Story & photos by Dolly Dy-Zulueta
AT the Mama Sita’s stall in a quiet corner of Greenhills Shopping Center’s tiangge section lies a treasure trove of delightful food products that Marigold Manufacturing Corp., which manufactures and distributes Mama Sita’s products, has not yet made commercially available. The truth is that the products are presented in highly personalized packaging with labels that are designed in-house and printed out in small batches. No mass production of products nor of packaging.
One of these artisanal products that never fails to catch shoppers’ attention is Mama Sita’s line of Heirloom Rice Champorado Mix. Packaged in a small brown box, the mix is composed of a vacuum-packed transparent plastic bag that contains the heirloom rice and a foil-type pack that combines dark chocolate cubes with white sugar. The contents of both packs are to be combined in a saucepan with water and then slow cooked to Champorado consistency.
Mama Sita’s Heirloom Rice Champorado Kit comes in four variants, which differ only in the kind of heirloom rice used—Balatinaw, Ominio, Minaangan and Kalinga Jekot.
Sourced from the Mountain Province Heirloom Rice Farmers Agricultural Cooperative, Balatinaw Rice comes from Bauko, Mountain Province, where some 6 tons are harvested from July to August per year. Deep purple to black, the medium whole grain and semisticky rice has a hint of fruity and chocolatey flavor and aroma. It is often confused with Ominio Heirloom Rice but they are actually two different rice variants. Common factor between the Balatinaw and the Ominio are that they both come from the Mountain Province.
Ominio Rice, meanwhile, is from Barlig, Mountain Province, and is sourced in semipolished form. So, even if it is also deep purple to black in color, it distinguishes itself due to the white flecks that show in the grains as a result of their semipolished state. This glutinous rice is soft to the bite when cooked and, like the Balatinaw, has fruity and chocolatey flavor and aroma. One of the most dramatically colored heirloom-rice varieties available in the country, the Ominio is often referred to as “Black Rice” and is ideal to use in traditional Filipino desserts.
Minaangan Heirloom Rice comes from Banaue, Ifugao, and like the Balatinaw and the Ominio is harvested from July to August. The volume of its produce per year does not stray too far from the Balatinaw—about 7 tons. The Ominio has a slightly higher annual yield of 8 tons to 10 tons. It is a slender, long-grain reddish brown rice.
Kalinga Jekot is also a type of red rice. The dehulled and semipolished rice sourced by Mama Sita’s from the Kalinga Rice Terraces Farmers Agricultural Cooperative has beautiful, short, plump and oblong-shaped grains with a full-bodied aroma. It comes from Pasil, Kalinga, and is the most “endangered” among the four heirloom-rice varieties used for the Champorado kits. Its annual yield is only 500 kilograms and so it sells at a higher price per kilogram.
By using heirloom-rice varieties from the Cordilleras in Mama Sita’s Champorado Rice and Cacao Porridge kits, the Mama Sita Foundation shows its support for the Department of Agriculture’s Philippine Heirloom Rice Project. The heirloom rice is packed with a combination of local dark cacao and sugar to create a perfect blend of champorado. The heirloom rice gives the porridge a unique texture and bite that no other champorado mix can, and, because the rice used are mostly whole grain or semipolished, the champorado that it turns out is healthier and more filling, as well.
Other interesting products that one can find at the Mama Sita’s stall at Greenhills Shopping Center are Mama Sita’s Ginger Garlic Simmer Base (a mix of natural ingredients that can be used as a base for various Filipino dishes, such as tinola), Mama Sita’s Adobo Simmer Base (which can help even neophytes in cooking turn out delicious adobo dishes without much effort), Mama Sita’s Pansit Guisado Stir-fry Base (a mixture that takes away the guess work in cooking the well-loved Filipino noodle dish) and Mama Sita’s Batuan Puree (a sinigang base that makes it possible to cook sinigang the Ilonggo way by bottling the souring agent called batuan). All four bottled products celebrate time-honored Filipino family recipes.
Then there’s Mama Sita’s Suka’t Sili (Sweet Chili Vinegar) for dipping purposes, as well as Pinoy Ensalada Vinaigrette in two variants—Ilocos Cane Vinegar and Distilled Cane Vinegar so one can choose which to use for Pinoy salads.
A visit to the Mama Sita’s kiosk will most likely yield other exciting foodie finds that fit your own lifestyle.