Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sinigang should be the national food of the Philippines

My friend and I were talking the other day about how there's so much potential for Filipino food to become as mainstream as Japanese, Indian or Italian. When you think of Japanese food, sushi and ramen immediately come to mind; Indian food, curry; and Italian dishes, pizza and pasta pop up.

How about Filipino?

There's really no one dish that we can immediately associate our cuisine to and in my humble opinion, it's largely because of the many influences that we've had over the years.

The Philippines has been influenced by many cultures. First, the Spaniards who colonized the country for more than 300 years, then, the Americans who established a military government in our land. Afterwards, the Japanese occupied the islands during World War II.

Much like our favorite dessert, halo-halo, our nation's background is a little bit of everything (Halo-halo literally translates to 'mix' in English... Side story: Even the infamous Anthony Bourdain tried this and loved it, check out this clip)

So, I thought long and hard about what one dish we can claim as truly Filipino. Of course, adobo is probably the first dish that you think of but, many other cultures can claim adobo. Pancit is also another favorite of ours, then again, it's not unique.

While doing my all important solo brainstorm, I received a text from Brian:

"Want to cook sinigang tomorrow?"


Ever since I introduced Brian to my all-time favorite Filipino sour soup--It's a tamarind based sour soup that's filled with pork and vegetables. It can be cooked with fish, but we love pork!--He has been requesting for this on a weekly basis. Being the proud Filipino that I am, I'm more than happy to give in to his request. I love introducing him to my culture.

Brian just gave me what could probably be the top contender for the national food of the Philippines title.

So yesterday, before heading over to Long Island, I bought the secret ingredient that makes sinigang awesome: Mamasita's Sinigang sa Sampalok Mix. I am very lucky that the Asian stores here sell this baby. There's no other brand being sold out here so, kudos to Mamasita for the awesome distribution strategy. Your competitors can learn a thing or two from you guys!

Mama Sita, you are the one.

I know, it looks like I am cooking for an entire village. Brian loves sinigang so much! Haha, kidding. His office mates have been curious about this dish that we always cook so I'm having him bring some for them for lunch! I am pretty sure they will love it!
Let's be honest. A lot of Filipinos are very sheltered and I am one of them. Prior to moving out of the country, the only times I stepped in the kitchen were when I wanted drinks or needed to heat something in the microwave. I had KFC, Jollibee and Chowking on speed dial and I used to believe that I had a closet that magically cleans my dirty clothes, iron them and neatly fold them.

I realized that I was living a dream and now that I'm independent from the magic kingdom, I have learned how to do my own laundry, shrank a couple of good clothes along the way and I've also acquired the cooking expertise thanks to and have the kitchen battle scars to prove it...I've cut myself while quartering tomatoes numerous times and burnt myself with oil for the love of bacon.

I've learned to really, really enjoy cooking and consider the kitchen my favorite corner.

The Miles corner at Rockville Center.
Though, I don't have my own kick-ass sinigang recipe, Brian and I love the Panlasang Pinoy version of it. Actually, it's the only version that I've ever tried. What can I say? I am a loyalist, baby.

Eggplants, string beans, spinach and taro make this Filipino dish oh-so healthy.

Sinigang is perfect for winter. We love drowning our rice in the soup and eating it in a bowl. Yummy!

The happy boy with his sinigang.
Whenever I cook this dish for him, he looks at me like I am the Queen of the world, Ms. Universe and the President all rolled in one. Now that the temperature is dropping, I am pretty sure that Brian would want to eat more sinigang and because it's also my favorite dish, I am more than happy to cook it whenever he wants to have it.

So, from today on, I am advocating for sinigang as the national dish of the Philippines! Are you with me?

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