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Revel In The Power Of Sour With These Dishes Flavored With Our Local Vinegars

The late, great food writer and scholar, Doreen G. Fernandez, called vinegar “the principal condiment” in Filipino gastronomy. Inspired by this, Chef Jam Melchor, a culinary advocate working through the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement and Slow Food Manila, tells the story of our heirloom vinegars through the following traditional recipes. “Each vinegar has its own distinct taste and character. Filipinos love the elevated asim that these natural vinegars provide,” he says.  


Atcharang Kamias (Kamias Pickles)


Filipinos love to pair pickles with grilled or fried meat and seafood. And it’s still the practice, especially in the probinsya, to pickle whatever produce is in season. Opinions can be divided about the kind of vinegars to use, since the level of sourness affects taste. The rule of thumb is: the longer the pickling, the better the taste.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1/4 kilo kamias
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sukang Iloko
  • 4 1/2 to 5 tablespoons sugar

1. Slice kamias diagonally.

2. In a bowl, add salt to the kamias. Let sit for 2 hours for kamias juice to come out.

3. After 2 hours, wash kamias. Soak it in water for a while so that it won’t be too salty. Add sukang Iloko and sugar. Mix well.

4. Keep in the refrigerator overnight to let it pickle.


Kinilaw na Lumyagan (Baby Squid Kinilaw)


Ubiquitous in the fishing villages of southern Mindanao, this dish is a perfect example of how Chef Jam works to promote local ingredients and cooking techniques. Lumyagan is a type of fresh baby squid, considered a delicacy of the area.

Serves 4

  • 1/2 kilo lumyagan (fresh baby squid)
  • soda water, for marinade
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 cup sukang hinalang
  • 2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 thumb-sized ginger, finely diced
  • 2 small bird’s eye chilies, minced
  • 1 cup diced ripe mangoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped wansuy, optional

1. Marinate baby squid overnight in soda water.

2. Drain squid and grill with salt and pepper. Let cool and set aside.

3. In a large non-reactive deep bowl, non-metal if possible, mix sukang hinalang, onions, ginger, and chilies. Add diced squid and mix all ingredients.

4. Add ground pepper with salt.

5. Add mangoes to balance the sweetness and sourness. Sprinkle with wansuy before serving.


Sisig Puso (Banana Blossoms Sisig)


This traditional Kapampangan dish is sometimes called Lagat Puso which references the cooking process. “It is nilaga sa suka, literally cooked in vinegar like kinilaw,” explains Chef Jam. The traditional technique involved sautéing in shrimp or pork fat, instead of cooking oil.

Serves 6 to 8

  • 2 banana hearts (Butuan variety), sliced?
  • 2 tablespoons salt, for rubbing?
  • 100 grams pork liempo, sliced thinly?
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil?
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced?
  • 1 onion, minced?
  • 100 grams shrimps, shelled and deveined?
  • 2 tablespoons sukang Paombong?
  • 1 chicken broth cube, dissolved in 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Peel and discard hard covering of banana heart (about 3 petals each). Slice the soft inner part of the banana blossoms, crosswise. Sprinkle with salt to remove sap. Set aside for about 10 to 15 minutes, then squeeze dry to get rid of the sap. Rinse with tap water, drain, and squeeze dry of excess water.

2. Fry pork in hot oil until brown in color. Set aside.?

3. In the same pan, sauté garlic, onions, and shrimps.

4. Stir in pork. Add sukang Paombong and dissolved chicken broth cube. Bring to a boil.

5. Add banana blossoms. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and ground black pepper.



A longer version of this article first appeared in FOOD Magazine, Issue 3, 2017

Recipes by Jam Melchor

Photos by Paul del Rosario

Styling by Pixie Rodrigo Sevill