Why, Indeed, Sinigang?

Why not, among the many other dishes that tickle the Filipino palate, adobo or kare kare or menudo or paksiw, for instance – what is it about this miraculous, magical mystery bowl of sour soup that makes every homesick FIlipino anywhere in the world comforted and cradled into a deep, satisfying lull of the heart, the taste buds and stomach?

Dear Sinigang na Hipon (Shrimp Sinigang),

Let your sour, savoury goodness flood my taste buds and entice consumption of multiple bowls of rice, while those delicious shrimp heads drip broth down my arms.

Photo via Gregory Perez on Flickr.

Sinigang in its own special way manages to elicit so many visceral responses from people who have grown up eating it. Every culture has them – stews, soups, curries, pies that just make them long for home and the comfort of enjoying a plate of food as unpretentiously and as honestly as possible. That’s how most food seems to be enjoyed, and it’s a big contributor to why I found eating alone such a challenge; with all the things I’ve learned since moving out of my parents’ home, the one thing I’ve certainly realized (and very much have taken for granted) is having good people to sit around and chat with while you’re eating. People wax poetic about this, online and in great literature, but to sit down and truly realize a full year after having noticed this becoming a real issue – I struggle to put into words what I really want to say. Simply put, I enjoy cooking at home, and turning ingredients into delicious food through the acts of cutting and chopping, applying heat and having an understanding of what goes on in the pan as you’re browning onions and meat. I enjoy cooking for the people I like because I like seeing their reactions, good or bad, and it becomes a test (with a slight amount of pressure) of how I want to tackle a recipe another time. That could perhaps be why I’m rediscovering a love for cooking again – at this particular time, I like having little challenges, and it’s a test for myself to see how much I can push those skills moving forward, before I give up in frustration.

This contributes to why I’m apprehensive about sinigang – I love it greatly, with its deep, mellow sourness and intoxicating aroma. It’s the perfect bowl of soup on a cold winter’s night, steam rising from the bowl, vegetables tender but ready to give way to a gentle crush with your fork (I’m looking at you, gabi) that I salivate just thinking about it. But for all my love for sinigang, it kills me that I find myself in fear attempting a recipe from scratch. What if it will never be as good as the pre-packaged sinigang mix that I grew up eating and loving? Will it fail because I insist on using ingredients that are hard to find in Ontario (particularly those souring agents – there is no camias, or guava, or singkamas or siniguelas that Doreen writes about near me!).

Am I overthinking this? Should I just go ahead and do a basic recipe soured with green tomatoes (and where the hell do I find those?)

I am very much looking forward to sharing a bowl with the boys, who I have grown to love eating with over the past year. It makes a big difference.

Leave a Reply