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Savor the real 'asim' of sinigang |

Modern Living

Savor the real 'asim' of sinigang

OOH LA LAI - Lai S. Reyes -

For Filipinos, nothing beats the stimulating taste of a bowl of steaming sinigang. We’ve come to rely on sinigang’s sour goodness to uplift and soothe our spirits.

The lightly boiled, sour broth makes for a delightful dish when served with steamed rice and crunchy fried tuyo on the side, which, for me, is a better alternative to patis (fish sauce).

While there’s no written document that states how sinigang originated, it is believed that the dish is largely indigenous as it was already served even before the Spaniards came to the Philippines. In fact, war veteran Milagros Enriquez included sinigang, as one of the dishes during the indigenous period in her book Kasaysayan ng Kalutong Bayan. The dish is delicious enough to have earned its place in Pinoy literature with mentions in Dr. Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere.

Well, whoever invented sinigang definitely had a palate for good food. The soup has a complex taste — sour, sweet, and spicy at the same time — that suits the Filipino palate.

Just like adobo, Pinoys have different ways of preparing sinigang. There’s sinigang na baboy,sinigang na baka, sinigang na isda and sinigang na hipon — even sinigang cooked with fruits like pineapple, santol, even strawberries. And to make it more flavorful, some use the second washing of uncooked rice for the broth.

Fishy tale: Matutina’s sinigang na Malaga is a must-try.

Tagalogs prefer guava as a souring agent. Its sweet and sour taste makes the broth savory and creamy at the same timeI’ve tried the bulanglang bangus belly, which is so delish it’s now one of my fave dishes. Bulanglang, the Kapampangan’s version of sinigang, is flavored with crushed guava , gabi and kangkong leaves. With every spoonful of the not-so-thick broth, you’ll savor the juice of real guava and the freshness of the fish.

The Tagalogs also use a lot of souring agents such as sampaloc, calamansi, kamias, and manggang hilaw , which in earlier times, could easily be found in their backyards. However, not all regions use bayabas for the broth. In fact, sinigang sa bayabas is something most Visayans abhor. They simply don’t like the smell of guava, which reminds them of body odor.

A common variation of chicken sinigang is called sinampalukang manok. Sinampalukan is distinguished by its use of shredded tamarind leaves. Unlike other sinigang varieties where you just put everything to a boil, sinampalukan is cooked by sautéing ginger, garlic, onions, and chicken. Ginger is believed to reduce the stench (lansa) of the chicken. Sinampalukan is sometimes prepared to be a little spicier than other sinigang dishes. 

Sinigang is arguably the most Filipino of all our dishes. While each region has its own unique dish, there is almost always a version of sinigang in practically every region, province, island or town. With nearly every Pinoy restaurant in this archipelago serving sinigang, it is indeed a very unifying factor in Filipino life.

Sooo Pinoy Sinigang

Sinigang is the featured dish of the “Sooo Pinoy” movement of Unilever Food Solutions and The Philippine STAR this rainy month of June.

A movement that educates people on the rich and flavorful history of Pinoy cuisine, Unilever Food Solutions’ “Sooo Pinoy” campaign is also intended to give diners a more meaningful appreciation of Pinoy food even when they dine out by identifying 10 of the best Pinoy restaurants through online voting. Needless to say, sinigang was selected by a panel of industry experts, which consists of chefs, food critics, and bloggers as the Dish of Month for June.

Demonstrating how much Pinoys love food, the Sooo Pinoy Facebook page has garnered thousands of members in barely two months. The site has been inundated with trivia and reviews about Pinoy dishes like Sinigang.

Sooo Pinoy fans share how sinigang can be cooked using fruits like strawberries or pineapples or green mangoes even santol as souring agents. The strawberry sinigang in particular makes use of the fruit for added flavor and is enhanced by tomatoes and Knorr Tamarind Soup Base for that extra tangy taste.

Shrimply delish: Souring agents like sampaloc and kamias are best for sinigang na hipon.

In Pagsanjan, Laguna, there is a version of sinigang sans the vegetables but instead uses hefty amounts of the santol as souring ingredient.

Another Facebook fan shared how, in Angono, Rizal, there is a delicious sinigang na isda, which is flavored by using miso (traditional Japanese seasoning), complemented by mustard greens, and served with balaw-balaw, a relish of burong hipon.

A Soup-Er Dish

However you cook it, the secret to the best sinigang is to make the broth as sour as possible by using a lot of whatever souring agent you have. You can balance the sourness of the broth later by using patis instead of salt while cooking or as a sawsawan with chopped siling labuyo.

The next step is to determine whether to serve sinigang as the main dish or simply as a soup. If you intend to have it as a soup (meaning you have another dish for the main course), then make the broth as flavorful as you can by using Knorr Broth. If it’s for the main dish, opt for meatier cuts of beef or pork. Otherwise, you’ll be practically serving rice with broth and veggies with very little meat.

Lastly, sinigang should always be served hot!

Let’s Feast To That

But since not all of us have the luxury of time to whip up this comfort Pinoy food, Unilever Food Solutions went out of its way to come up with a list of the best restaurants in Metro Manila that serve the best sinigang: Congo Grille in QC; Matutina’s in Pangasinan; Rose and Grace Restaurant in Batangas; Antonio’s Grill in Tagaytay City; Chika-an sa Cebu Restaurant in SM City Cebu; Sentro in Greenbelt 3, Makati City; Fely J’s Kitchen in Greenbelt 5, Makati City; KKK Restaurant, SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City; Café Juanita in Bo. Kapitolyo, Pasig City; and Max’s Restaurant (these were sinigang winners of last year, it has to be said that these restaurants were deemed as the ones that serve the best sinigang in the 2010 campaign)

Dine in at these restaurants and tell us on Facebook which you think offers the most flavorful sinigang.

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To vote, visit the Sooo Pinoy fan page at Pinoy. The winning resto will be published next month in the Lifestyle Section of The Philippine STAR. Also, keep on reading STAR for more delicious updates on the campaign.

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