By JAMES TABABA
Sinigang is a famous sour Filipino stew or soup usually served with rice. Sinigang may be a candidate to be the national dish of the Philippines because Filipinos undeniably love it as their comfort food.
Sinigang is prepared by simmering tomatoes and onions with meat–pork, beef, or seafood–and different vegetables like gabi, kangkong, long chili, and radish. Traditionally, the sourness of the dish comes from tamarind. However, tamarind is a seasonal crop and is not available year-round. That is why, in some regions, other souring ingredients or “pampaasim” are used before resorting to artificial flavorings. The more common alternatives of tamarind are kamias, mango, calamansi, guava, bilimbi, and santol. Aside from these, here are the lesser-known indigenous plants used as pampaasim in sinigang:
Batuan (Garcinia binucao)
Batuan is an indigenous tree from the Visayas and Mindanao regions, growing abundantly in the forests of Panay and Negros. The batuan tree can grow up to 20 meters and bears green round fruit. Batuan fruits have a sour taste and are used in cooking dishes like kansi in Bacolod City and of course, sinigang.READ: How to grow batuan, the indigenous Visayan fruit
Libas (Spondias pinnata)
Libas is an indigenous tree that can grow up to 25 meters and is usually planted as a shade tree. It is widely distributed throughout the country.Its leaves are edible and can be used as a souring ingredient in sinigang and other stews. In Bicol, fresh leaves are used as filling in a fish dish called sinanglay while its dried young leaves can be used for laing.
Katmon (Dillenia philippinensis)
Katmon is a medium-sized tree that can grow up to 17 meters high. It is usually planted as a shade or an ornamental tree in parks. It bears globose to ovoid yellow-green fruits that taste sour. Katmon fruits can be eaten raw or used as souring ingredients in dishes.Alibangbang (Bauhinia malabarica)
Alibangbang got its name from the Ilokano term alibangbang, which means butterfly because its leaves resemble the wings of butterflies. It is a small tree that can grow up to 15 meters. Alibangbang trees are abundant in the Ilocos, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Rizal, and Laguna.The leaves are edible and have a sour taste. It is a culinary ingredient in the Ilocos region.
Rattan (Calamus manillensis)
Rattan or yantok is a vine that is popularly known as a handicraft material mostly used for furniture, though some ratan species bear a scaly oval fruit that is edible. It can be eaten raw but is oftentimes used as a souring ingredient in dishes. These fruits are only available from August to October.Rattan can grow to 20 meters or more in length. The edible rattan species Calamus manillensis prefers medium to high altitudes and is abundant in Benguet, Ifugao, and Mountain Province.