The Philippines has invented dozens of variations on sinigang. Every region uses the souring agent that’s most available there — from kamias to sampaloc, calamansi to mangga. If Iceland were one of the Philippines’ 7,000 islands, sinigang sa rhubarb would surely be a familiar variation. The hardy plant does well in Iceland’s arctic weather and has been cultivated there for hundreds of years.
Though more often used in desserts than in savory applications, rhubarb has little of its own sweetness. The unadulterated flavor and souring power of rhubarb is comparable to that of fresh kamias. If you don’t like to see rhubarb in your sabaw, you can add it to the pot in a cheesecloth, then press it to squeeze out the sour juice before serving the dish. I like to leave it in; when cooked, rhubarb has a mild flavor and gentle chew that fits in nicely with the other ingredients in this recipe.
All said ingredients, with the exception of the aromatics and condiments, are staples of the Icelandic diet. This recipe exemplifies the fierce adaptiveness of the Filipino community in Iceland — and indeed of the Icelandic people themselves.
This article also appeared in Positively Filipino Magazine.