Walter Mencken 3:39 p.m., June 18
Every now and again, I luck out and get to uncover/discover for myself some new kind of sauce, condiment, ingredient, or other foodstuff. These revelatory experiences are valuable to me, as my recent chamoy obsession indicates, because it's a rare chance to actually broaden the palette a little bit and incorporate some legitimately new tastes into my world. Over the weekend, I went to a little cookout and I happened on just such a new flavor.
It was Mang Tomas "All Purpose Sauce."
It's a Filipino sauce that's used heavily on lechon, the roast pig that's the national dish of the Philippines, but, as the name implies, it is pretty well able to go on anything. I splashed it on a burger in place of ketchup and onto some grilled chicken, in both cases, the flavor was complimentary,
It's not a strongly-flavored sauce and there's nothing to prevent ambitious Mang Tomas fans from covering food in a thick, greenish-brown layer. The flavor is sweet first, followed by a vinegary tang, then black pepper, salt, and garlic. Of the spices, it was curious to have the black pepper on the forefront, but also quite delightful because so many sauces define themselves as salty, salty, salty.
The coloration could have been more appealing. It's a grayish-greenish-brown that's almost what you'd get if you mixed a bunch of brightly-hued things together; the "color of no color," if you will.
Mang Tomas has a lot of bread crumbs dissolved in it, which gives the sauce a fascinating, uneven texture. It clings to food very well and has a toothsome quality that's not present in smooth sauces.
It actually reminded me of gazpacho soup, which I think is at its best when allowed to be thick and a little bready. I like that it has almost enough substance to chew, but not quite enough to be unpleasantly thick or gloopy.
Mang Tomas is available at Ranch 99 market or anywhere Filipino groceries are sold for about $0.99.