What’s Your Favorite Sawsawan???


I daresay you can’t be Pinoy unless you have a favorite “sawsawan” or dipping sauce. Is it patis or fish sauce with some kalamansi or calamondin? Is it coconut vinegar with mashed siling labuyo? saw2Perhaps soy sauce with chopped tomatoes, onions and a touch of vinegar? Bagoong (shrimp paste) with lime? Whatever it is, Marketman wants to know! Perhaps over 4,000 readers will see this post in the next two days and I am incredibly curious what you consider your favorite dipping sauce. I realize folks have special concoctions just for fried fish, or pork, or grilled squid, but which one is your all-time favorite? Please leave a comment with your ingredients and/or methodology for making the ultimate sawsawan.

The word alone, sawsawan, connotes something saucy and liquidy, but some folks saw3like a sawsawan that is more solid than liquid. My dad used to smush bagoong, tomatoes and onions together and eat it with fish using his hands or kinamot style. There was something about the feel of smushing the sauce and the texture of mixing it with the fish. As you slipped the mixture of sauce, fish and rice into your mouth you seemed to taste your fingers as well. He also liked guinamos or fish sauce and lots of chilies (or so it seemed at the time) but in retrospect, he only ever had the siling mahaba and made it seem like it was hottest thing on the planet…it is far from that.

Others take care to use a mortar and pestle to mix their concoctions, some just mash the solids with a fork. I like my chilies marinated in vinegar for weeks and adjust the heat of the sawsawan by releasing the seeds of the chili. In all cases, one strives for sharpness of flavor, either salty, sweet, sour or spicy. One seeks balance or a mixture of flavors. Some like the appetizing color of one ingredient or another. Still others like to mix the sauce with their rice. Whatever you fancy, however you make it, please leave a comment so we can all collectively have an insight into your favorite sawsawan. Many thanks in advance for your participation in this survey…


88 Responses

  1. Hmmmm… I guess I’m not fully Pinoy, as I don’t have one favorite sawsawan.

    With sinigang na baboy, or nilagang baka, I like to dip the meat in patis.

    With ininhaw na baboy, sometimes I like to dip it in a mixture of toyo and suka, with chopped onions and garlic thrown in. No siling labuyo, as I am a wimp when it comes to spicy food!

    Does Jufran count as a sawsawan? :) I like it with crispy fried chicken, a-la Max’s.

  2. With sinigang na baboy, nilagang baka, pesa, sinigang na isda, I use patis with lemon. With fried, baked or broiled fish, I usually have tomatoes with patis, tomatoes with red eggs or vinegar with garlic and hot peppers. With Chinese sausage or any kind of sausage, I have vinegar with onions. Otherwise, I eat with pepperoncini on the side or bagoong with lemon. But I always need a sawsawan if I eat Filipino food.

  3. I suppose if I had to choose just one favorite sawsawan it would be good native vinegar with siling labuyo. I just crush the labuyo into the suka, the hotter the better. Simple and essential with inihaw and anything fried. Next favorite would be monamon or toyo with kalamansi, followed by patis.

  4. My favorite sawsawan is very simple… coconut vinegar with ripe crushed siling labuyo and will put a little rock salt on it. Hmmm…my saliva is watering.

  5. suka with onion, sili, bawang, sibuyas, asin, paminta, kinda like those you use when eating street bbq, works with any thing…i use it for almost any dish…even tempura works! second in line is when you add toyo to it.

  6. For inihaw na isda and sinaing na tulingan, it’s bagoong balayan w/ calamansi.
    For halabos na hipon, it’s vinegar w/ bagoong alamang.
    For nilagang talong/okra and pritong isda, it’s burong isda.

  7. Most of the Filipino food I eat now can be yoked with patis and calamansi
    unless it’s fried which then goes down well with seasoned vinegar.

  8. i love burong mangga with lots of sili as sawsawan!! :D especially with inihaw na liempo and crispy pata

  9. For sinigang-patis with sili
    nilagang baboy/baka-toyo and calamansi
    inihaw baboy and bbq- suka with bawang
    tapa/tocino – kamatis and bagoong
    inihaw/fried fish – calamsi and patis

  10. hmm..tough question. being a campangan, my choice of sawsawan depends on the ulam, hehehe.
    nilaga (or anything na may sabaw) – patis (with sili)
    fried/grilled fish – buro, toyo’t calamansi, suka with ginisang bagoong
    grilled pork – toyo’t calamansi (w/sili)
    nilagang talong (sitaw or okra) – buro (fermented rice with fish)
    tocino/red egg – nilagang kamatis with patis

  11. hmmm…that’s a difficult decision to make! I guess if I really had to choose only one then it would have to be vinegar with sili/freshly minced garlic/sea salt and fresh ground pepper. My mouth is watering!

  12. There’s the ilonggo sinamak, vinegar-submerged sili, ginger, garlic, peppercorn, and langkawas (some sort of root?). It’s great with chicken inasal, grilled meats, and fish. Yuuuummmyy! Best to use native vinegar, no preservatives. I drool away now. :)

  13. Wow! Coming up with just one is rather difficult because each dish would dictate a different sawsawan. Here are the pairings though
    sinigang – patis and sili
    halabos shrimps, crabs – tomatoes, onions, chopped or grated green mangoes and patis
    talangka – patis and dayap
    grilled pork – suka and bawang
    steamed or grilled vegetables, inihaw na isda – balayan bagoong with dayap or kalamansi
    inihaw or fried bulig – sampalok puree and patis

  14. agree with maricel… depends on the dish
    steamed crab/shrimp, daing, danggit – rock salt + vinegar
    kare-kare, adobo, green mangoes – (not sweet) bagoong
    lechon kawali/crispy pata – soy sauce + vinegar
    steamed oysters – soy sauce + wasabi
    sinigang – patis
    dimsum – soy sauce + chili oil

  15. For lack of calamansi (lemonsito in Cebu) it’s lime or lemon with patis or toyo and crushed garlic for dipping. Others like ginamos or salsa style tomatoes and onions, pepperoncini, sour pickles are more of a side dish or panimpla as my father calls it.

  16. agree with maricel & mojito… depends on the dish

    marinated vinegar w/ bagoong alamang – steamed veggies bagoong alamang w/tomatoes – fried fish
    padas w/calamansi – steamed veggies/fried fish

    MM, as always the pictures are astounding!

  17. I’ve been reading this blog everyday for a month now – addicted!. And also my first time to post. Can’t help but drop a line about Iligan’s PINAKURAT. Its a coco vinegar with pureed sili and spices. It is bottled by a community livelihood and has now a number of loyal clients and fast becoming a pasalubong item from Iligan (aside from Chedings or Noralyn’s peanuts). Visayan translation for “pinakurat” is quick cooking.

  18. Mine is suka with lots of chopped garlic, some pepper and a little rock salt. I’m not a patis fan and would rather use bagoong alamanga sauteed with lots of garlic and tomatoes as sawsawan for sinigang. yummmmmmm….

  19. the best sawsawan is habanero with bagoong and kalamondin. it goes with anything kasi it is hot and good like the kalinga hot food.

  20. Mine is also the favorite of hubby, just some good soy sauce with lots of squeezed calamansi. This we use for almost anything from lechon kawali, crispy pata, nilaga, even barbecue and sisig.

  21. Naku… theres so many… I think the sawsawan is ulam specific… hahaha…

    1. Suka (with salt or sugar or just plain) – fried or inihaw fish, longganisa, tapa, tinapa, tuyo, daing

    2. Suka with bagoong – inihaw na liempo, pork barbque, fried or inihaw fish limited to tilapia, bangus or catfish

    3. suka with toyo- crispy pata, lechon kawali, liempo inihaw or fried, any barbque

    4. calamansi with toyo – camarron rebusado, crispy pata

    5. calamansi and patis – tortang talong, sinigang, nilaga, halabos na hipon, add diced onions and I love it with stir fried canned tuna and fried talong

    6. camatis salad/salsa (with green mangoes and onions or stir fried with garlic and onions) – for any fish fried or inihaw

    My sawsawan is maasim most of the time and I can’t stand heat much, so there’s no sili in my sawsawan… but sometimes I mix suka that has sili with one that is plain for that extra bite in my sawsawan. There’s more sawsawan I can think of as I think of more ulam… Maybe the question should be for a particular ulam e.g. inihaw na baboy what is your favorite sawsawan?

    Just a suggestion…

  22. ps… I forgot
    bagoong na isda with calamansi and grated luya – great for the ilocano chicharon (bagnet) and fish fried or inihaw even with liempo fried or inihaw…
    haay… I want to go home!!!

  23. Here is my favorite sawsawan, which I make in batches and keep in the fridge (call em lazy)

    2 cups cane or coco vinegar
    1 cup siling labuyo (red or green doesn’t matter)
    10 cloves garlic (peeled and mashed)
    1/2 tsp coarsely ground black peppercorns
    6 medium shallots, peeled andcoarsely chopped
    1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
    1/2 tsp chopped ginger
    1/2 tsp chopped galanga (optional)

    Mix the goodies in a non-reactive container (recycle those glass jars :), pour the vinegar and shake. May be stored room temeprature or in the refrigerator. I slather this infused stuff for anything fried, steamed or grilled. For a well-rounded kick, scoop some of the stuff and mash it before spooning your vinegar.

    While we’re at it, may I share something that I made today. Not sawsawan but a refreshing drink. Try it and let me know.

    Serves 4-6

    1/2 cup fresh calamansi or lime juice
    1 cup fresh basil, loosely packed
    brown sugar or simple syrup (1:1 sugar, water, reduced)
    lots of ice

    Fill a blender with 6-8 cups cold water, add the calamansi or lime juice, basil,syrup(or brown sugar) and blend at medium speed for 2-4 minutes. Fill individual glasses with ice cubes and pour blended mixture. Add unsweetened soda water or diet 7up for fizz.
    Great drink when you’re gardening. :)

  24. 1. kalamansi, suka, sibuyas, asin & garlic,chillies
    2. soy, kalamansi, garlic, ginger, a bit of sugar
    3. bagoong na isda with suka, kalamansi & sibuyas, chillies
    5. bagoong alamang w/ kamatis, ginger & sibuyas
    6. chooped mangga, kamatis, bagoong alamang, sibuyas
    7. suka, chillies & salt

  25. pork/beef/shrimp sinigang– patis with small green siling labuyo
    talaba– suka with small green siling labuyo
    sinigang/tinola/nilagang manok– mashed chicken liver with patis and siling labuyo
    inihaw na pusit/isda– toyo, suka, calamansi, sili
    kare-kare– bagoong alamang
    inihaw na liempo– ensaladang kamatis,sibuyas,itlog na maalat

  26. since I grew up in Ilocos what we always have is bagoong, bagoong with tomato shallots and ginger for bagnet and pork inihaw, bagoong with kalamansi for inihaw na isda. . . it’s like sawsawan for everything. . .

  27. it’s patis and kalamansi (now it’s lime) for me…..but just like the others i have different sawsawan for different dishes….but you’ve asked for only one :)

  28. patis and kalamansi but if its nilagang manok, add chicken liver (cooked with the nilaga) mashed with a fork. sawsawan pa lang ulam na! YUM! YUM!

  29. top of the list: suka, toyo, bawang for fried fish, chicharon and whatever is available

    fish bagoong and vinegar for steamed new okra and other boiled or steamed veggies

    patis/bagoong/toyo and calamansi for many other things

    sinamak for anything inihaw

  30. I learned this from my dad: equal parts toyo, suka, chopped onions then smooshed by hand, lots of black pepper. We eat this with lechon kawali (hardly ever eat lechon with lechon sauce) and it is also good with pork chops, liempo, inihaw na baboy.

    Favorite sawsawan for pipino: vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar (lately have been using splenda with okay results!) Also use this now to dip romaine lettuce in. Used to use native white vinegar, but now use apple cider, or rice vinegar

  31. Mang Tomas! A lot of my friends and relatives started stocking this just in case i look for it. :)

    Patis for bulalo, sinigang, nilaga…
    Suka for tapa, tocino, longganiza…
    Sweet chili sauce
    Dimsum & Dumplings chili sauce!

  32. My all-time favorite would have to be traditional Ilonggo (coco or cane) sinamak with a couple of crushed (with a fork) chilis. Variations include: with soy sauce and kalamansi or with finely chopped onions. Yumm.

  33. my favorite sawsawan are 1. tomatoes & pajo 2. coco vinegar with garlic, onion, toyo, chili & ground pepper 3. bagoong (for sinigang and nilaga). 4. tomatoes and anchovie sauce(from Harrods of london. Its the best anchovie sauce hindi sya malansa.)

  34. 1. fish sause, siling labuyo – for broth dishes like sinigang & nilaga
    2. Iloko vinegar, garlic, pepper,salt -mostly seafood: prawns, oysters, crabs
    3. soy sauce, calamansi, siling labuyo- grilled or fried meat and most dishes
    4. tomatoes, onions, homemade chili bagoong – grilled fish

  35. Sounds like a good Pinoy restaurant MUST have a terrific sawsawan “BAR” where diners can choose the makings of their personal sawsawan from say 50-70 different ingredients

  36. Mashed boiled tamarind, add shrimp paste(TT)and lots of chili serrano(finely chopped), if i couldn’t find any sili’ng labuyo serrano would be a better substitute. best on inihaw na hito, dalag or any white meat fish available.

  37. yes to maricel’s choices. but have been looking for the suka from bulacan – oh my, can’t even recall the name at the moment, the one made from sasa sap, i think. it usually has a blackish sediment at the bottom of the bottle. that’s the perfect dip for oysters. it’s also perfect with lechon cebu! ay, i have it now – sukang paombong! have tried many versions but haven’t found any that’s close to what i remember from childhood. any leads?

  38. Patis, patis-calamansi, or toyo-calamansi. For inihaw na liempo, patis with chopped tomatoes, green mango, roasted eggplant, and onion (more like a salad than a sauce).

  39. Maricel and Peter J mentioned the cooked tamarind for sawsawan, I agree this is definitely the best sawsawan for any fish that is grilled especially hito, dalag and tilapia. Whether with bagoong alamang, patis or juice from bagoong isda.
    As for the other sawsawan, forty plus posters got that covered.

  40. Yes, I agree, Peter J and Connie! That’s the BESTest sawsawan ever for any fried or broiled fish!!! Take note, it’s gotta be the hilaw na sampaloc, hindi hinog .

  41. Ohhhh.. There’s just too many to choose from!

    1. I love sinamak, soy sauce, calamansi, and sili (The heat is ON!) with my inasal dishes.

    2. I have to say I love the crispy pata dipping sauce (Again, with sili!) on anything that has (almost) the same consistency as the succulent crispy trotters! And on my seafood as well!

    3. I need vinegar with garlic and black pepper on my BONELESS bangus and beef tapa breakfast fares.

    4. Soy sauce and calamansi with chili garlic oil (I’m a huge fan of Lee Kum Kee’s and Le Ching’s humble version with fried garlic morsels in it!) for my occasional dimsum fix.

    5. Sweet chili sauces for my spring rolls, eggplant omelet, and my super favorite rellenong bangus. :)

    6. Oh speakin of sweet and spicy, almost all of the authentic Thai dipping sauces I tried in Bangkok!

    7. Blue cheese or ranch dressing on my dynamite wings!

    8. Japanese mayo on my fries and fish & chips. ‘Nuf said.

    I love my food and sauce combos. Obviosuly, I don’t play favorites. PERIOD. :)

  42. This is amazing! I vow to try ALL the sawsawan combinations listed here. :-)
    P.S. Does anyone else like Nuoc Cham?

  43. There’s this sawsawan I make for crabs, alimasag sugpo, swahe, grilled fish or pork that my dad likes. I put regular toyo, dark soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, a little cane vinegar, rice wine, a dash of sesame oil, peanut oil chopped spring onions, brown sugar, salt and pepper =)

  44. my favorite sawsawan would be soy sauce with finely chopped onion and tomatoes for fried ulam and soy sauce with a little vinegar, a dash of ground pepper, brown sugar, crushed garlic and crushed sili for barbeque =)

  45. guinamos with kaamansi, tomatoes, onions and chilies. goes well with anything fried, grilled, adobo(ed), siniganged or just plain rice. visayan ecstasy.

  46. My all time favorite sawsawan is soy sauce and calamansi, with a light brown color to the sawsawan. If there’s too much soy sauce, it will taste too salty. I don’t like it when the soy sauce overpowers the taste of the calamansi.

  47. -Fish Sauce, Lemon/Calamsi, Bird’s Eye Chilli
    -White Vinegar, Soy Sauce, Crushed Black Pepper, Pinch of Salt, Crushed Garlic
    -Bagoong Balayan, Calamansi
    -Soy Sauce and Lemon/Calamansi

  48. Some which I don’t think have been mentioned:

    buro, balaw-balaw, balo-balo, whatever you call it, fermented rice with either fish or shrimp. Great with fish, inihaw na talong, nilagang okra, sigadilyas, bataw, etc.

    “sawsawan ng puchero”- at least that’s what we call it- mashed up inihaw na talong, kalabasa, and garlic. Smoky, sweet, and garlicky- I like this better than the puchero itself.

    Call me weird but I enjoy dipping lechon kawali and crispy pata in plain patis.

  49. “P.S. Does anyone else like Nuoc Cham?”
    I like that very much on lumpia, Trish. It’s good on rotisserie chicken too. I actually do love a lot of Thai sauces, I love their peanut sauce in chicken satay and fresh spring rolls and sometimes I use that too when I grill chicken. Not exactly pinoy, but then again bagoong alamang in balsamic vinegar is not pure pinoy either. LOL.

  50. for fried fish i like cucumber with vinegar, salt, sugar and black pepper.
    for fried chicken and weirdly enough when i’m eating pizza i like it with hot sauce, a little catsup and some Worcestershire sauce (or plain soy sauce is fine too)

  51. As a reply for Trish query about Nuoc Cham…

    I do like it, it’s actually a Vietnamese version of fish sauce. I use only two variants of fish sauce at home, a local premium patis and Nuoc Cham. I prefer Nuoc Cham than the Thai Nam Plah. Nuoc Cham and our local premium patis are more flavorful than Nam Plah.

  52. Almost everything that I eat, I have to have sawsawan…
    – for nilagang baka, patis with calamansi
    – for sinigang, it’s patis with the sili from the sinigang
    – for lechon kawali, mang tomas or suka, toyo, garlic, onions, and a bit of sugar (or both sometimes)
    – for inihaw, suka and toyo or calamansi with sili
    – and the list goes on….

  53. i love patis with calamansi when i’m eating anything ‘nilaga’

    *datu puti vinegar with garlic for anything fried

    *mang tomas lechon sauce

    *i also love kamatis with salt with longganisa

    *siling labuyo with vinegar when i eat lumpia

  54. Tulip, I think you’re referring to nuoc MAM (Vietnamese “patis”) which is one of my favorite marinades for pork chops(mixed with honey and scallions). Nuoc CHAM is sweet chilli sauce, which like Connie I love dipping my lumpia shanghai, fried or rotisserie chicken in. And I like both of them, they are constants in my pantry :)

  55. It’s burong mangga without the sugar.
    Chopped green mangoes
    Sea salt
    Some water

    It’s very good with steamed shrimps and crabs and keeps indefinitely in the fridge if propeperly salted.

  56. sorry, can’t choose. it all depends on the dish! like many here i don’t have ONE favorite. though vinegar/garlic and patis/kalamansi are two that would certainly would top the list.

    at the bookofraiforum there was a recent discussion that mentions vinegar/garlic being a favorite dipping sauce for jiaozi in northeast china. interesting, huh.

  57. What’s this, a confusion about nouc cham? LOL.
    ykmd , you are right nouc mam is the fish sauce, nuoc cham is the chili sauce. The Vietnamese preparation though good is a bit fishy for me sometimes, plus the sauce is so thin. The bottled nuoc cham that comes from Thailand however comes out thick, sweet and spicy, perfect for dipping shanghais with no worries about dripping sauce.

  58. – patis and calamansi
    – soy sauce and calamansi
    – bagoong (not the sweet type)
    – mangga, kamatis, sibuyas
    – wansoy, kamatis, little salt or patis
    – mayo
    – ehhh… Knorr or Maggi Seasoning

  59. my favorite sawsawan:
    1. patis w/ kalamansi (bulalo, inihaw na bangus)
    2. patis (all kinds of sinigang)
    3. toyo, kalamansi, sili (inihaw liempo, crispy pata and other inihaw)
    4. mang tomas (lechon kawali)
    5. bagoong from ilocos w/ tomatoes, onion (lechon kawali, bagnet)
    6. sukang iloko (longganisa)
    7. del monte vinegar w/ garlic (inihaw liempo)
    8. banana catsup (fried tilapia)

  60. i don’t really have a favorite “sawsawan” but whenever I get to eat Bacolod chicken inasal, i usually mix together soy sauce, vinegar that has chopped onions and sili, calamansi juice and one piece of sili labuyo squeezed . . . tasty!!

  61. here’s my lists of fave sawsawan:

    fried fish (tilapia) – patis or toyo with lemon and sili
    crabs/lobster/shrimps – vinegar with salt, freshly cracked black pepper, crushed garlic and sili; but i guess if we’re dining in a resto, i have to settle for butter! :)
    manggang hilaw – bagoong (bario fiesta brand, spicy)
    singkamas – asin or toyo
    duhat – definitely asin
    por bbq/lechon kawali, fried pork belly – vinegar with salt, black pepper, crushed garlic and sili
    buffalo chicken wings – more hot sauce
    sinigang na baboy – patis with sili

    now my mouth is watering! :)

  62. this is the standard sawsawan for steamed shrimps or crabs in our household: mashed garlic with kalamansi, a little pinch of salt and siling labuyo

  63. with all these talking about sawsawan and different dishes, it makes me so hungry!!! I’m at work and now, I want to go home and cook.Hmmmmm!

  64. patis – with any stew….sinigang or nilaga

    suka – longanisa or any fried dried fish like dangit, tuyo at

    toyo at patis with garlic – para sa lechon kawali

  65. for my alaminos longganisa, its coconut vinegar with chopped garlic and fresh alamang! yummmmy! :0

  66. and for my blanced okra or camote top… bagoong isda and vinegar!

    try this for inihaw na baboy or chicken… catsup with soy sauce or seasonings! uhmmnnnn.

  67. My favourite? Well for most things it is just suka, asin, sili at bawang.
    Certain types of food are preferred with specific sawsawans: for example, roasts with ali oli or salsa monja; fried squid or prawn with sslt& pepper mix but my favourite over all is the minced ginger, sesame oil, chopped green onions with steamed or hainanese chicken.

  68. I would like to ask about herbal product: Do you have interpretations the name Langkawas Herbal? From Philippines Cagayan De Oro of Mindanao…This Mizu Agudo Mendoza, a psychometrician…

  69. uhmmm…guys, thanks for your posts…

    now,i have my article..thanks again for your posts..


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