Kwento Kwentuhan

Filipino Comfort Food

Liza of “A Maui Blog”

What is your favorite Pinoy Comfort Food? With the winter season bringing a colder weather than usual on Maui and with flu being common this time of the year, it seems this is also the season we crave for comfort food.

Before we continue talking story about comfort food, let us clarify what we mean by it. Comfort Food is food that provides nostalgic or sentimental value to someone. The nostalgia may be specific to an individual or it may apply to a specific culture (in our case, it’s the Filipino culture). When we call something comfort food, we mean it is enjoyable to eat and makes us feel happier.

Here are five of the many Comfort Foods that we Pinoys love:

1. Nilaga

Sometimes it’s Nilagang Baka (beef) and sometimes it’s Nilagang Baboy (pork). Whatever the choice of meat, this dish’s main feature is its clear broth (we call the soup sabaw). The term nilaga translates to “boiled” in English. As the name suggests, this Philippine dish is prepared by boiling meat (pork or beef) and vegetables (potatoes, corn, Filipino bok choy or pechay, and yard long beans or sitaw).

Shrimp Sinigang
Photo courtesy Tante’s Island Cuisine

2. Sinigang

It can be Sinigang na Hipon (shrimp), Manok (chicken), Baboy (pork), Baka (beef) or Isda (fish). Sinigang is a Filipino soup or stew characterized by its sour and savory taste most often associated with tamarind. A variety of vegetables (green beans, radish, and eggplant) can be added including green leafy vegetables such as kangkong.

3. Tinolang Manok

Tinola is a Filipino chicken soup very similar to what we call here on Maui, Hawai‘i, as chicken papaya. Traditionally, this dish is cooked with chicken, wedges of green papaya, and leaves of the siling labuyo chili pepper in broth flavored with ginger, onions and fish sauce. Sometimes the leaves of pepper are replaced with Malunggay leaves or leaves of bitter melon. And when green papaya is not available, sayote is used.

4. Sotanghon

This noodle soup is very similar to what we know here on Maui as chicken long rice soup. Sotanghon noodles are mung bean thread noodles. As the name suggests, this type of noodle is made from mung bean flour and water. They appear white when sold in their dried form. The noodles will turn clear once they are cooked. Sometimes they are labeled as Chinese vermicelli. One of my friends call it “slimy noodles” as it does tend to be slimy when it’s cooked. It is usually cooked with chicken broth and shredded chicken with chopped green onions added. This soup is a local favorite and is often served at a lū‘au.

Fish Sinigang
Photo: Liza Pierce

5. Arroz Caldo

Sometimes this soup is called Lugaw. It is a Filipino rice and chicken gruel heavily infused with ginger and garnished with toasted garlic, scallions and black pepper. It is usually served with calamansi or fish sauce as condiments as well as a hard-boiled egg.

6. Ginisang Munggo

Ginisang munggo is a Filipino savory mung bean soup. It is made with mung beans, garlic, tomatoes, onions, various vegetables and patis. It is cooked with pork, tinapa, daing, or other seafood and meat. It is also commonly garnished with chicharon. The name means stir-fried mung bean even though it is a soup. Sometimes we add green leafy vegetables such as Malunggay or bitter melon leaves. When there are no bitter melon leaves, then some just add a chopped bitter melon. So yummy.
There are many, many more Pinoy Comfort Foods but I’ll stop at six. Take note I have mentioned mostly soup varieties that are more savory than sweet. There are also many sweet comfort foods but we’ll save that discussion for another day. I hope you enjoy this column and you are now inspired to cook one of these Filipino Foods. Recipes are found on the internet. Happy New Year!

Liza Pierce of A Maui Blog is an Interactive Media Strategist in Hawai‘i. She started blogging in 2006 and she loves talking story online and spreading aloha around the world. She’s lived on Maui since 1994 and considers Maui her home. A wife, a mother, a friend…and so much more. She loves Jesus; Maui Sunsets Catcher; Crazy About Rainbow; End Alzheimer’s Advocate. Her life is full and exciting here on the island of Maui.

Liza is currently the Interactive Media Strategist with Wailea Realty Corp.