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Better than homecooked?

Some frozen meals can beat your own cooking

FROZEN meals in general get a bad rap due to stereotypes from the early days of microwave cooking, but also due to the fear that quality had been compromised for convenience. But this is not necessarily the case.

San Miguel Purefoods, for example, has released a series of Filipino frozen dishes that might even be better versions than yours (or mine).

Purefoods sent over a package of frozen meals: Beef Caldereta (a tomato-based stew), Beef Pares (cooked in Chinese spices), Bicol Express (a spicy coconut milk-based dish), Bistek Tagalog (beef cooked in soy and the local citrus calamansi), Chicken Afritada (another tomato-based stew), Kare-Kare (a peanut-based stew), Lechon Paksiw (roast pork cooked in liver sauce), Pork Binagoongan (pork cooked in fish paste), and Pork Humba (cooked in soy and black beans).

The dishes all have the distinction of tasting homemade, sometimes, even better. Of course, the dishes have been made for adjustments in taste, so they are not too strongly flavored for certain diets and preferences. We would also note that the lechon paksiw, the humba, and the binagoongan were better than what we would serve to our guests prior to the pandemic, and also managed to taste distinct from each other, considering their similar appearance.

A brief from San Miguel states that the dishes have been slow-cooked (ensuring food safety), while the meals themselves are ready in eight minutes (we achieved a faster and more even cooking time — five minutes — by just ripping apart the lid and reheating the frozen meal in a pan). You’ll still have to add vegetables though, but the work is minimal (and you can finally cheat, using vegetables you actually like). The trays are available in supermarkets at P225 to P325 for 450 gm packs, and up to P650 for the 1 kg packs. The 450 gm packs can serve up to three people (or one very hungry guy).

In a previous interview with BusinessWorld, Llena Tan-Arcenas, Culinary Services Manager for San Miguel Foods Culinary Center, told us about using the frozen meals as bases for other recipes (demonstrated in their cooking show, Home Foodie, with beef caldereta). “A lot of consumers still work from home and ironically, work longer hours despite being home. They do not have the energy nor enough time to prepare slow-cooked meals for the family daily,” she noted.

Due to the convenience brought by the frozen food packs, the statement waxes sentimental about all the other things one can do with shortened hours slaving in the kitchen (it’s hard to imagine a kare-kare — a fiesta food that is a slow-cooked, multi-ingredient stew which can include oxtail, beef tripe, pork hocks, calves feet, pig’s feet or trotters, among other meat cuts, various vegetables including eggplant, Chinese cabbage, among others, flavored with ground roasted peanuts or peanut butter, onions, and garlic — done in eight or so minutes). “Now you can take all the time that you need to take care of yourself and your family, because love takes time,” said Ms.Tan-Arcenas.

San Miguel Purefoods Ready-to-Eat Viands are available at and some leading supermarkets. — Joseph L. Garcia

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