In Filipino culture, food often serves as a source of comfort and nostalgia. Many of us associate food with childhood memories and home cooking. This is why we refer to certain dishes as “comfort food.” For instance, a spoonful of sour sinigang can transport you to a particular place, evoke a memory of a person, or stir up certain emotions.

Personally, I have a strong affinity for sour food. Among the five basic tastes, sour is my favorite. While sweet is indulgent and spicy is invigorating, sour is simply exhilarating. It makes your mouth water and your taste buds come alive. Sour is synonymous with freshness, brightness, desire, and energy.

This love of sour is likely due to cultural influences. Many Filipino dishes rely on a souring agent as a key ingredient, such as vinegar for adobo, sampalok for sinigang, and kamias for paksiw.

Renowned Filipino food historian Doreen Fernandez considered sinigang to be the “most representative of Filipino taste.” This means that it is a dish that most of us can agree on. Sinigang is a simple soup made of boiled vegetables and a protein of your choice (pork, beef, fish, or shrimp) mixed with a souring agent. There is no definitive recipe or strict method to follow.

When it comes to sinigang, only two cardinal rules apply: First, the dish is determined by the availability and freshness of its ingredients. Second, the level of sourness depends on personal preference. Unlike adobo, where debates often center around its sweetness or the balance of saltiness, sinigang only requires sourness. Even in restaurants, waiters may ask if the sourness is “to your liking” and provide condiments accordingly. Sinigang aims only to please your palate.

Sinigang is an undemanding dish that offers high rewards for little effort. Even a novice cook can simply throw all the ingredients in a pot and produce a decent meal. It falls perfectly at the intersection of low effort and high reward.

My mother used to operate a canteen, and while she was not the best cook, she was pretty good. Her sinigang recipe was simple: boil the pork or protein of your choice, add vegetables, and pour in the sinigang mix to taste. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer.

While her recipe is not particularly unique, it’s the sinigang I grew up with. It was likely the same sinigang her own mother taught her. It’ll remind me of the years I can never get back. But it will also probably be the sinigang I’ll make for my partner and his family—my new family. And if we ever get there, it might even be the sinigang I’ll pass on to our children.

*** Romar Miranda is a former copy editor and newswriter of Palawan News. He shares thoughts about politics, social media, travel, environment, food, entertainment, current events, and other pop culture references. Views are his own and do not reflect the views of his employers or affiliations.