Taste Test

Knorr, Maggi, McCormick, or UFC? Our Instant Sinigang Mix Taste Test

November 26, 2018

Whether or not you vouch for Sinigang as the Philippine national dish, its deceptively simple combination of meat or seafood and veggies in a sour broth is always comforting. Though traditionally lent sourness and complexity from fruits like tamarind or guava—thus entailing not only their availability, a significant amount of time to coax out their flavors—a number of brands have come out with instant mixes that assure consistency, convenience, and ease of preparation. How do they compare?

We narrowed down the selection to include only the most basic mixes soured with tamarind and held two rounds of tasting for each contender: one where we prepared just the soup itself (note that all packets used are good for one liter of water); and one where we included equal amounts of common sinigang ingredients—string beans, water spinach, okra, tomatoes, red onions, and a small amount of pork shoulder—following the directions on the packet and refraining from using any additional seasonings in both cases.

Note: Acknowledging the possible variations in results due to factors in cooking that are hard to control (e.g., the amount of water absorbed or that evaporates), we focused on the general characteristics present in both rounds and the general balance of flavors rather than their overall intensity.

Knorr

Knorr gives you a great blend of shrimpy, light-but-tamarind heavy flavors. | PHP 10/20g, makes 1L

Knorr teases the nostrils with a strong shrimpy aroma from the moment you open the packet. Though a touch more salty than sour, there’s ample sourness to brighten, underlined with a welcome shrimp-y sweetness and notes of white onion. It can feel a tad weak with pork, but it’s your best bet when making a classic sinigang with shrimp.

Sourness: 3.5/5 | Saltiness: 3.5/5

Maggi

Maggi gives you a zestier soup with a deeper, fishier flavor. | PHP 11/22g, makes 1L

Maggi’s mix makes for a darker-hued soup. The saltiness comes just right, balanced with a sourness that isn’t too strong but is distinctively zesty and somewhat fruity; it may be the calamansi powder in the ingredient list at play. The flavors take on a sensation we can’t pinpoint exactly, but we’d describe as fuller and deeper, with rich shrimpy notes and a welcome fish-y aftertaste—without being too saline.

Sourness: 3.5/5 | Saltiness: 4/5

McCormick

McCormick’s can be salty (or leans toward saltiness over other profiles even when diluted) but is relatively clean in that you don’t get a very long aftertaste. | PHP 22.50/40g, good for 1L as written (but in our experience can be diluted and thus should be good for about twice that!)

McCormick’s is only available as 40-gram sachets that the package claims is good for a liter or water (versus the roughly 20 grams of mix per liter of water in the other brands). We took their word for it and weren’t surprised to find it extremely salty, requiring dilution to be even remotely tolerable. Doing so reveals a flavor balance ratio that still leans toward being salt-dominant, with but a whisper sourness and even milder hints of onion and garlic. With its straightforward propulsion and lesser depth at the finish (likely due to the lack of MSG), we’d describe the result as somewhat ‘clean-tasting’ at best but overly simplistic at worst. Still, this does not pose as much of a problem when used to make sinigang with pork, beef, or other mediums that naturally provide the fat and meaty flavor to give depth and balance out the salt.

Sourness: 3/5 | Saltiness: 5/5

UFC

UFC carries a slightly porkier flavor with the zest of (what we think is) kinchay. | PHP 8/20g, good for 1L

UFC’s version carries an aroma that’s notably more peppery than the others, with the distinct grassiness of kinchay. This carries over to the taste, adding a zestiness that perks up its great balance of both mid-level salty and sour. This brand lacks the shrimpy note the others have, instead going for a slightly sweet, meaty finish more akin to pork broth that lingers long in the mouth.

Sourness: 3.5/5 | Saltiness: 3/5

The Verdict: Maggi

On one hand, McCormick’s salty but clean tasting-especially-when-diluted version that strikes us as the most natural-tasting of the lot. Still, it’s Maggi to whom we bestow the grand prize—thanks to how it delivers linamnam without being too salty, brightness without being too sour, and a great seafood-y, umami depth. Should you prefer a more minimal take, Knorr’s is great; for a richer and fuller-flavored mix use UFC.

Patricia Baes SEE AUTHOR Patricia Baes

Trish thinks too much about everything—truth, existence.....and what’s on her plate. Her ongoing quest for a better relationship with food has led to a passion for cooking, gastronomy, and a newfound interest in its politics. She dreams of perfecting the art of making soufflé with her crappy toaster oven.

1 comments in this post SHOW

One response to “Knorr, Maggi, McCormick, or UFC? Our Instant Sinigang Mix Taste Test”

  1. J says:

    Mama Sita is also good…was wondering why it wasn’t featured

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