Sira-sira store: Original Pinoy soup

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Friday, August 1, 2014


ALTHOUGH the Filipino is masalsa and masabaw year-round, sipping hot sabaw or soup is more rewarding when the skies are gray and the heavens weep. Poetry aside, rainy days demand something hot to restore man’s equilibrium.

It seems like we take our soup on autopilot, not minding the history behind a particular concoction.

Ossobuco is an Italian dish that literally means “bone (osso) with a hole (buco)” and not “bear (oso) with young coconut meat (buko).” That’s how my nephew translated this hearty stew.

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It may be prepared with broth or with tomato sauce added. Whichever method you use, the stew presents a wonderful solution to being chilled, well, to the bone.

In so saying, it calls to mind bulalo, a soup that also uses ossobuco. The pot with the boiling beef shanks are filled with corn on the cob, pechay and potatoes. Since Batangas is the cattle capital of the Philippines, many people say that this delicious soup originated from there. But potatoes are more associated with European cuisine, so maybe it is not the “original” Pinoy soup.

Bulalo wasn’t considered as truly Pinoy because of the many elements added to it, like whole peppercorns and onions, according to a survey made by I Juander.

Luckily for me I tuned in to I Juander on GMA News TV on the day the show discussed what is perceived as the original Filipino soup; a soup we can all claim as our native dish.

Sinigang wasn’t deemed the original Pinoy soup. Indeed, it has many similarities with Thailand’s tom yum or the din tai fung of Bangkok in terms or sourness.

Susan Enriquez and Cesar Apolinario, who host the show, found a recipe for sinigang sa murang pakwan. Farmers often find unripe pakwan in their watermelon field and rather than throw them away, they have found that the semi-sour (or semi-sweet, if you are an optimist) white flesh can substitute for iba and tamarind.

The unripe watermelon is sliced into chunks and added to the cooking pot. According to those who have tasted the soup, the fruit gives the base a sweetish hint that balances the subtle sourness of the melon.

Tinolang manok, a popular cold-buffer, was also considered as maybe original Pinoy soup. But again because of the many elements in it—potatoes, peppercorns, cabbage—I Juander deemed it not original enough. This, despite the fact that national hero Jose Rizal had a favorite recipe for this soup.

How Pinoy can you get with lugaw? Not so. 1 - 2 The Chinese have perfected the congee and there are now many versions on how to make this hot and filling soup.

The I Juander team had to take a trip down south, to Cebu to be particular about it.

There they met someone who prepared a large pot of tinuwa. It was prepared the traditional way: tomatoes and green onions tossed into a deep soup pot and boiled to render the flavors. Then the fish was added; don’t stir, according to the chef who made the soup, as this will spoil texture of the fish. Just before serving, a cup of sorted kamunggay leaves was added.

I Juander honored Cebu’s tinuwa as “The Original Pinoy Soup.” This is a wonderful truth because native cooking uses only what’s found in the surroundings. The most common elements are tomatoes, green onions and ginger.

With this conclusion from the show hosts, I rest my tired fingers. Oh, not before I sip the semi-sweet tinuwa—the sweetness coming from the fresh fish—with its hint of sourness from the ripe tomatoes, and the fragrance from the green onions. It’s good to have something original inside my tummy.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 02, 2014.

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