THE old folks here reminisce that decades ago, when the surrounding hills of the city were full of ancient trees, each rainy season was cold and foggy that they could feel the coldness down to their toes. Those rainy days were matched with the Kagay-anon’s numero uno comfort food — a bowl of piping hot sabaw or soup. Soup is very much a part of the local food culture and it is cooked in a variety of ways.
But first let me tell you that the kalamunggay or kamunggay (moringa) is the all time favorite leafy vegetable of the Kagay-anons. I know of two kinds of this precious kalamunggay, the ordinary one and the prized one that smelled like gabi that we do not see anymore in our markets nor grown in the backyards.
The most common soup is the kalamunggay-tanglad (lemon grass) combo, and sometimes the luy-a or ginger is added. At one time, this was served with fresh buko strips. Nice! We know today, that this is the healthiest soup there is due to the big nutritional values it brings. Add native chicken (manok bisaya) or freshly caught fish to the soup. Then there is the kalamunggay-mongo-ground meat combo or the old fashioned cardillo that consists of a day-old fried fish, with the veggie and a beaten egg that are added to the soup before it is served. I also remember the sweetish taste of the kalamunggay soup with crayfish freshly caught from the Cagayan River.
Then we have the chicken soup, another local favorite. This was cooked in our kitchen on Christmas Eve and the choice fowl was a native hen or inayan for it gave off a robust flavor. It was simmered in low heat for over an hour in a pot full of leeks, white onions salt and pepper. This soup brought warmth to our bodies after we came home from the midnight mass where it was chilly outside. This was our “abregana” of a kind of opener before we partook the traditionally rich dishes of the Noche Buena. The following day, the cook would reheat the soup and add potatoes and cabbage in it.
Seasonal Soup Favorites
Each month of February, when the hipon or the goby fry made its much awaited appearance in Macajalar Bay, it was usually cooked tinuwa or tuwa style especially if the hipon is the white humpbacked variety. Tuwa is also known as tinola. My father loved to mixed the tinuwang hipon with deep fried hipon and squeezed suwa over it. It is best eaten with rice. The melding of the flavors made this very flavorful or lami-an and unforgettable!
In June, we would watch for our sukis who would bring us the most prized Kagaya-anon fish — the pigok (mesiopriates cansellatus). The best way to cook the pigok is through tuwa and inun-on for it brings our the delectable flavors of the fish.
By August, we have the ligbus or the native mushrooms although today, there is a way to produce the ligbus all year round. Again, the kalamunggay and the ligbus soup is the best. And there is also the ligbus and misua combination with shrimps added to it. But this should be cooked with only a small amount of water. Now there is the ligbus and pasta combination and the result is simply a winner in taste.
The lauya are simple stews cooked with beef or pork or chicken. The basic way of cooking the lauya is to just simmer the meat in a pot of water with salt, tomatoes and onions. Sometimes the meat is browned with spices before it is covered with water. Once the meat is tender, veggies like are added to it like sitaw, pechay, cabbage, potatoes are put in to the pot. Sometimes, we put in gabi, camote and saging sab-a. Usually after Christmas, the leftover ham and bone are added to the lauya giving a broth a distinctive flavor.
The chicken lauya is best cooked with leaves from the sili plant and chunks of green papaya. This soup is best recommended to the nursing mothers for the masuso. An old favorite is the lauyang vaca or beef that many Kagay-anons liked to cook and it includes the beef bones. Some placed young mango leaves to the broth but the ginger and tanglad combination were the usual preferences of the family cook. Beef has long been in the local family tables because during the Spanish colonial era, many Kagay-anons raised cattle and there were rancherias or ranches that were located in the valleys and hills of Cagayan and Tagoloan during the Spanish colonial era.
Binas-uy or Las-uy
Have you heard about the “koral sa kinabuhi?” This is found mostly in rural areas where people grow kalamungay, alugbati, camote shoots, sitaw, okra, talong, patola and yellow squash right besides their bamboo house fences. Come harvest time, these veggies are all placed in the soup pot with luy-a, tomatoes and tanglad. It is either seasoned with salt or una sa ginamos. It is known as the binas-uy or las-uy. A sip to your health!
Lomi and Kimlo
On rainy days, most of us order the lomi which the Bagong Lipunan Restaurant version is still considered the best in CdeO. What makes their lomi a standout is that their soup has a thick consistency and the noodles are always fresh. I will not forget the Kimlo soup that we used to order at the old China Restaurant that was right next of the Lyric Theater along del Mar St. (now A. Velez St.). For P1.00, we got a big bowl of soup that had thin noodles with the usual meat and veggies in it and it was topped with raw egg. I dont know of any Chinese restaurant that serves Kimlo soup today.
Lastly, I would like to add to the list of local soups, the tabirac also called the binignit. Why the tabirac? Because the sweet broth can be sipped like a soup. Chunks of saging sab-a, camote in different colors, gabi, ube and nangka are cooked in coconut milk and sugar. Some add malagkit rice to it and glutinous balls. Others placed colorful sago balls. It is one of my comfort foods that was served to us piping hot in a big bowl. As a kid, I would do the unthinkable — slurped the sweet broth and get as many nangka strips to my bowl. It was a big treat for me on those cold gray afternoons of yore.