Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sawsawan!

If everyone had the same taste...


...there would only be one flavor.

Sometimes, I get homesick for loud brownfolk. Homesick for a world where aunties arrive, competing for loudest entrance to a room. A world where the dining room seems to tilt as one more pot of pancit noodles or another platter of plantain fritters is added to the table.

(we get excited about karaoke; we are, afterall, ASIAN)

When I can't fly back home to my NY, I head straight down to SoCal where my "California" cousins have been calling San Diego home for over 30 years. Of course, when we get together, there is plenty of eating going on. Witness the edible carnage at a lazy Sunday afternoon bbq in Temecula...



(we get excited about meat marbling, too)

But, for the brown and down, meat—beef, fish or pig!—is not officially eaten in Filipino homes until a bowl of sawsawan is prepared. Loaded with salt, tang and kick, the sawsawan is essentially a condiment. Yet, so much more. Think of it as a dipping sauce that makes use of all those tiny bowls that come with a full dinnerware set. And, you thought those were for ice cream! Well, think again.

(this was an enormous bowl of sawsawan made by my cousin's husband who does the equivalent of "keeping kosher" by "preserving pinoy." Romel's sawsawan is composed of chopped fresh tomato, white onion, jalapeƱos—seeds included, pickled peppers, probably a couple whole garlic cloves, lemon juice, vinegar and soy sauce.)

Sawsawan, usually a "sour accompaniment," is delicious with any grilled, broiled, baked or fried meat. It can be as simple as a bowl of patis. Or, a side of soy sauce, calamansi juice and a few dry red chilies. How 'bout a small dish of bagoong with chopped green mangoes?


With warm, steamed white rice and a meat of choice, sawsawan makes a meal more personal. Perhaps, you're partaking in a host family's favorite sawsawan. Maybe, your little dipping bowl transports a solitary meal to a place called Home. If you want to get REAL, eat with your hands*: Squish together mounds of meat and rice, dip and enjoy. A friend once wrote that her perfect lover would relish the scent of patis on her fingers and seek out her vinegar kiss.

Sawsawan. Flavor. Try it.


(it's guaranteed to empty your rice pot!)

*Kamayan: "Eat with your hands"

6 comments:

Culinary Coach Caspar said...

Whaddap Sistah ?
Gotta try me some of THAT !
I grew up in The Netherlands on Indo-food (indonesian).
I likes to try me some Philipino !

Love,
Caspar

Anonymous said...

Mmmm, that looks good!
I think I'm gonna have to try this one. Always looking for ways to spice up rice and meat!

~Anika

Da Hubby said...

I think everyone should have a sawsawan story. I first encountered it at SBGs' parent's house. My comment was, 'Where is the sauce? How can I eat all this rice by itself?". Then they pull out the sawsawan, andf I pour it over rice, and suddenly I munching down a whole plate of rice! Whenever I go to a Filipino restaurant, I have to get it complete with red onioms and jalapenos. Maybe my wife will make me some this week?

kimmidi212 said...

Ahhh now you have me missing my brown folk and patis. Every now and then I will make a traditional Filipino meal. While my Italian American husband does not appreciate my love of patis and bagoong, my children too. Racially mixed like their mama but he true Filipino always comes out when it comes to culinary flavors! That is why a large bottle of patis resides in my pantry at all times. That is why fried pork rinds can't be served without vinegar with crushed garlic and hot peppers. And while I'm too busy teaching my children the meaning of good table manners, I will forever miss the days of watching my father being "real" at the dinner table and eating with his hands!

Anonymous said...

One thing about living in New York is that one has the opportunity to try all sorts of foods. Sawsawan with a dash of crushed pepper goes well with patties, and also with garlic fried rice and prawns. Yummy!!!

wenatplay said...

Sawsawan! Funny - it has always sounded to me like a greeting that would be yelled to an old friend. Appropriate I guess since sampling some sawsawan is like coming home to one. Spicybrowngirl, I HAVE to admit that your reference to eating with your hands brought me HOME. I LOVE sticky white rice and ate with my fingers til I was…well, way too old to be doing so. There’s something about making little teepees of rice in your fingers and eating it that way that makes a meal so much more fun and tasty. And have to say I LOL when I read this: “Sometimes, I get homesick for loud brownfolk. Homesick for a world where aunties arrive, competing for loudest entrance to a room. A world where the dining room seems to tilt as one more pot of pancit noodles or another platter of plantain fritters is added to the table.” This brings back memories of birthday parties with tables OVERLOADED with food and rooms OVECROWDED with friends and relatives making funny memories for decades to come. All that said, I will be trying your Romel’s sawsawan recipe myself with some good old sticky white rice. Thanks for sharing.