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Sinigang sa Rhubarb from Iceland

Sliced rhubarb (Source: Burnt Lumpia)

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.


  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece ginger, minced
  • ½ cup cubed potato
  • ½ cup cubed turnip
  • ½ cup cubed radish
  • 1 cup chopped cabbage
  • 1 cup chopped rhubarb
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound cod steaks (or other white-fleshed fish)
  • 1 pound shrimp, heads on
  • 2 medium tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
  • ½ cup chopped green onions


  1. In a large pot, heat oil. Add onion and cook until translucent, then add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant.
  2. Place potato, turnip, radish, cabbage, rhubarb, and bay leaves in the pot. Add 8 cups water. Cover the pot and simmer until vegetables are almost tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Place the fish, shrimp, and tomatoes in the pot and simmer until fish is flaky and shrimp is opaque, about 7 minutes.
  4. Season to taste with fish sauce, lime juice, salt, and pepper.
  5. Garnish with green onions. Serve with steamed white rice.

This article also appeared in Positively Filipino Magazine. 

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