‘Saw­sawan’: Dip it good

The Philippine Star - - FOOD & LEISURE -

At­ten­dant to any Filipino meal is the saw­sawan, or dip­ping sauce, whether at home or in com­mer­cial es­tab­lish­ments. The late Doreen Fer­nan­dez as­cribes it to a de­sire to fine-tune the taste of the dish to the pref­er­ence of the in­di­vid­ual diner, un­like in western cook­ing, par­tic­u­larly French, where there’s the ego of the chef to con­tend with (thank God for our great un­named


Most com­mon saw­sawan on the Pi­noy din­ing ta­ble are patis (fish sauce), toyo (soy sauce), ba­goong ala­mang (salt-fer­mented shrimp paste) and ba­goong isda (salt-fer­mented fish), or any of

At­ten­dant to any Filipino meal is the saw­sawan, or dip­ping sauce, a de­sire to fine-tune the taste of the dish.

the four mixed with kala­mansi or vine­gar and spiked with sil­ing labuyo or bird’s-eye chili. Ba­nana ketchup and sweet liver sauce are fast be­com­ing sta­ples as well.

Also pop­u­lar are the rel­ishes or side dishes with any of the fol­low­ing com­bi­na­tions: chopped tomato, onion, green mango, salted egg, grilled egg­plant, fresh mus­tard leaves, kamias, radish, cilantro, lató or sea­weed of var­i­ous kinds, and chili, as well as at­sara of pick­led green pa­paya and other veg­gies, burong manga (pick­led mango), and burong isda (salt-fer­mented rice with fish). These quasi-sal­ads go well with any fried or grilled meat and fish.

Our pen­chant for adding saw­sawan is a bal­anc­ing act of tem­per­ing some­thing salty with some­thing sour (adding kala­mansi, kamias or suka to pancit), or vice versa (adding patis to sini­gang); of some­thing sweet with some­thing salty (to­cino with ba­goong ala­mang, salted egg and tomato,

pak­siw na le­chon with patis), or vice versa (chicken/pork adobo with at­sara, ripe mango or ba­nana).

Try serv­ing a sim­ple fried or grilled ban­gus to 10 Filipinos shar­ing a meal to­gether. Chances are, their re­spec­tive choice of saw­sawan will be­tray what corner of the ar­chi­pel­ago they come from. Peo­ple from up north will most likely have ba­goong

isda (salt-fer­mented fish paste) and sukang Iloko to go with it; a Pam­pango wouldn’t have it any other way than his buro or fer­mented rice and fresh mus­tard leaves; a Taga­log with ba­goong ala­mang (salt-fer­mented shrimp paste) or patis (fish sauce) mixed with kala­mansi; a Bi­colano with Bi­col Ex­press or balao, lightly salted shrimp fries; an Ilonggo with his ever-present, all-around sina­mak; while a Ce­buano would fa­vor green tomato over the ripe one, mixed with toyo and onions. What’s your plea­sure?

So, next time you eat out, feel free to con­coct your own saw­sawan. No one will storm out of the kitchen and kick you out. Af­ter all, you’re the one eat­ing and you’re foot­ing the bill. It’s truly more fun eat­ing in the Philip­pines!

The co­cido Madrileño known to the rest of the culi­nary world is the Span­ish boiled meat din­ner. But here­abouts, co­cido, a.k.a. puchero, is in­di­g­e­nized in the man­ner it is served. The orig­i­nal is a three-course meal taken sep­a­rately: soup with fideos or...

Sour notes: Suka or vine­gars are made from the fer­mented nec­tar, sap, or juices of cer­tain plants or fruits, and as such, spe­cific vine­gars are fa­vored in par­tic­u­lar regions, de­pend­ing on what it is made from, usu­ally a plant that grows abun­dantly in...

What would the Ilo­cos em­panada be with­out the sukang Iloko? It is made from freshly pressed sug­ar­cane juice that fer­ments into a toddy called basi, and is in­fused with sa­mak or tan­bark, im­part­ing a bit­ter­sweet flavor and deep am­ber color.

The time is ripe. Now is the sea­son for these thumb-size man­goes called paho/pajo. They grow ex­clu­sively in Batan­gas and have a very short fruit­ing sea­son (March -April), cost­ing P10 a piece when they first ap­pear. They taste very sour and bit­ter when...

Iloilo’s guinamos or salt-fer­mented shrimp paste as sold in the Jaro Huwebe­sesan (Thurs­days only) farm­ers’ mar­ket. Guinamos can also be made with other seafood like fish and its guts, oys­ters, mus­sels, etc., sim­i­lar but quite dif­fer­ent from the...

A quin­tes­sen­tial Pam­pango thing with balo-balo (a.k.a. burong hipon) or fer­mented rice with shrimp as the sauce of choice for any grilled or fried fresh­wa­ter fish (i.e. cat­fish, ban­gus, mud­fish and tilapia) and the req­ui­site fresh mus­tasa leaf, boiled...

Amaz­ing grace be­fore a meal: Even be­fore the main ulam or viand is served, a Pi­noy is faced with a myr­iad of saw­sawan that could liven up his meal. Isn’t our saw­sawan more fun than the stan­dard salt and pep­per?

Quin­tes­sen­tial Ilo­cano pair­ing of bag­net or pork belly crack­lings served with a req­ui­site KBL rel­ish, short for kama­tis, ba­goong isda and la­suna (shal­lot or red onion). Sitio Reme­dios, Currimao, Ilo­cos Norte.

Text and pho­tos by CLAUDE TAYAG

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