What Camille Villar loves about ‘sinigang’

By Irene C. Perez

SIPPING THE BROTH OF sinigang na hipon not only warms you up, but also gives you comfort on a cold and gloomy day, says young executive Camille Villar.

“I like my sinigang na hipon cooked very, very sour and I eat it with lots of rice, with soda on the side” she says. “I love rice! I eat around two cups per meal.”

Camille, the only daughter of Sen. Manny Villar who is running for President in this year’s elections, and Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, is a celebrity, but is quick to say that she is more of a business person. The 25-year-old Business Management graduate of Ateneo de Manila University is corporate communications head of Vista Land, a real-estate company owned by his dad.

“I am really interested in business, it’s not that I was born into it, I really wanted to delve into construction and I enjoy what I do,” says Camille during an interview in her office, clad in a black sleeveless, tea-length dress matched with black strappy shoes with sensible heels.

The perky yuppie is also a self-confessed foodie. Camille used to cook sinigang na hipon during her brief stay in London where she attended school. Here in Manila, their household cook prepares the sinigang for the Villar family. The ingredients are bought from the local markets of Las Piñas or Taguig.

“The sinigang at home has lots of vegetables like kangkong and gabi. I prefer fresh small shrimps or suahe that has natural sweetness, than big prawns that could turn tough when not cooked properly,” adds.

Sinigang na hipon is one of the featured Filipino dishes in the “Sooo Pinoy” campaign, a program of Unilever Foodsolutions which carries Knorr Tamarind Soup Base, Philippine Daily Inquirer and Department of Tourism that aims to promote local cuisine and encourage Filipinos to use new spices in their standard dishes.

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Why Sinigang?

Ambeth Ocampo quoted food historian and critic Doreen Fernandez for her essay, “Why sinigang?”

“Her explanation was that sour broths are cooling in hot weather. One can also add that sinigang is soothing to the sick, and, after a fiesta, with rich food, sinigang brings the palate back down to earth. According to Fernandez the ingredients in sinigang reflect not only the ingenuity of Filipino cooks, but it also shows the effect of geography on our tastes. Fish and vegetables in our sinigang are mirrors of the Philippine landscape. The way sinigang is prepared and preferred in different regions reflects the environment. More importantly the sour sinigang is a perfect foil for the mild, I would say blandness, of boiled rice. Show me what you eat and I will tell you who you are. Perhaps food holds the key to that elusive thing we call national identity.” (Inquirer, Dec. 29, 1999)

Cooking sinigang is as simple as boiling all the ingredients together. It requires readily available ingredients such as shrimps, onion, tomatoes, radish, sitaw, kangkong, siling mahaba or green pepper; some patis to taste; and a souring agent like sampaloc puree, kamias, calamansi, santol. A good substitute to these fruits is the instant Knorr Tamarind Soup Base that gives the natural flavor of sampaloc minus the messy and time-consuming preparation. It is also more cost-effective than using real sampaloc. Be careful, though, of overcooking your shrimps that could make it rubbery.

Favorite Pinoy food

Eating together is a way to bond for the Villar family, Camille says, so her parents and two older brothers make it a point to dine in together at least twice a week.

“We are heavy fish eaters. My mom likes steamed lapu-lapu, while my dad prefers fried or grilled bangus and tilapia. My brothers and I enjoy daing na bangus.”

Having a feast of Filipino food is a special treat during family get-togethers for the Villar clan, says Camille. The table is laden with dishes like lechon, afritada, adobo and bibingka for dessert.

“I am not a picky eater, I could eat caramelized Spam anytime,” the slim and soft-spoken Camille says, laughing.

The Villar family is busy campaigning all over the country and Camille makes sure she’s by her dad’s side throughout. When they are not home, they dine out in a Japanese restaurant or enjoy local cuisine in Abé and Sentro.

Make it yummier

Tired of your usual Pinoy food preparations? Try out new food seasonings recently launched by Unilever Foodsolutions like the Bango Kecap Manis, a sweet barbecue sauce perfect for grilled, roasted and fried dishes, which could double as a dipping sauce, too.

The Oyster Flavored Sauce delivers an Oriental touch to your cooking and can be used as a ready topping for your fried dishes.

Craving for something maasim? Cut your cooking time, effort and cost with the Lime Flavored Powder that easily takes out the fishy smell of seafood when used in marinades. It also is a good souring agent for your basic sinigang.

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