Taste Test

King Sue, Pampanga’s Best, CDO, and More: Our Sweet Ham Taste Test

February 7, 2020

Ham refers to cuts of pork leg that’s preserved through salting, curing, or smoking. There are numerous versions around the world, with some countries producing their own regional specialties such as Spain’s jamón ibérico. More common to the everyday, though, is processed ham—made from “meat that’s been mechanically recovered.” This version is often sold sliced by the pack, and is already pre-cooked for easy consumption. It’s a popular choice for sandwiches or as a meat topping (e.g. on pizza). In the Philippines, many households prefer sweet ham, which refers to regular ham that’s been sweetened with sugar, honey, or other artificial sweeteners. We picked up 11 different kinds from the supermarket. How do they compare?

cdo classic

CDO’s classic sweet ham has an okay, slightly jelly-like consistency. It tastes more like (sweet) bacon than ham. But it has a saltiness to it that makes it weirdly satisfying.

cdo regular

CDO’s regular sweet ham—as the label suggests—is… regular. We have no complaints; the texture and flavor are both decent. It starts out sweet, then hits you with a bit of saltiness at the end. It also easily develops caramelized edges when pan-fried.

cdo premium

CDO Premium promises to be a healthier option compared to the brand’s other variants, with 25% less sodium and 0 g trans fat. At the top of the price tier, this ham has a rough, non-processed ham-like texture. It’s also cut thicker, giving it more bite and substance. The sweetness is evident, maybe even too much—though we’re not complaining.

frabelle

Frabelle doesn’t have a product labelled exactly as “sweet ham,” so we considered their Honey Ham for this test. It has a half-and-half texture of real ham and processed ham. And although it’s a tad gelatinous, it has a good stretch. The flavor kind of reminds us of Chinese-style ham if it were sweeter.

king sue

By far, King Sue’s sliced sweet ham is the most similar to traditionally cured ham. “It really feels like it’s [something you can have cut] at a deli,” a member of the team described it. It’s the thickest cut, and it comes in nice round shapes. It’s soft, plus it rips without ruining its textural integrity. The flavor is excellent, but if you’re looking for sweet ham, this is shy of it.

pampanga’s best

The sweet ham of Pampanga’s Best doesn’t really taste like ham. We can liken it more to tocino—something the brand is known for. That said, the ham does have nice speckling, and it has more give than the rest.

purefoods

The only part of Purefoods’ sweet ham that’s actual meat is the middle. You can tell because the rest of the slice has an odd jelly texture. It isn’t so bad; but we would rather just have that center piece as the whole square.

star

Star’s sweet ham has the weirdest texture—like “a flacid, lunch meat tongue.” It also tastes the least like ham; it’s more like a ham by-product, “as if they took leftover [processed] ham and re-worked it into a new batch.”

swift

If we could give Swift’s sweet ham another name, it’d be SPAM. It feels like SPAM on the pan, and exhibits very SPAM-like texture once cooked. It’s pretty mushy, and it’s sickeningly sweet. But essentially, it isn’t that bad. We’d eat it, since it’s pretty much just “SPAM with sugar.”

vida

Cross tocino and luncheon meat, and you’ll get Vida’s sweet ham. (So it’s like sweetened canned meat.) It’s very soft and flimsy, which turned us off. Plus, it has questionable jelly bits scattered speckled on each piece.

winner

Winner is everything but its name. The taste isn’t so bad, though it really doesn’t taste like anything at all. There’s almost zero sweetness. That said, a member of the team described it as “hot dog that’s been flattened into a slice.” What’s really offensive about this though is the texture. It’s soft as hell, making it so uncomfortably flimsy. There’s also a grittiness to it that “[makes it feel like] they ground up the bone [in there, too.]”

the verdict: cdo premium

Just as with any deli ham, the most expensive one is probably the best. So it’s no surprise that CDO’s premium sweet ham, with its undoubted sweetness and rough texture, wins this one. That said, King Sue’s sweet ham put up a very close fight. If you’re looking for great “let’s pretend I went to a deli” ham—and you’re not necessarily looking for the sweet kind—go for King Sue.

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