Manila, Philippines — It takes a whole lot of skill and creativity to re-conceptualize any staple Filipino recipe and ensure that the modern take is made even more delectable. This challenge is made more daunting when needing to innovate one of the most loved dishes of Filipinos the world over – Sisig – and the first ever Sisig Masters Grand Winner Chef Ruby dela Cruz successfully did just this, bagging the top spot at the recently concluded Knorr Sisig Masters finals through her winning Squabama recipe. 

“When I first heard about the Knorr Sisig Masters competition, they said it needed to be innovative. So instead of the usual, pork and seafood, I thought, why not make a vegetable version? Back then, I needed to study how to make it crunchy, how to sauté the recipe and retain its meaty taste to resemble the classic dish,” shared Chef Ruby. “To standout, I knew my recipe had to have unique ingredients. My Squabama is called as such because at the core of my dish is squash, banana, malunggay, and of course, Knorr Liquid Seasoning,” she added. The 51-year-old owner of Any-Haw in Sta. Maria Bulacan made this winning recipe exclusively for the Knorr Sisig Masters competition. 

Squabama Sisig – Photo courtesy of Eatsplorations

At the start of the competition, Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) and Knorr travelled to key cities around the Philippines to challenge chefs to innovate their sisig recipes with Knorr Liquid Seasoning. Inspired by the Michelin Star competition, each participating chef underwent three levels of certification from Knorr and UFS’ partners, Zomato and LTB Chef’s Association, and had a total of 262 recipe submissions from the first level. 

Chef Ruby’s recipe unanimously won the hearts of the judges out of the other seven recipes from all over the country that battled it out at the Knorr Sisig Masters finals. The participating chefs and their dishes were: Chef Eduardo Villiarmia Jr. from CDO’s SOSPA (Sisig Oh, Salad Pa), Chef Lendon Salon from CDO’s Sisig Quesadilla, Chef John Armedi from Bulacan’s Zab’s Pizza Thin Crust, Chef Elena Allanegui from Davao’s Tuna Sisig with Salted Egg, Chef Nur Misuari from Cainta’s Pork Sisig Dynamite, Chef Paul Allan Cruz from Cainta’s Pusisig and Chef Beatrice de Guia from Poblacion Makati’s Lechon Sisig. 

Taste, correct preparation, food safety and hygiene, creativity and innovation, and the proper use of Knorr were the main criteria for judging by our esteemed set of judges, namely Chef Menoy Jimenez (Owner of Tito Chef), Chef Dan Puga (Knorr Funlasang Pinoy Year 1 Winner) and Chef Pipo Aluning (UFS Senior Sous Chef). Special prizes were also awarded to Chef Nur Misuari, who won the People’s Choice Award for his Pork Sisig Dynamite, and to Chef Eduardo Villiarmia Jr. for his SOSPA (Sisig OH, Salad Pa) recipe thatbagged the #FoodPorn award for the dish with the best plating. 

“I’m not really a chef and I was really intimidated by everyone because I thought their dishes were really a lot better than mine. In approaching this competition, I primarily trusted my instincts and what I knew from managing my own restaurant,” said dela Cruz. Owning 11 branches of Any-Haw in Bulacan with Lechon Manok as their specialty, Chef Ruby mentions that aspiring chefs should have the passion for cooking and loves food just as much if they want to pursue the culinary path or put up their own business.  

UFS believes in the need to push Filipino food innovation despite a hefty fan base of Filipino food lovers who always come back for their favorites in their go-to restaurants. Through platforms such as the Knorr Sisig Masters, they envision a change and that will help expand the Filipino palate by getting diners to try familiar yet new dishes and push the boundaries among chefs to continuously get handy and creative in the kitchen.

To see all the sisig recipes and the highlights of the Knorr Sisig Masters Finals, check out http://ufs.com/.

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