Linga / Sesame Seeds


So, can YOU remember the words to that classic Filipino song, Bahay Kubo? Here are the lyrics to help you along; geez, I forgot how short that song was… And while I think I have featured most of the vegetables in that song, there was one, the last word, linga, that frankly I had no idea what it even was. Until a month or so ago, when I ran across a whole pile of small, dark khaki, sesame seeds at the Bogo market and asked what they called it and they said “lunga” or in tagalog “linga.” Aha! Who would have known? A lot of you, perhaps, but I was clueless. I didn’t even know we grew sesame seeds here. If I had to free associate, unfortunately, if one screamed “sesame seed” I would have screamed back “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, onions, and pickles on a SESAME seed bun.” That’s a Big Mac, to you. Hahaha. Sad.

At any rate, sesame seeds apparently come from a sesame plant which does thrive in provincial gardens, though I suspect there must be some commercial quantities planted somewhere in the Philippines. The seeds have a very high oil content, and are often made into sesame oil, that fragrant oil that is so spectacular in Chinese and Northern Asian cooking. I have a book by Tony Hill called The Contemporary Encyclopedia of Herbs & Spices, and he suggests using fresh seeds in a sesame seed brittle, along the lines of a peanut brittle with sesame seeds instead. And here’s a bit of trivia for me, the leaves of the plant that result in sesame seeds do not appear to be edible, but if you see them called for in a recipe, the author probably meant shiso, that wide leaf used often in Japanese sushi plates, also known as perilla. It is sometimes referred to as wild sesame, but it isn’t the same plant that makes the sesame seeds in the photo above… But now that I have found sesame seeds in a relatively obscure provincial market, what do they use it for? I remember as a kid some sweetish desserts that were coated in sesame seeds. And now that I type in a stream of consciousness, I realize that pinasugbo or consilva also has sesame seeds… hmmm, it’s definitely an ingredient that I have overlooked so far. I should have looked a little closer at the garden around our bahay kubo… :)


40 Responses

  1. Aren’t butchi covered in sesame seeds?

    Maybe you can use these khaki sesame seeds to coat a maki instead of black sesame seeds… and use tinapa or kilawing tangigue instead of crabstick. Too fusion? Hehehe…

    A Chinese colleague of mine brought to Manila some sesame brittle, as you described. It was delicious! The sesame seeds were suspended in the sugar (caramel?) evenly and it was rolled so thin… like a Rebisco Super Thin cracker and it had a beautiful *crunch* sound when it was bitten into. I tried to make it stale (by exposing it to air) but it just got a bit wet but still good! Well, I like sesame seeds. Might be why bumenta saken.

    You can also make your own tahini. And put it in everything. If I had my hands on that amount of sesame seeds, I’d coat chicken thighs with it (with some other herbs/spices) then deep fry! Sesame crusted fried chicken! Yum! Or some sesame-encrusted seared tuna!

    There’s a dessert resembling a Cheese Roll (those snacks that sold for 25 centavos each – made from refined flour and fried, no doubt – and covered in cheese powder) coated with sesame seeds and contains some sort of choc-nut like stuff in the center. I don’t know what it’s called but I bought it on the highway en route to mom’s province up North. Not a big hit with me so I ate the sesame seeds off of it.

    I have also had sesame-seed encrusted turon, with the sesame seeds distributed on the sugar coating of the turon like gems. Beautiful!

  2. Palitaw and suman sa lihiya tastes a lot better if pounded, toasted seasame seeds are added to the coconut/sugar dip.

    Other Chinese delicacies with seasame seeds: rolled tikoy with sweet mung beans filling and several varieties of traditional hopia – those with super flaky crust.

  3. Sesame seeds were usually found on treats available in ethnic Chinese shops in urban centres. In addition to what Sonny SJ has enumerated above, there was the chewy dark brown candy called belekoy that came covered in sesame for flavor and to control sticking and my all-time favourite pasalubong, lohua (also known at home as taing pusa), light hollow fried rice-flour puffs coated with candy-thick syrup and rolled in sesame seeds (or ground peanuts and puffed rice). Crunchy, chewy, sweet, nutty and oily at the same time from the frying oil and the sesame seeds.

    Sesame seeds available here (in Toronto) are a lot whiter for having been polished to take off the husk.

  4. Years back i didn’t really know we grow semame seeds in Philippines, but what amazed me is the abundance of highway and market vendors selling this sesame seed bars in the Northern Philippines, kinda like sesame seed brittle and also this thin barquillos like folded in half circle with sesame seed filling inside. . . and they’re really good, and it seems like it is a traditional treat ’cause my dad and titos know this sesame treats since they were kids. . .

  5. My mother-in-law makes this sweet soup made with sesame seeds which is sooo comforting. So simple and yet so good esp. in those cold rainy days like today. You can make a big pot of this sesame soup and freeze it. Thre are no exact proportions. Let’s say start with 1 cup of sesame seeds, rinsed and roasted over low heat until dry and fragrant. Then puree with about 1-2 cups of water. Start with 1 cup first adding more water if too thick. Place in a pot, add some rock sugar (to taste) and just heat till sugar is dissolved. Thicken slightly with a tiny bit of cornstarch. My boys add a TOUCH of evaporated milk before eating it.

  6. Try Sesame Brittle when in Baguio from Good Shepherd Convent. A nice twist from the usual peanut brittle. :)

    hahaha!!! that 80s McDonald’s tongue twister gimmick brought back memories… hehehe Thanks MM! Brilliant as always!

  7. The song Bahay Kubo only seemed long when it was the first song being taught to us Filipino children. And we had to recite all the names of the vegetables which we didn’t like anyway. Of course, we learned to love them when we got a little older and wiser.

    Linga is good when used as topping (with sugar and shredded coconut) for palitaw.

  8. Not featuring sesame seeds IS a huge omission indeed, MM! I’m a big fan of the stuff — black, white, tan, as oil, tahini…it’s all delicious to me. Sesame brittle is addictive, and as Quillene mentioned, Good Shepherd Baguio makes a good one. Very thin and crunchy.

    I want to try Betty Q’s sesame soup!!!

  9. Now I finally know what linga is. Thanks MM! very informative! :) I wonder if it can be easily found at markets at Metro Manila.

  10. MM, talking about seeds, do you have a source (in Manila) for fennel and poppy seeds? My supply is running very low and I can’t seem to locate any here in Cebu.

  11. Artisan, try Flavors n Spices at the ground floor (outside, facing Serendra) of the Market!Market! Mall in Fort Bonifacio. Not sure if they sell by the kilo, but they should have both seeds in stock…

  12. Hi MM,sesame brittle is also available in Botolan, Zambales.
    Popular pasalubong from there are pastillas and sesame brittle.

  13. Black sesame seeds can also be found in Nueva Ecija. They toast and grind it with sugar to use it for the palitaw dip because they say it tastes better than the white seeds. Still haven’t gotten used to it because it looks like black sand on my palitaw.
    In the 70’s, we used to go to a Yakiniku place at the Fiesta Carnival Bldg in Cubao that served namuro, the bean sprout appetizer, sprinkled with black sesame seeds. I actually thought that they burned the sesame seeds until black. It was only years after that I found out that there were actually black sesame seeds.

  14. Is the local linga sesame? Although, they are similar, the flavor and the nutty taste of sesame is absent from linga. I was just wondering?

  15. for your next NY Trip: Black Sesame (or Toasted Sesame) ICE CREAM from Il Laboratorio del Gelato

  16. Speaking of Bahay Kubo, whenever I make “bulanglang” I always think of the bahay kubo song, and it’s for that same reason, pretty much most of the vegies mentioned in that song are in that recipe! :)

    Palitaw has sesame seeds in them too, right? Speaking of palitaw, i’ve been wanting to make them really soon! And that sticky banana thing wrapped in a paper, I didn’t know for the longest time that it’s called “pinasugbo”, we get them a lot in terms of pasalubong from back home! I like coz it’s sticky and sweet but at the same times it’s hard to bite on! hehehe

  17. Wow! The sesame soup sounds fantastic!

    I, too, did not know that we grow sesame seeds in the Philippines. I always thought they were imported.

    The song “Bahay Kubo” did not feature two of my favorite vegetables: ampalaya and okra. Not even carrots. Or katuray! Hehe. Back when I was teaching preschool, I taught the kids this song (and taught them to eat vegetables in the process, according to a few parents). I also taught them the song in English, which was VERY difficult. Imagine a 2 1/2 year old to sing “yard long beans, fava beans, lima beans” in the correct measure/tempo. Haha, but it was fun to overhear these little kids (ages 2 1/2 to 3 1/2) arguing over which one was the “sponge gourd, the radish and the bottle gourd” while playing house. Harhar, I miss those kids.

    Oh yes, sesame seeds on palitaw! Lots and lots of sesame seeds please! I also like that palitaw sugar (toasted sesame seeds in white or light brown sugar) on suman when mangoes are not to be had.

  18. Hi MM I used linga in bulgogi recipe(S. Korean marinade). roast a half a cup for at least 20 minutes at 275 deg F then grind with the back of a spoon to release the flavor. awesome.

    Hi Digs, are you from Botolan, Zambales? I worked at CAREBI after I graduated from PCAT back 1972-1973. Pls email me if you know Elizabeth Labrador (a long lost friend) thanks-victor B-)

  19. Sunny day chasing the clouds away…. won’t you tell me how to get, how to get to sesame street.

  20. Kasseopeia, would you mind posting your English lyrics of Bahay Kubo here? I’d love to teach it to my toddler nephew, along w/ the original tagalog words, of course.
    My half-filipino cousin tried to teach it to her 1/4-filipino child but since she doesn’t speak any tagalog, she just made up a song w/ “carrots, broccoli, etc.” :)

  21. Hey marketman, try making falafels rolled in raw sesame seeds, then deep fry =)

    Make your own tahini by grinding the seeds in a coffee grinder or spice grinder, then make hummus!

  22. Bagito, not sure if I am correct with the other veggies but I am sure it’s pretty accurate. And it’s simplified for a child as young as 2 (a friend said “idiotized” – I disagree!):

    Bahay Kubo
    (Little Nipa Hut)

    Bahay Kubo, kahit munti
    Little Nipa Hut, beautiful and small

    ang halaman doon ay sari-sari
    with vegetables and fruits, yummy one and all

    Singkamas at talong, sigarlyas at mani
    Turnip and eggplant, winged beans and peanuts

    Sitaw, bataw, patani
    yard long beans (I also use “string beans” for younger kids), fava beans, lima beans

    Kundol, patola, upo’t kalabasa
    Wax gourd, sponge gourd, bottle gourd and squash (or pumpkin – for better rhythm)

    At tsaka meron pang labanos, mustasa
    Wait, there’s more: radish and mustard greens

    Sibuyas, kamatis, bawang at luya
    Onions, tomatoes, garlic and ginger

    Sa paligid-ligid ay maraming linga
    And all around: lots of SESAME! (the kids like to yell this out – maybe because they recognize it from synidctaed showings of Sesame street)


    P.S. I just made that up with the kids so… feel free to correct the errors in translation. Hehe…

  23. Kasseopeia,

    Ang cute naman nito.. Hehehe… brings back memories of a defunct kids show (ahem!) yung bata-batuta with alice kamatis and islaw kalabaw… hehehe…

  24. Btw,

    Has anyone ever tried adding sesame seeds to their turon right out of the fryer? Sarap!

  25. Quillene, thank you! Hehe…

    I have tried that, turon rolled in sesame seeds! So good! I think the heat of the still-hot sugar glazing “toasts” the seeds so they become more fragrant.

    I wonder why I love sesame seeds when my other siblings don’t care. I fuss when my burger buns have no sesame seeds. As a kid, I watched more Batibot than Sesame Street. But I digress. haha…

  26. I love sesame seeds, it ups the flavor of stir fried dishes. Sitsaro sauteed in some butter with sesame seeds, black pepper, salt with a twist of lemon is such a simple pleasure.

    FYI, FIC also has black sesame seed ice cream. The one they have in Makati Shang’s japanese restaurant is also a notable one.

  27. Does anyone remember binangkal, flour balls rolled in linga then deep-fried? A family favourite. Linga/sesame seeds are commonly found in supermarkets around the Philippines, and I’ve also seen these at a grains wholesaler in Farmer’s Market, Cubao, but for some reason I also assumed these were imported rather than grown locally. Just shows you I know only the first eight lines or so of Bahay Kubo. :-) I like to sprinkle toasted linga in a cucumber/mint salad, a recipe I picked up in Vietnam.

  28. I’ve been lurking around the blog for a few months now since I got back in Manila, and I just wanted to say thank you for putting together a wonderful website. It’s been very helpful for a vegetarian-going-vegan like myself, especially with finding the right ingredients.

    Thanks again! :) My apologies if this is off-topic, but I couldn’t quite figure out where I should post. Have a great weekend!

  29. Just a quick response to Artisan Chocolatier on where to get fennel and poppy seeds- I get mine from Assad, the Indian grocery on UN Avenue in Manila. I don’t know the exact street address but if you’re coming from the Roxas Blvd side of UN Avenue towards Nagtahan, it’s in a complex of Indian stores on the right side of UN Avenue before the Sikh temple. Hope this helps.

  30. Sesame is a very good for your health because it contains a high level of zinc beside other essential minerals and good fatty acids. Smokers and ladies who use anti-conception-pill have sometimes white spots on their finger nails what points on a lack of zinc. To provide extra zinc oysters and sesame are the best to eat.
    Sesame oil is there in two main varieties: natural and roasted. Natural is already used for more then 5000 years according to the Ayurvedic kitchen. To eat and daily for massage. Still now in India its common to massage your body and head/hair every morning with sesame oil. For PH virgin coconut oil will be nice to use for massage in stead of sesame. Avoid using chemicals! The light nutty flavor of sesame is welcome to many dishes if it fits in the palate. Oil from roasted sesame is easily a ‘taste killer’; count the drops when you use it!

  31. I used Sesame seeds to coat spare ribs- an idea i got from a Thai restaurant we frequent nearby. The spare ribs was marinated with hoisin sauce and coated it with the sesame seeds and let in the fridge overnight. Baked it less than hour, basting with the remaining sauce from time to time. It turned out to be really delicious!(Ü)

  32. seasme anything is good. The smell….love it. toast it grind and add brown sugar and just eat like a snack. It’s not the same like when bought in India fresh and just desicious.

  33. open sesameee! indeed sesame seeds open wonders of flavor to dishes. binangkal, that deepfried hard ball of a bread is a favorite. like it in korean beef stew, coat chicken for a sesame fried chicken. then there’s also a local candy (is it called belekoy) which is makunat and coated with sesame.

  34. and dont forget, sesame seed paste or tahini is the special ingredient in eggplant dip and hummus

  35. i like the translation of the song Bahay Kubo. i wonder from what kind of plant does linga came from. and how it is made?

  36. Dear Sir.
    My company is looking of agricuiltual seeds like sesame seeds.cotton seeds.
    moster seeds wheet seeds.your urgent responds is hight needed.


    George Mark



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