condiment / spice dip / sauce
Sukang Maanghang (Highly-spiced Filipino Native Vinegar)Wednesday, June 18, 2014Enz F
Filipinos are lovers of sawsawang suka or vinegar dipping sauce. This side meal concoction is almost as omnipresent as our staple rice since it complements well a number of our Filipino delicacies. It is like an imaginary syllable affixed to every Filipino names. Take down the treasured suka (vinegar) and you are taking away a very important piece of ourselves – our source of pride being a Filipino.
There is a famous homegrown fast food chain in the Philippines that competes in the likes of McDonald’s, KFC and Wendy’s as this chain has not only become popular because of its on-the-go American meals but it has also captured the Filipino palate by serving Filipino-inspired dishes. The company, in fact, owes much of its success to the Filipinos who patronize their pancit palabok (garnished rice noodles), lumpiang shanghai (fried spring rolls) and their menu top-hitters like beef tapa (processed meat of beef), longganisa (sausages) and daing na bangus (marinated fillet of milkfish), which would never be ever so greater without the most prized vinegar sauce. I was not surprised that when the company, for whatever reasons (maybe for cost-cutting), decided to phase out the vinegar in their menu just a couple of months ago, a clamor to boycott the giant food chain became a resounding sign of people’s protest as the removal of this well-love side concoction is tantamount to deliberately stepping on a Juan dela Cruz’s toes who could not live on tapa and longganisa alone. This vinegar saga came into fruition when the company’s VP-marketing issued a memo to all its franchises, immediately bringing back the compulsory vinegar dipping sauce in the menu. The management came to realize the possible impact of this drastic change not only on their sales but also on their well-established name. Indeed, a clear manifestation to never strip off the dignity of your consumers as they might elevate you to success the same way as they might have caused your own downfall.
If my dad is still living up to this day, he might be one of the people who would have picketed in front of this commercial giant and summoned for the return of this all time favorite vinegar sauce. To give you a clue, he loved sukang sawsawan as much as he loved his morning cup of coffee. My being sucker for vinegar and anything tangy was also partly because of him. Our dining table would never be complete without soy sauce blended with a dash of calamansi lime juice or a saucer half-filled with Sukang Maanghang on the side. Dad loved to steep chilies and spices on the sauce that he would always keep a large bottle filled with this most loved condiment. He would cap the bottle with a cork and let the sauce sit for a couple of days or so to intensify the spiciness and to let all the strong flavors come out. When all the vinegar juice is used up, the remnants of the chilies and all the spices which have been fermented through prolonged soaking would never be spared. They would still be perfect as toppings for his fried tilapia or a just quick viand for him to munch on.
When my brother visited Ilocos and brought me some sukang Iloko, I was so thrilled to make them into sukang maanghang. It is very seldom that I get my hand of this native sugar cane vinegar indigenous only in this northern Philippine province – considering it being 8 to 10 hours away (travel by land) from my home in Metro Manila. I could not trust the ones being sold in Manila stores as some would claim to be authentic but taste like some sort of alcohol or methanol. It is very easy to distinguish the taste from what is genuine and what is not, and the painful part of returning the opened bottle of the “supposedly” authentic vinegar to the store is simply awful and useless. Therefore, it has become a habit that everytime we go for a vacation in the province, we always take home a bottle or two of this sukang Iloko.
This spiced version of Ilocos vinegar is quite similar to the "sinamak" of the Iloilo province in the Visayas which is also infused with assorted spices. It is a suitable condiment to dried salted fish, chicharon (cracklings) and other fried and grilled dishes. It is also a perfect partner for empanadang Ilocos, a Spanish-influenced meat and vegetable filled pastry also famous in the province of Ilocos which I will be cooking in the coming days.
Sukang Maanghang (Highly-spiced Filipino Native Vinegar)
- 500 mL sukang Iloko (sugar cane vinegar native to Ilocos Region, Philippines)
- 15 pcs. red Thai chilies
- 8 pcs. long green chilies or chili picante
- 1 whole head garlic, peeled
- 1 thumb-sized ginger, peeled
- 1 tbsp. whole peppercorns
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, salt and sugar. Bring to a light simmer and mix until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Set aside to cool a bit.
- Thoroughly wash the chilies and cut the stems. Finely chop 3 pieces of red Thai chilies and 3 pieces of green chilies. Place the chopped chilies inside a bottle resealable by a cork stopper. Prick all the remaining chilies with a fork or tip of the knife before putting them inside the bottle.
- Slice the ginger into strips and press the garlic cloves with the side of the knife to lightly crush allowing the flavors to come out. Put them inside the bottle
- Coarsely pound half of the peppercorns. Put them inside the bottle along with the remaining whole peppercorns. Shake the bottle to mix all the spices.
- Fit a funnel in the mouth of the bottle and pour the warm (not hot) vinegar. Allow to completely cool at room temperature and seal the bottle with the cork.
- Steep for at least 3 days before using. Can be stored inside the fridge for several months. The flavor and spiciness of the vinegar intensifies the longer it is kept.
TIPS FROM ENZ:
- You may use any type of cooking vinegar that your prefer.
- It is perfect as dipping sauce for fried dishes or as dressings for salads and ceviche.
- This can be used as marinade sauce for daing (marinated milkfish fillet) and other processed meats.