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Mang Tomas: Getting to Know the Man Behind the Sauce

April 30, 2014

There are some kids who put ketchup on everything, and then there are those who reach for a bottle of Mang Tomas. Made with crushed pork liver, water, sugar, vinegar, breadcrumbs, and a secret blend of spices, this sweet, thick, and tangy sauce is arguably the most versatile condiment in the country. And even though it was originally developed as an accompaniment to lechon, spoonfuls of it flooding drizzled over mounds of rice (or in between bread halves) can easily drive you into carbo overload, whether you happen to have an accompanying protein on hand or not.

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“Sarsa” is the proper name for the roast pork dressing and plenty of lechon houses and restaurants have their own in-house recipe, but customers refer to it as “Mang Tomas” all the same. But who exactly was the barong-clad, salakot-wearing man smiling broadly on the label of every sarsa bottle? Was he just a figment of a marketing maven’s imagination, or did he actually exist?

The Man Behind The Sauce

There really was a Mang Tomas and his first venture was selling pre-roasted pork.

Born Tomas de los Reyes, the enterprising meat vendor from the province was the catalyst for the booming lechon industry back in the 1950s. He began his business by selling pork meat outside his house, which at the time was conveniently located in front of the La Loma Cockpit Arena in Quezon City. At the end of each day, the owners of the winning cocks would converge at Mang Tomas’s stall to buy slabs of pork meat to be roasted for their celebratory pulutan. (The losers simply had to make do with the carcasses of their fallen birds.) Seizing the opportunity to make a little extra money, Mang Tomas ventured into selling pre-roasted pork. His gamble paid off as plenty of customers appreciated the convenience and flocked around his meat stall every afternoon, the revenue from the roasted pork sales eventually funding the first ever lechon shop in La Loma in 1954.

The meat vendor eventually started his own piggery and served lechon to Malacañang Palace’s most esteemed guests. It is still open up to this day.

The demand for Mang Tomas’ succulent roasted pork grew to the point that the erstwhile meat vendor ended up purchasing parcels of land to serve as his backyard roastery, as well as starting his own piggery so he could personally raise the pigs for his enterprise. The lechon was initially sold as a whole or by the kilogram, but the family came to put up the Mang Tomas restaurant to service patrons who were in need of a quick roasted pork fix. President Magsaysay was one of the eatery’s most distinguished guests, and the restaurant’s famed roasted pig even made an appearance at several Malacañang Palace banquets, gracing the plates of visiting kings, queens, and other foreign celebrities.

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In the decades that followed, other entrepreneurs took their cues from Mang Tomas’ successful business model and set up their own roasted pork brand. Some of them even endure to this day, with names like Aling Lydia’s Lechon or Mila’s Lechon coming to mind whenever an upcoming special occasion requires a glorious, whole-roasted pig as a centerpiece. Exactly who has the better-tasting lechon is a matter of subjective taste, but the invention of the ever-present, accompanying liver sauce or sarsa remains widely credited to Tomas De Los Reyes.

Mang Tomas in the Present Day

Ironically, despite the Mang Tomas brand being more famous for its signature sauce than for its roasted pork, the “all around sarsa” is currently owned and manufactured by a different company altogether. Back in 1991, Southeast Asia Food, Inc. acquired the ownership and production rights of the Mang Tomas lechon sauce brand, along with those of other industry heavyweights like Datu Puti Vinegar and Papa Banana Catsup.

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The Mang Tomas Lechon Restaurant is still very much alive and kicking, though, and is currently owned and managed by Mrs. Cora De Los Reyes, Mang Tomas’ daughter-in-law.

Mang Tomas passed away in 1985, but his name continues to live on as a vital part of the overall lechon experience that his lifetime of hard work, devotion, and ingenuity irrefutably elevated to new heights altogether.

References:

Mang Tomas. Retrieved Feb. 7, 2014 from http://aboutph.com/2011/06/mang-tomas/
Mang Tomas Pioneer Lechonero. Retrieved Feb. 7, 2014 from http://dennisvillegas.blogspot.com/2009/05/mang-tomas-pioneer-philippine-lechonero.html
Mang Tomas: Your All Around Food Sauce. Retrieved Feb. 7, 2014 from http://www.squidoo.com/mang-tomas-lechon-sauce
NutriAsia History. Retrieved Feb. 7, 2014 from http://www.nutriasia.com/about/history

Serna Estrella SEE AUTHOR Serna Estrella

Serna is a slim piggy who heartily believes that salads are not real food and that desserts (fruit salad not included) should have their own food group. When she's not terrorizing people with her Grammar Nazi tendencies, she likes to hunt for the perfect afternoon tea spot that lets her pretend she's still in the age of Austen (albeit with electricity and better dental care).

9 comments in this post SHOW

9 responses to “Mang Tomas: Getting to Know the Man Behind the Sauce”

  1. Ralph Dollente says:

    I saw some Mang Tomas sauce in an Asian market in the US. I noticed that liver was not listed among the ingredients. I heard somewhere that the US has restrictions on the use of liver from food items imported in. I’m wondering what the story here is.

  2. Nico Goco says:

    The parent company is now called nutriasia, owned by the Campos group. They also own Del Monte btw. And a big chunk of BGC.

  3. Jolly Josephine says:

    mabuhay ka mang tomy!

  4. Michelle Ann Gonzales says:

    Paborito ko mang tomas. ansaya ko nung nabasa ko to!

  5. Isko says:

    I love Mng Tomas Sauce very much. I used as a dipping sauce for my fried chicken, lechon manok, fried or BBQ fish and pork. I was at a Filipino Store the other day and I accidentally grab a wrong bottles. i thought it was Mng Tomas Sauce but it’s Andok sauce. I open it and dip my lechon manok . It taste bitter and sour. It’s really bad tasting. Why is it that Mng Tomas and Andoks sauce have the same bottles and labels and label colors. Are these 2 sauce own by the same company? The bottles and labels of these 2 sauce really made a big confussions to buyers and consumers. My suggestion is: Change the labels and bottles of Andok sauce. I feel i’ve been tricked by Andok sauce.

  6. Lasang Pinoy says:

    Mng Tomas Company Please lang po paki explain bakit the same bottle at labels ang Mng Andok sauce. Nasanay na ako sa Mng Tomas labels at bottles. Isang pagkakamali, I brought home Mng Andok sauce dahil na rin sa akalang Mng Tomas dahil sa kulay, sa bote at labels ay parehong pareho. Pero sa lasa ay iba. Ano ba ito Mng Tomas. Isang panloloko at pandurugas sa mga suki ng Mng Tomas. I am a die hard Mng Tomas. Kailan man di ko ipagpapalit ang Mng Tomas. Dahil na rin sa anyo na parang twin sauce and Andok and Mng Tomas. Sa galit ibinato ko and Andok sauce. Siguro mas masaya ang consumer kung ang bawat sauce ay may kanya kanyang hugis ng bote at ibang kulay ng etiketa. PLease wag naman gawin suka ang toyo. Salamat po. Mabuhay Mng Tomas Sauce.

  7. michael b says:

    actually mang tomas, the manglelechon, had nothing to do with the sauce. Mama Sita invented the sauce. SAFI asked mama sita to toll pack the sarsa for them. SAFI named it “mang tomas” (after the lechon shop since it was very famous and already had brand image) seeing that it was not a registered condiments name. at the end, SAFI hired the cook of mama sita who made the sauce and had it patented. i did a paper on this.

  8. […] been deep fried to a perfect crunchy texture and is served with a Popular Filipino sauce called  Mang Tomas or soy […]

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