“Yung sinigang namin, sobrang asim saka sobrang anghang (“Our sinigang is super sour and super spicy”),” Grace Bernadas boasts, further pointing out that we probably couldn’t handle it. It was her favorite food in the world—that particular rich sinigang, in that special way only her family can make. It was sinigang that her family made a point to enjoy around the table together. Her father was an overseas foreign worker (OFW) for most of Grace’s childhood, but when he was home, he absolutely insisted the whole family eat together. Due to the long absences of her father, there was tension and coldness in their relationship, but it all dissipated once a bowl of sinigang was on the table, father and daughter all wrapped up in the warm wafting steam of the spicy-sour dish. 

Today, Grace works in Japan to support herself and her parents in the Philippines. At her job in Tokyo, she typically works 11-hour days and would at times work even on weekends to be able to visit home. She’s used to it by now, but all the same, she’s always incredibly tired.

But if there was one thing she remembered to do in Japan, it was to eat. Eating isn’t that hard to remember when you’re surrounded by good food. In the heart of Tokyo, she tells me of her food finds. The best gyoza she’s ever had is nearby her home and is so affordable that she claims she could gobble down 25-35 pieces per visit. She’d often only go to a restaurant just once. Usually, she’d go for something new each time. Sometimes though, she gets a craving that’s not just a walking distance away.

Sometimes, Grace craves Double Dutch ice cream—they don’t have that in Japan. We used to eat it by the pint in high school when we had bad days. Sometimes, she craves mango float. Her sister had once made her three giant servings of mango float to welcome her home. When that craving hit in Japan, she had to shell out some serious cash for authentic, sweet Filipino mangoes.

Her greatest craving though, the kind that fills her with intense desire, is when she craves sinigang. Not just any sinigang would do. She’d open her small pantry, filled with packets of sinigang mix she’d hoarded much, much earlier. She would plot it out in her schedule: when to scour different markets for different specific ingredients, and when exactly she could carve out time in her busy schedule to cook. This wasn’t just any sinigang she was making; this was the sinigang of her childhood. 

Pork Siningang with Mangga

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