Why complicate things when you can make them simple?
While other chefs create complex dishes, fusing and twisting ingredients and methods to make things “interesting,” Chef Myke “Tatung” Sarthou is busy simplifying recipes, sharing secrets to some of the most loved dishes, and inspiring a new breed of home cooks who once thought they couldn’t make anything edible from the kitchen through his cookbooks and YouTube channel Simpol.
“When you’re a young chef, ang dami mong ilalagay na kung anu anong mga (you tend to put different kinds of) ingredients because you’re exploring,” Chef Tatung said in an interview.
He continued, “But later on you realize that in cooking and in life what is important are those that are essential. Kung kaya ng asin, asin na lang; kung kaya ng patis, patis na lang. Ganun lang ka-simple, don’t complicate it. Ang importante you do it right para maging masarap (If salt would suffice, use salt; if fish sauce would cut it, use fish sauce. It’s that simple, don’t complicate it. The important thing is you do it right so it will come out delicious).”
According to Chef Tatung, so long as you have salt, vinegar, soy sauce, and fish sauce in your pantry, “you can cook a lot of dishes.”
“If you have those basic condiments kaya mo nang magsimula, and eventually just add on when you have budget until it becomes an array of condiments you can use.”
"In so many recipes, if you remove what you do not need, they’re going to be better.”
In his way, Chef Tatung promotes and enriches Filipino cuisine by enabling—by means of teaching—Filipinos to cook food the way they are meant to be cooked using the suitable ingredients they can easily get from the market or their pantry.
“Simplicity is elegance because you remove what you do not need. And in so many recipes, if you remove what you do not need they’re even going to be better,” he emphasized.
Referring to one of the recipes in his latest and fourth cookbook, Simpol the Cookbook, he shared, “[I used] sweet chili sauce, oyster sauce, garlic, onion, sugar. If you taste it, para kang nasa (you’d feel like you’re in) Singapore, pero ang ingredients mo nasa bahay lang (but the ingredients can be found at home). That’s what we’re trying to do with Simpol, kain ka ng masarap pero tipid lang (you get to eat delicious food that’s affordable).”
Instead of starting out with much more expensive ingredients, Chef Tatung encourages beginner home cooks to master the cooking methods first.
“It’s not about how expensive your ingredients are, it’s really focusing on the methods, on the techniques,” he told Manila Standard, adding, “Kung masunog mo man ang (If you burn) tuyo, bangus, salmon, sea bass, pareho lang silang sunog (they’re all burnt). That means ‘di ka marunong magprito. So wag ka muna mag-sea bass, mag-practice ka muna sa galunggong (you don’t know how to fry fish yet. So don’t use sea bass, practice with galunggong first).”
Looking at his huge online fanbase (over 1 million fans and subscribers between Facebook and YouTube), Chef Tatung’s simple and practical approach to cooking—which he honed through the years as he even admitted to being “pretentious” when he was younger—is truly effective and perhaps timely in the current economic landscape.
Chef Tatung is extremely passionate about educating people. “I really want to be known more as an author, a teacher, and an advocate. Being a chef is just a stepping stone for me to be able to do what I want to do, to understand what I want to understand.”
In his latest cookbook, launched in partnership with NutriAsia and published by ABS-CBN Books, he strips the process down and makes cooking the 101 recipes (his personal favorites) included in the book as “simpol as A-B-C,” quite literally.
Each recipe in Simpol the Cookbook is written in a way that lets readers follow the method required per each set of ingredients—Set A procedure using Set A ingredients, and so on.
And to make the book interactive, each recipe has a corresponding QR code that redirects the readers to the cooking video of the dish.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.