One of the best sardines I’ve tasted is made by a family of artists.
Acting, singing, directing and even cooking—there is so much talent in the Santiago household. Born to director Pablo Santiago and actress Cielito Legaspi, the Santiago siblings are all successful in their respective fields.
Rowell, Randy, Raymart, Riely, Rhea and Resciel Santiago share one common passion: cooking. They say Raymart is the born chef in the family. It was through Raymart that I first tasted the famed and elusive Mama Ling’s sardines, a family recipe for over 60 years.
Mama Ling prepared it exclusively for the late Fernando Poe Jr., former President Joseph Estrada, and her brood. It was so beloved by the select few who were fortunate to receive it that the family started giving the sardines as a special gift.
When Raymart and chef Vince Rodriguez opened Red Garlic, their sardine pasta was my absolute favorite. However, Mama Ling prepared the sardines for Raymart and his restaurant exclusively. It still was not for sale!
It has been a while since Red Garlic but I have not stopped dreaming of the sardines.
But that dream has come true! The siblings have all perfected the art of preparing the sardines, just as the late Mama Ling did, and decided to sell it to a select few, on a per-order basis.
Going a step further, Rhea, the caretaker of the treasured Santiago family recipes, did her own edits to the original. She uses larger bangus that she debones. It is sublime—well-balanced and seasoned to perfection. The oil you can spoon and drizzle over rice. It is to die for!
The bangus is the perfect size—meaty, soft yet firm to the bite. It is spicy but spiced right, you can taste the salt but it is not salty, you can, in fact, detect so many subtle tastes, in one single bite.
Mama Ling had other specialties that include embutido, kalitiran, adobo flakes, beef tapa, ube ensaimada and banana bread. I look forward to tasting them in the days to come.
I am glad that the family has finally decided to pay tribute to their mother by letting everyone experience her cooking, one recipe at a time.
To make an easy sardine pasta: Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and saute 1 tbsp of garlic. Add ¼ cup of sardine oil. Add 1 piece of coarsely chopped Mama Ling’s sardine. Add chilies and cilantro. Add 250 grams of cooked pasta. Season to taste with sea salt. Serve garnished with more cilantro.
Mama Ling’s Special Sardines: via its Facebook page or Instagram and tel. 09175960712 or 09209529650.
Instagram, Facebook and YouTube: @iamreggieaspiras. Visit www.reggieaspiras.com for recipes, tips and updates. For a copy of my cooking class schedule, text 09209REGGIE and 09175543700.