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!

  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

  6. Maricel says

    Yes, we had that chicken soup in Korea. My kids loved it. After cutting open the chicken and the rice spills out, it gets to look like arroz caldo with a different flavor. I think I remember the tour guide saying that the red things are dates.

    @Rochie, your student could have been my classmate.

  7. says

    My hubby and father in law love Ma Mon Luk. They will go to Manila (were based in Quezon Province) just to eat Mami and Siopao in Ma Mon Luk. I will definitely ask hubby to buy this. Every new year, we always have chicken Mami. Thanks for this post Ms. Connie.

  8. says

    I went to a Korean grocery today and got 10 packs. Panic buying :) The first grocery had 1 left at PHP65. The second I went to had it at PHP39 and I got 10 packs.

  9. says

    Hi Connie,
    masarp nga yan aroma na yan kasi my exfather inlaw he is a chinese so lagi nyang ginagamit yan also for fish hinde ko lang alam kung pano pagluto.
    Salamat at nakita ko yan ngayon week bibili nga ako para itray ko
    Masarap yan kasi yong soup nya at langhap mo talaga ang amoy

  10. Patricia M. says

    I see a lot of those packs in Landmark grocery in Trinoma. I had been curious what it was for, and now I know. :P

  11. Chi says

    Hmm… got to try that Korean Chinese recipe one of these days.

    I love the sibut broth but I couldn’t drink it for a while kasi nga masyado matapang yata yun. I was craving for it after I gave birth kaya lang bad daw yung for my blood pressure. Anyone here knows kung anong effect ng herbs na yan on BP? Thanks. Would really love to try that in a chicken-based broth.

  12. steff says

    saw that korean soup pack at shopwise (libis) just 2 days ago. but for the exact ingredients that compares to the “MML smell”…its the tungkoy, sibut, & go-hyiong that comprises the MML smell. those are the ingredients we, cantonese use in cooking. i would love to share some more of those “secret herb ingredients”, but i need to find a translator first. hope that helps.

    • Rogel Angelo says

      Hello Steff i just want to ask about the ingridients,chinese uses in their beef stock/beef mami that makes it aromatic and is my e-add( send me an email.or you can reply here so fellow filipinos will also learn to cook chinese beef mami soup.

  13. kim kildong says

    Si but and sam gye tang i think have similar ginseng base but have different additives. both are nutritious and delicious i would say. My mother usually use duck meat for sibut and add a spoonful of Black Label liquor for added aroma. Sam gyetang is samgyetang anywhere and should be taken as it is, a highly nutritious, refreshing soup.

  14. says

    Hi. Did you have to soak the dried roots and barks prior to boiling? For how long? Thanks. It comes in a different packaging in a Korean store near our office. P110 for a pack that seems to hold much less than the one above :( Oh well.

  15. Joe Caliber says

    Guys you can buy sibut in pack at Ongpin. Btw sibut pack is commonly use for meat na in tagalog namumuro na meaning malapit na syang masira. All chinese herbs for cooking purposes, you can get it at Ongpin. When i cook i always use tongkuy for meals with soup or sauce.

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