrina, on the squash, I figured as much… but I thought the noodle like squashe with say the addition of cream, would make a cook pasta sauce… kalabasa and pasta do make an interesting pairing, what with nutmeg or other spices to gussy it up… but it does sound interesting… as for homemade patis, I just talked to someone who was familiar with some producers and apparently some are INCREDIBLY HYGEINIC and proud of it… fermenting vats completely encased in screens, etc… so I wouldn’t conclude that artisanal = dirty. After all, I think my jams made at home are probably more trustworthy than many commercially made jams…and they probably taste better! :)

    Jul 15, 2007 | 5:52 pm

  37. Marketman says:

    Tell me, is RUFINA Patis still for sale in local groceries? Seems it is available in Italy, HK and the U.S. but do they still sell it locally or have they gone totally export?

    Jul 15, 2007 | 5:58 pm

  38. Gay says:

    I remember when i was in Bacolod years ago, i asked for “patis” and i was given “toyo”. Someone told me to ask for a Rufina instead.

    MM, when you’re in Malabon try to visit Betsy’s. They sell delicious bibingkitas, eggpie and huge broas.

    Jul 15, 2007 | 8:10 pm

  39. Mila says:

    First mangosteen jams, then blueberry’s… now patis. You might want to think of coming up with a “Marketman endorsed product” sticker :)

    I gave up using local patis after I had my first taste of thai fish sauce. The latter doesn’t make my tongue feel swollen and itchy. I will have to see if Malabon or the Batangas based patis is a better option.

    Jul 15, 2007 | 8:50 pm

  40. tulip says:

    Marketman, Rufina is available in some groceries and it is made in Malabon. I dont see it at SM groceries though. As for Malabon local guides, I’m one volunteer. We do maintain a house at the boundary of Malabon-Caloocan and I grew up there.
    Btw, just a thought,historically Malabon was inhabited by immigrant Chinese (and some Spanish). Could it be that those Chinese have any influence to the known Malabon patis?

    Jul 15, 2007 | 11:06 pm

  41. edee says:

    hahaha…talgang i’m on the other side of the fence, it’s the Thai Squid Fish Sauce that i really find too pungent than our own patis and not salty as I would like it to be,or maybe because the one that I’ve been using before was for export quality of the Nellicom brand? … but it’s the former that I have in my pantry as they don’t sell pinoy patis here anymore…….

    Jul 16, 2007 | 12:45 am

  42. kit says:

    hi mm, im from navotas and my husband is from malabon. 2 towns in the metro known for its markets selling fresh yet very affordable seafoods. i grew up having patis on the table every meal. almost all of my mom’s neighbors are manufacturing patis. so imagine the stench during the patis making season. my lolo even worked as a patis agent selling patis in the province in his younger years. Patis manufacturing is a very lucrative industry in our place that made a number of families rich and famous ;-) Although, rufina, lorins, quality, and other popular brands are located within the area, my family never patronize them. for the reason that they are commercially made. Sabi noon ng lolo ko iba ang timpla at puro banto (added water) at asin na. my family usually buy our patis from reputable patis makers, mga gawa ng mga kapitbahay usually intended for their own consumption. just like what you described, it has a sort of golden amber color. It is clear and doesn’t have any residue. The smell is not fishy at all. Walang lansa. And it is not too salty. A sign of high quality patis is it should retain its amber color about a month after opening. My family usually give patis as gifts to our friends from other places, and they liked it very much.
    I hope you can visit malabon MM, kaya lang you should consider the weather and high tide level in scheduling your trip.para sure ka na walang baha, season kasi ngayon ng flood.

    Jul 16, 2007 | 12:49 am

  43. Cwid says:

    I use Nuoc mam instead of our Patis mainly because Filipino Patis has that ring of salt around the rim and that long neck bottle does not fit into my cupboard shelf. Why can’t Filipino products come up with more convenient packaging?

    To Paolo: we can be so finicky with our food and be obsessively careful with hygiene and then be run over by a cab while crossing Manila’s streets. So, why not eat dangerously for a little bit?

    Jul 16, 2007 | 1:03 am

  44. carol says:

    Where can one buy spaghetti squash in Manila!?

    Jul 16, 2007 | 7:39 am

  45. DADD-F says:

    Ay sinabi mo Kit! While I still find rufina the best in the market today (I have no problem with the Thai and Vietnamese varieties but I still prefer rufina.), the best patis–as in no fishy smell (ang sarap ng amoy actually), clear amber color, no salty crusts, etc.–really is not available commercially. Sayang lang talaga kasi my friend from way back who gifted me with a “long neck” of patis (she’s also from Malabon) for my birthday ages ago, I don’t see anymore.

    Is there some way lucky people like yourselves help us who are pining for patis (as patis should be) get some? I’m dead serious about this. While I take care re: my salt intake, my kitchen will simply not be complete and my dishes not quite what is should be without patis. Please…anyone…

    Jul 16, 2007 | 10:00 am

  46. lee says:

    yah gay, patis is toyo here in bacolod. for reasons i never know yet.

    Jul 16, 2007 | 2:46 pm

  47. chad says:

    a very “its about time post” indeed! while there is so much contention and science over our vinegar choices here (white, palm, cocunut, fruit, balsamic) the patis is generally left alone, like a hoarded secret. I have grown in the kitchen using the nam pla, and the grocery kind, our house still bets on the same old “long neck specialty” that my grandma gets from somewhere. the truth is MM, is that the lady from tiendesitas is correct- the best patis like that is non-descript, made in small batches, probably made by an old wizened man or his family over at some airy fresh province and unpopular except for the discerning palate. when rufina was a new company, it was renowned as the best, strange that commericalism “waters down” the quality most of the time eh?

    Jul 16, 2007 | 2:49 pm

  48. kit says:

    according to my mom, the best patis were made using giant barrels called taong. fresh fish were salted and fermented inside the covered barrels. mas hygienic din kapag nasa taong ang patis. but nowadays, salted fish were fermented in concrete tanks. It is like a smaller version of a rectangular swimming pool. There are also adulterated patis that were artificially colored and flavored. But a high quality patis is easy to distinguish, it has an appetizing aroma, clear amber color, no fishy after taste, walang itch sa bibig, and no salty flakes. Sad to say such patis are hard to find for a simple reason that the makers do not put labels on their products.

    Jul 17, 2007 | 1:18 am

  49. brenda says:

    Gay and lee, even in Iloilo and Cebu, if you asked for patis, you’ll be given soysauce. If you want the fish sauce, you say “Rufina” although I havent seen Rufina in SM and other groceries here in Cebu, but Lorins is still there. I’m also a patis person and we always use Rufina. But since there’s none available, I just opted for Lorins.

    Jul 17, 2007 | 7:25 am

  50. Zita says:

    Living abroad has made me realise that I still prefer the pinoy version of patis =) Buy pinoy ba!

    Jul 17, 2007 | 5:20 pm

  51. anonymous paul says:

    our roots being from Malabon as well; we don’t really go for the supermarket variety patis. i like the caramel hued ones tied in several bottles bought ONLY in Malabon or Navotas. my father once told me how he saw a patis “manufacturing plant” back in the 50’s-60’s and all i can say is he hasn’t touched patis ever since. but i love it. what i love more is the thai phrik nam plaa. nam plaa literally translating to fish water/water fish. to make it, fill a cup half full (or 3/4 full, depending on your taste) with sliced bird’s eye chilies. you can de-seed some but i tell you its futile. fill it up with patis/nam plaa, cover and leave about a week then just serve as a condiment to anything and everything. some put in some garlic slices, some squeeze in some manao/lime.

    Jul 17, 2007 | 11:16 pm

  52. emz says:

    we’ve always used rufina, lorins and lorenzana. works fine for us :)add kalamsi and chilies, it’s great for grilled fish, boiled shrimps and crabs. of course nilagang baboy/baka and tinola wouldn’t be complete without it. nuoc nam and nam pla are okay but we prefer the pinoy patis :)

    Jul 18, 2007 | 10:01 pm

  53. fat girl says:

    I tried cooking the spaghetti squash just as katrina suggested and they were really good!! i went back to the and bought more (Landmark – Dizon Farm’s brand)

    Jul 21, 2007 | 4:04 pm

  54. millety says:

    thanks for this post, MM. am i right that it is only luzon that has a “patis culture”? it does not seem to be a staple in visayas and mindanao households.

    a friend gifted me with a bottle of “patis bicol” last week. i understand it is the bicolanos’ preferred dip for pili fruit, and it was superb when we tried it with sinigang na baboy, and with a tomato-onion-cilantro-chili relish. patis bicol looks like it might have been the liquid skimmed off bagoong.

    i wonder if there are other patis variants elsewhere, just as there are bagoong variants. i am not sure if i am right in thinking that where there’s bagoong, there’s patis! my mom talks of “heko”, sold in manila in her childhood. heko, she says, was a very thick fish paste smeared on slices of half-ripe papaya.

    Jul 21, 2007 | 6:09 pm

  55. Marketman says:

    Missing comment, my apologies, I inadvertedly erased a comment that went under my spam screen and it said that the squash cooked Katrina’s suggested way is great… and that they sell spaghetti squash at Landmark… my apologies to the commenter, and if your future comments, don’t go in, let me know by private email… thanks!

    Jul 22, 2007 | 4:20 pm

  56. Cherrie says:

    Don’t buy Thai Patis (if you’re outside the Phils. sometimes it’s hard to find Phil. Patis) as they go off quickly. Philippine patis is by far the best (any brand I think). In my haste I bought a bottle of Thai Patis and regret it… They don’t taste as good as the Philippine Patis and they go off quickly. Now I have a big bottle of Patis and it’s been a few months now since I bought it and it still smells and tastes good.

    Jul 29, 2007 | 4:14 am

  57. Kim says:

    where can you buy nuoc mam in manila? which thai fish sauce brands come recommended?

    Jul 30, 2007 | 3:19 am

  58. auee says:

    Hi! My friends and I are making a paper about the Bagoong and Patis Industry of Navotas and Malabon. If you know where we can find studies, articles, books, etc. that we can use for this research, please email me at knotzbroken@gmail.com.. We will greatly appreciate it! Thank you! Thank you!

    Jul 30, 2007 | 9:16 pm

  59. nini says:

    I love Squid brand fish sauce. You can find it almost anywhere in any Asian grocery store here in California. It’s a Thai brand and I have been using it for all dishes that I cook that require patis and also use it for dipping. Even my Thai friend recommends this brand. I have tried other Thai brands but this is by far the best-tasting one. Hope this helps! I’m loving your blogs btw.

    Aug 9, 2007 | 1:42 am

  60. Roberto Vicencio says:

    From 1972 till about the early 80’s my dad and his freinds enterd into the fishpen business and they erected the fishpens in Barrio Asufre, Pangil, Laguna. The bulk sale of the fish was done by hauling fish in a refrigerated truck all the way to North Harbor in Malabon. We brought the fish to the M1 fishmongers and they conducted the sales. As a gift they gave us half or a dozen bottles of M1 Patis. The color was almost like single malt whiskey. The taste was absolutely GREAT! I was in my teens then and I was able to spoon a bit of that patis onto a mound of hot rice and I was content.

    Aug 24, 2007 | 5:54 pm

  61. MegaMom says:

    I finally did a patis taste test which I posted about here! There is a difference between artisanal and commercial, but I’m no expert.
    Sorry to hear about your computer blues, MM. Been out of circulation myself too due to other pressing issues. Hope to catch up with MarketManila in the next few days.

    Oct 9, 2007 | 10:02 am

  62. Dix says:

    I am a very choosy and have a good taste for food. I’ve tried most branded patis from the supermarket including those imported from Thailand but nothing compares to the one we get from our supplier. Its pure, smooth and smells good and best of all taste really great.

    Oct 18, 2007 | 11:47 am

  63. tutubi says:

    you may need to visit rufina patis factory in malabon plus the nearby market selling patis. note the difference between the green and orange bottles of rufina

    Nov 5, 2007 | 1:54 pm

  64. mond says:

    the best patis to me is one that comes fm.fish(anchovys) bagoong,(batangas/pangasinan) as it turns to natural patis in its own bottles.i miss it,coz its not available where im now in Turkey.where can i find a recipe?

    Nov 27, 2007 | 5:56 pm

  65. allan p. says:

    where in manila can i buy squid fish sauce? I have tried many groceries and supermarkets but the best that i could find is the Tiparos brand. Please help me find this squid sauce. Thanks.

    Jan 23, 2008 | 10:37 pm

  66. richie says:

    you guys should try Amor Nino Foods, Inc. Brand Patis. It’s made in Tarlac by Amor Nino International Trading and exported exclusively by Amor Nino Foods, Inc. (ANF) in Hawaii. 100% pure and top grade Patis. You can find it all over Hawaii and soon west coast U.S.A. right now you may find only ANF brand bagoong in the west coast U.S.A.

    Jan 26, 2008 | 5:43 am

  67. quiapo says:

    The Filipino shop here no longer stocks Rufina patis, but promotes the Squid brand from Thailand. I prefer the “3 crabs” brand from Vietnam, which is more subtle. I understand that there is also a higher quality “5 crabs” label, which is not always available.

    Jun 2, 2008 | 9:05 am

  68. jcq says:

    patis for me is the best partner of many dishes like fried fish, chicken, and vegetables. And also in mango green.,Curious po ako kung pano ba ginagawa ang patis na the best especially kpg sinamahan pa ng calamansi…salamat sa nakaimbento ng patis dahil sa kanya nagiging masarap ang kain ng mga pinoy…

    Sep 2, 2008 | 5:37 pm

  69. lorelie olarte tan says:

    thanks to patis!!!!!lagi ako madami kinakain, kaya tumataba na ko…hehehehe…
    thanks for the tip,on where i can get or buy the best patis here in the phils…
    by the way, curious lang po….may nakapag imbento na kaya na gawing solid ang patis????
    same taste sana pag naimbento to. …

    Sep 9, 2008 | 9:16 pm

  70. marylen says:

    where to buy a heko bagoong?

    Jan 5, 2009 | 10:58 am

  71. Jerry Lynch says:

    Here in Tagaytay, Philippines I go to Mendez Crossing & buy my patis in Tanduay bottles also. It is locally made & I get it from a resto opposite the bank (only 1 bank in the area). I am not really a connosieur of fish sauces but it is quite good and my wife and I use a liter every couple of weeks. I stock up when I am beside the bank buying various seeds to mix for my own variety of parakeet feed. Seeing this article reminds me I am nearly out so I’ll go buy some cat food in that chicken feed shop where I buy my fird feed & cross the street for lunch & patis.

    Mar 13, 2009 | 9:58 am

  72. Susan says:

    Hell there! Is anyone knows patis factory in Malabon with good taste. I want to sell a good quality patis in our town. If so..please let me know the address….thank you!

    Aug 19, 2009 | 10:47 am


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