Monday, April 30, 2012

Graduation Quick Cooking | Sinigang na Hipon sa Kamias

I left my carrot cake to cook on its own without my presence as Joseph and I need to hurry up and pick up Mamsi and Kuya at Mactan Cebu International Airport – they were my two guests who will grace my graduation day later on that day. It was supposedly the entourage of my entire family here in Cebu, but because UP Cebu changed in a last minute the graduation schedule, I can only afford to re-book the tickets of my mom and my eldest sibling. I was glad to see Mamsi back here in Cebu after five years, and kuya after three years when he prepared for his BAR exam. And the best thing that made me excited was their pasalubong straight from General Santos City, wrapped in a small box of styropor container. All fine-grade sashimi tuna, tuna belly and frozen prawns! What more you can expect from the Tuna capital of this country? The small box was more than enough for the two of us (me and Joseph).

As we drove down home, I was already thinking on what dish and how best to prepare the fresh pasalubong. I couldn’t think of anything but home, and the foods we crave long time ago: grilled tuna belly, some sinigang na hipon, and of course the kinilaw.

The graduation rite ended in time for dinner. We dine in Hukad, as I wanted my mamsi and kuya to try good Cebuano food. We made sure not to order anything seafoods as we will indulge later with their pasalubong.

And so I cooked Sinigang na Hipon when we got back home in my pad. I wanted to sip a warm, soupy concoction of shrimps, tomatoes, raddish and water spinach, a sinigang the way I like it. Because sourness is the heart of sinigang, I made sure never to use easy to cook artificial flavor mixes (I’m sad most of the sinigang offered in restaurants are artificially flavored, very acidic). There was a Kamias tree jutting out of the fence in my pad, and just like the old days, I got some to sour my sinigang.

Here’s how to prepare:

8-10 cups of water
1 -1 ½ cup whole kamias (or Iba in local dialect)
3 medium size onions, quartered
1 medium size onion, sliced (or can be replaced with leeks)
 Fish Sauce (or table salt) and pepper to taste
1 medium size raddish, sliced diagonally
1 bunch of kangkong (water spinach)
1 medium bowl of prawns
5 pieces siling mahaba (espada)

1. Boil water, add sliced onions, tomatoes and the souring fruit. Boil in high heat until kamias is tender. Squeezed some kamias to get your desired sourness Add more kamias and simmer should you want a high level of sourness. Simmer for 10 minutes until the sourness of tomatoes and flavor of onions are mixed evenly.

2. Put raddish and simmer for 5 minutes. Then the kangkong leaves and simmer for 1 minute. Add salt and pepper.

3. Add the shrimps and simmer for another 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the shrimps just turned orange in color. Make sure not to overcook the shrimps.

4. Add during the last minute the siling mahaba. Serve hot.

Other than Kamias, I always prefer Siningang sa Sampalok (Tamarind). Back at home, if there's abundant or in season Santol or Bayabas, we can have sinigang out of it. In Iloilo and some Negros places, Batuan is used as souring agent, a tree common only in the Visayas region.

Sinigang, according to Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan in their book Memories of Philippine Kitchens (p12, 44), among adobo (vinegar-tart stew), kinilaw (relative of ceviche) and kare-kare are universal to all regions of the country and considered authentic Filipino food. They are eaten in daily basis by all classes in society and made with ingredients that naturally occur in our environment. Doreen Fernandez, a noted food critic, author and columnist who wrote extensively about Philippine food ( considered sinigang the quintessential Filipino dish because it makes good use of the sour fruits that grow in the country (Memories of Philippine Kitchens, p45).

Here in Cebu, their “Tuwa” (short for "Tinuwa", Cebuano version for Tinola) is a bit sour because they add Kamias as the souring agent. Larang, a fish stew sinigang version of Cebuanos is sautéed first and simmered.

Note: Give your sinigang the respect they deserve, use only common fruits for souring, and not the artificial, MSG-laden one.

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