December 20, 2017
Maggi: The Flavor of My Childhood
from Chef Alex Dino
I was born and raised in Manila, Philippines, and for as long as I can remember that bottle of Maggi Seasoning with the yellow and red label was always a part of our meals.
We were a poor family; we didn’t have a lot. Sometimes the only thing we had on the table was rice and Maggi , and that’s what we’d have for dinner—rice and Maggi and a little bit of sabaw (pork or chicken stock). Maggi was part of our daily life. Nothing elegant or fancy or sophisticated, just a straight shot of umami. That’s the flavor of my childhood.
I still always want that flavor. It’s very personal to me and I’ll always crave it.
Sometimes I pinch myself to realize how far I’ve come in my life. I came to the United States with my family when I was in my early 20s, and now I work for the company that introduced Maggi Seasoning to the United States. I didn’t even realize that when I first interviewed here, but Maggi was in the market basket that I was given for my cooking demo and practical exam. I saw it and I said, “Thank you, Lord.” And then I asked if I could take it home—that’s how emotional my response to seeing it was. I still have that bottle.
My mom ran a small restaurant in the Philippines and I used to go the market with her to shop every day, and that’s how I first learned to cook. We always used Maggi , and I still find it so important to flavor and to cooking, and to pleasing customers. It’s much more than just a condiment. To me it’s a meal. Now that I work at Minor’s and Nestle Professional, I get to do some really cool things with Maggi . I made a chicken and winter melon appetizer with micro-cilantro and scallions, garnished with Maggi caviar—pearls made with Maggi Seasoning and agar-agar. You eat it with a shot of lemongrass broth to complete the flavor experience. That would be great for catering.
Maggi is also wonderful in the ramen broth, with a poached quail egg added for richness. You can use it in the liquid for steaming rice. It’s great as a flavor enhancement for stuffed shrimp.
Compared to when I was growing up, we have everything. But we still have Maggi. Sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy—why do I put Maggi on pizza? For me, pizza needs something; cheese is not enough. Maggi is a staple in my kitchen, part of a long tradition that’s almost like a partnership.