Let’s take the classic suka or spiced vinegar. Admit it. It works with anything. Alright, maybe not everything, but it definitely works with anything deep fried or grilled – be it seafood or meat. The acidic taste perfectly blends with all the spices mixed into it to enhance the flavors of our favourite food. It is also known to take away the greasy after-taste and the feeling of umay. Suka is the ideal companion to pork barbecue, isaw, kwek-kwek, deep fried calamares, chicharon, pan fried shrimp–the list could go on. It is easy to find in supermarkets, ranging from different varieties from all over the country. It is even just as easy to make on your own by infusing it with different spices like garlic, bay leaves, siling labuyo, etc.
Another simple and deeply loved sawsawan would be patis or fish sauce with a squeeze of calamansi. Some people who enjoy a little heat would add in crushed chilli peppers to this dipping sauce. This usually accompanies meat and vegetables from bulalo and sinigang, grilled or pan-fried fish.
Toyo or soy sauce is another condiment whose presence is mandatory at every Filipino kitchen and dining table. Relishes such as tomatoes, onions, garlic, fresh mustard leaves, siling labuyo, and calamansi are a few examples of what is usually combined to the common condiments to make our own perfect sawsawan. For instance, the garlic combination goes best with lechon kawali; the siling labuyo combo is amazing with fried chicken; and the tomato and onions relish is a classic when eating anything inihaw.
While there are some who can live with eating green mangoes alone, others need to have a side of bagoong alamang or fermented shrimp paste to avoid scrunching up their face the whole time. Aside from green mangoes, bagoong alamang works wonders with kare-kare and even just rice alone. It’s much sweeter and thicker than bagoong monamon or fermented fish sauce. People from the northern part of the country enjoy this particular bagoong with sukang Iloko. It completes a simple meal of boiled vegetables and rice.
Sawsawans are a definite must to complete the dining experience whether at home or at commercial establishments. There is no such thing as a perfect sawsawan as each of it is unique just as every person’s palate. It all boils down to what suits the taste buds and if anyone tells you that you’ve put too much garlic in your vinegar, drop that person from your life because that is your own sawsawan and you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
Written by Daniela Regis and Illustrated by Frances de Guzman