Filipino food

Have you tried tamalos, Samar’s saucy delicacy?

Lance Lim
Have you tried tamalos, Samar’s saucy delicacy?

Lance Lim

Tamalos has become synonymous with Samar — particularly the city of Catbalogan

In Samar, there’s a mouthwatering delicacy often mistaken for the Mexican-inspired, Kapampangan tamales. It’s called, aptly, tamalos, though instead of chicken, tamalos uses pork – and lots of melt-in-your-mouth pork fat. 

Tamalos is served in banana leaves and paired with a rich peanut sauce called pipi-an or pinipi-an, which is infused with atsuete to impart both flavor and color.

The peanuts are roasted in an oven for about an hour and then ground using a heavy-duty processor to achieve a thick consistency. The peanut paste is then added to a generous mix of sauteed onions, garlic, and other spices.

SAUCY. The tamalos is rich in savory peanut sauce.
Lance Lim

While the sauce is getting cooked, the pork is boiled on the side for about an hour or until the meat (especially the fat) becomes tender. To ensure quality taste, it should be cooked under firewood instead of gasoline. 

Once everything is ready, a homemade lumpia wrapper is set out, a generous amount of pipi-an is poured and spread around, the pork is added and flaked, and then another round of pipi-an is poured on before the whole thing is wrapped in banana leaves. It is then steamed for about two hours. 

Heirloom recipe

An heirloom recipe passed on from generation to generation, tamalos has become synonymous with Samar — particularly the city of Catbalogan, where it is often made for special occasions like fiestas, and given as pasalubong for people in Manila or abroad.

Chona Lim has been making tamalos for nearly three decades now with her aunt Gloria “Golly” Rueda – a family business that existed as early as the 1950s. They had used rice flour for the wrapper back in the day, according to Golly, who likened its texture to that of palitaw. They later on reinvented the recipe by using wheat flour instead. 

“Our tamalos recipe has been with the family for as long as I can remember. I learned to make it just by watching my mom Giling. After my mom died, a lady from the city of Calbayog came knocking on our door one day and introduced herself to me as my late mom’s friend,” Lim said in a mix of Waray and English. 

“The woman said she wanted to order one tamalos, but I’d forgotten the process of how to make it. Thankfully, my Auntie Golly was there to help me out, and so the business started. So I juggled working at the office and making tamalos after office hours, and the rest, as they say, is history.”

For Chona, it’s more than just a business, but a family tradition she wants her children and future grandchildren to inherit.

She said the recipe remains a family secret and shall remain as such for as long as she lives. “Even the great Nora Daza came to my mom asking to do a demo but she respectfully declined.” 

Making authentic tamalos is a tedious process, which is why it’s hard to find ones that are not commercially made. So, if you’re planning to visit Samar and take real tamalos with you back home, be sure to order in advance. The price of a single tamalos ranges between P150 to P200. –