Taste Test

We Try 7 Brands of Patis: Barrio Fiesta, Lorins, Marca Piña, and More

January 24, 2020

Patis is Filipino fish sauce. It’s typically made using galunggong (round scad) that’s coated in salt, then left to ferment over a couple of months to a year. For some manufacturers, it’s produced as a by-product of bagoong. Patis is a local household staple beloved for its umami flavor. It’s often used to flavor broths, or to add saltiness to a dish. It’s also occasionally mixed with calamansi to make a dipping sauce. There are several brands of patis in the supermarket—how do they compare?

Barrio Fiesta

Barrio Fiesta’s patis was very pleasant. It had a light gold color, and a smooth, almost watery texture. Its aroma wasn’t too strong, and the flavor wasn’t overly salty. The taste dissipated quickly, but in a way that worked in its favor. It had a subtle fishy aftertaste that a member described simply as “[tasting like] real [fish].”

Datu Puti

Datu Puti’s patis had a strong smell, setting you up for the what’s to come. The sauce was so salty—as in punch-in -the-face salty. We don’t at all recommend eating as a dipping sauce. There were small crystallized particles floating in the sauce. We suspect it was salt that hadn’t quite dissolved yet; but there’s at least one in the team that was worried it might’ve been tiny bits of the plastic packaging.

La Marina

If you bottled ocean water. it would be La Marina’s patis. It was “heck, heck, heck-stra salty,” as described by a member of the team. There was little to no fish flavor, so we couldn’t really justify it as being “fish sauce.” We suspect the fish here wasn’t fermented as long as the others. (The less time you ferment fish for patis, the more salty it is.)

Lorins

Lorins had a dark caramel-colored patis with a fishy (“but like in a fresh fish kind of way”) aroma. It was another one on the salty side, but its levels weren’t intrusive. “It’s like you just accidentally swallowed a bit of salt water; it’s okay, you don’t even have to cough.” It’s just enough that it would be discernible mixed with calamansi for a dipping sauce. Although all patis use fermented fish, only Lorins specified it in its ingredients list. That said, the fish flavor really came through in this one.

Marca Piña

Marca Piña was the only one in the bunch that came in a glass bottle. It had an odd, rubbery smell (“like a tire warehouse”), and we got almost zero sniffs of fishiness. At first taste, it felt like the saltiest of the lot (“like you swallowed water from the Dead Sea). But that was balanced out by a strong fish flavor. A member of the team said, “it’s maalat but malangsa at the end.”

Silver Swan

Silver Swan has the exact same packaging and ingredients list as Datu Puti. Perhaps not coincidental, since both are produced by NutriAsia (*bleck*). We didn’t think it was possible, but this tasted even saltier than Dati Puti. And though it kind of smelled like fish, it didn’t smell as fresh as Lorins. That said, we got mixed reactions for this one, as a few members of the team detected a little bit of sweetness and acidity.

Tentay

Tentay’s patis came in a very light caramel color. It exuded a rubbery smell like Marca Piña, but with an unpleasant aroma we can only describe as being similar to a wet market. Our bottle had crystallized particles built up on the sides of the opening, even though it was still sealed; and the liquid was a bit cloudy. Although it had sugar in its ingredients, this one was right up with the others in being too salty. A member of the team immediately disqualified it from the running.

The Verdict: Barrio Fiesta

Barrio Fiesta had a decent level of saltiness, and a noticeable fish flavor, making it our choice for both cooking and as a dipping sauce. Marca Piña is a close second. It’s saltier and more abrasive, so it works for people who wish to have a more distinguishable patis taste in their dishes.

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