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Cook with Turmeric To Benefit From Its Touted Health Properties And Golden Flavors

Turmeric, sometimes called yellow ginger, figures prominently in the ancient healing practice of Ayurveda where its use varies from acting as a cold remedy to the treatment of hysteric fits.

Turmeric also has a place in traditional Filipino healing methods. A few years back, an uncle who had just suffered a stroke was advised to drink the juice of freshly grated turmeric as a means to keep him healthy. And it worked!

On its own, turmeric’s flavor may be polarizing to the palate, but when used with other aromatic ingredients such as lemongrass and ginger, the spice lends a pleasant subdued pepperiness. The rhizome is also a prolific colorant as it provides curries and mustards with a lovely golden tint. There was a time when only its powdered form was available, but nowadays, fresh turmeric is widely accessible in markets and groceries.

Monggo Soup with Free-range Chicken

This dish may be interpreted as a union between two traditional favorites: monggo guisado and binakol na manok. The use of turmeric is complemented by lemongrass and ginger, making the broth intense and flavorful.

Serves 6 to 8

  • 2 heads Ilocos garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and sliced lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup quartered ripe tomato
  • 3 tablespoons ginger, peeled and sliced crosswise, very thinly
  • 1/2 kilo free-range chicken, cleaned and sliced a la tinola
  • 3 bulbs lemongrass, tied into a bunch, bulbs pounded
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric, peeled and grated
  • 2 cups monggo (mung beans), labo variety, soaked overnight and softened
  • 6 cups coconut water or water
  • 1/2 cup strong Malabon or Vietnamese patis (fish sauce), undiluted

1. Lightly brown Ilocos garlic and onions in coconut oil.
2. Add in tomato and ginger. Sauté until soft.
3. Mix well and cover pot. Cook until juices are boiling.
4. Add in chicken, lemongrass, turmeric and softened monggo. Simmer until chicken is cooked to desired tenderness.
5. Pour in coconut water or water to adjust if needed. Season to taste with patis.

Inihaw na Tiyan ng Bangus with Salted Egg Sambal

This rendition of inihaw is inspired by Southern Philippine and Indonesian techniques. In Sulu, some cooks score or make slits on the fish. The fish is rubbed with an aromatic paste and then grilled. In various parts of the Indonesian archipelago, sambal is flavored with dried anchovies or fermented shrimp pastes. The richness of salted egg yolk replaces seafood in this version. The sambal, of course, is also drawn from the traditional Filipino tomato and salted egg relish.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 1 head Ilocos garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons rock salt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 kilo or 4 slices bangus (milkfish) belly

1. Pound turmeric, Ilocos garlic, black peppercorns and rock salt to a paste.
2. Add in coconut oil little by little while pounding for a smoother paste.
3. Coat bangus slices with paste and marinate for an hour.
4. Pan grill or grill over charcoal until done.
5. Serve with sambal (recipe below).


  • 1 cup quartered tomato
  • 1/2 cup Ilocos garlic, peeled
  • 3 siling pangsigang (green finger chilies), sliced crosswise
  • 1 cup red onion, sliced
  • 5 salted egg yolks, mashed
  • 3 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil

1. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor.
2. Blend until mixture turns into a coarse paste.
3. Cook paste in a pan until oil separates from the paste.

Bihod Fried Rice

This fried rice recipe is a nod to the Negrense preserved fish roe or guinamos na bihod. In preparing the guinamos, fresh fish roe is preserved in coconut sap vinegar. It is then sautéed in oil and, more often than not, mixed with rice. The addition of turmeric enlivens the color of the dish.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup Ilocos garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 kilo tuna roe, sliced into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and minced
  • patis, as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups cooked day-old rice, loosened with a little water

1. Lightly brown garlic in oil.
2. Add tuna roe, vinegar, turmeric, ginger, patis and black pepper. Stir often to release roe from the sac.
3. Cook until liquid has evaporated, and mixture is oily.
4. Stir in cooked rice until roe mixture is well distributed.

This article first appeared in FOOD Magazine, Issue 2, 2016

Story and recipes by Datu Shariff Pendatun III
Photography by Paulo Valenzuela
Styling by Tina Concepcion Diaz