That distinct aroma that emanates from Chinese kitchens

If you’re a fan of Ma Mon Luk Restaurant, you’d probably know what I mean when I say that even as you walk through the restaurant’s front door, you are immediately greeted by an indescribable aroma emanating from the kitchen. I’ve been a Ma Mon Luk habitue since I was a child, I’ve noticed that smell even back then and I’ve come to associate it with authentic Chinese cooking. I didn’t know where the smell came from, I was always sure that the Ma Mon Luk owners would never give away trade secrets, so I resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to go there to get a whiff of that wonderful aroma.

Then, I discovered something. Several weeks ago, I bought a pack of dried roots, barks and herbs. There, you can read in the photo above what it’s called. The label does not say, however, what exactly all the dried items in the package are.

I had forgotten I bought that pack until yesterday when I was looking for a new pack of crushed graham crackers for my white and dark chocolate pie. And I saw the pack of dried roots and barks lying on the bottom shelf of the cabinet of the kitchen island. When I made broth earlier today, I remembered the pack and decided to use everything in it.

And what do you know? My kitchen smelled of Ma Mon Luk. Amazingly. Unbelievably.

The problem is I can’t remember from which supermarket I bought that pack of dried roots and barks. But since I frequent very few supermarkets, it’s a toss up among The Landmark at the TriNoMa, Unimart, Cherry, S&R and Shopwise.


  1. May Uy says

    Hi Connie,
    We call that Sibut, yung pakete na yan. I grew up in Isabela and we can buy that in Supermarket and groceries. Marami din kasing Chinese dun.

    Try niyo lang hanapin or ipagtanong using Sibut as reference/name, baka mkatulong.

    Niluluto yan madalas sa amin with Ox tail, bulalo or pato.

    Medyo pinaghihinay hinay kami noon pag yan ang ulam kasi masyadong masustansya:) Di ko lang sure kung dahil sa Sibut(may ginseng kasi ata yan) or sa choice of meat na ginagamit (baka, pato, etc)

    Salamat! :)

    • says

      Sibut is different, I think. It yields a darker broth as the barks (goji berries, Chinese foxglove, ginseng, Chinese lovage root and Chinese licorice as far as I know) in the mixture are darker too. I’ve used sibut and even the aroma and flavor are different.

  2. Doddie Householder says


    That pack is for the Korean Samgyetang chicken. To cook Samgyetang, you stuff glutinous rice, whole peeled garlic and the contents of that pack inside a chicken. A rooster is said to be better. Put the chicken in a stone pot or palayok. Cover with water and cook over medium/low heat (take care in skimming off the scum). After an hour, the chicken is ready and is perfect for the summer heat. Koreans believe there are cooling qualities in that chicken dish.

  3. peterb says

    Distributed by Madison Square Marketing, the same group that distributes some of the other oriental goodies that i buy such as dashi, mirin, etc. I get mine from Robinson’s though i never noticed that. Matingnan nga mamaya. Thanks!

    • says

      Hmmm, it’s also possible that I may have bought that at Robinson’s. We’ve been there twice within the last two months or so.

  4. rochie says

    I have to find that pack, by hook or by crook. Imagine, my husband and I still go to the Quezon Blvd. branch of Ma Mon Luk in Quiapo for a taste of our favorite mami. And we are based here in Bulacan. In the mid 70’s, I had a student at Maryknoll whose boyfriend was a son of the Ma Mon Luk owner. I always wanted to tell her to ask her bf the secret of their mami and pancit dishes ( there were a lot of choices then) but I never had the guts to. After more than 30 years, I got my answer, thanks to you.

  5. kimme says

    The packet says “samgetang jaeryo”. Jaer-yo is a Korean word for ingredients, while ‘sam-gye tang” is chicken-ginseng soup. It is basically small chicken stuffed with glutineous rice, ginseng, jujube, garlic and cooked with aromatics like the ones seen in your packet. Koreans normally enjoyed it during the hot summer months in lieu of “bossim tang” wich is actually aromatic dog soup. Both are believe to have cooling effects as written in the annals of oriental medicine. Not to be confused with ‘ddak juk” which is chicken porridge which is very similar to our arroz caldo except that the latter is cooked for hours with oriental herbs and spice. For an authentic Korean samgyetang recipe you may refer to