In the Philippines, the tamarind plant—its flowers, leaves and fruit—is used in an array of dishes. But the most popular is a soup called sinigang. Legend has it that after typhoons, the islands' Indigenous people would gather the fish that had been washed ashore, and the tamarind fruit that had fallen from the trees, and make soup. Hence, sinigang was born. Yana Gilbuena created this dish, using tamarind to flavor poke, when she brought her pop-up kamayan dinners—which celebrate her culture's cuisine—to Hawaii. To make a vegan version, use coconut aminos in place of fish sauce and diced tomatoes or roasted beets or eggplant for the fish. Read more about Gilbuena and her pop-up kamayan dinners.
Fish sauce is the ultimate umami sauce. Seek out one made with just anchovy, salt and water for the best flavor.
A tart and floral relative of the kumquat, calamansi is the predominant citrus used in Filipino cooking. Look for the juice bottled or frozen. Lime or lemon juice can be substituted.
Filipinos' go-to souring agent is tamarind. This tropical tree produces a sour-sweet fruit in a brown pod, with edible pulp. It's often sold in concentrate or pulp form. You can make your own "concentrate" by mixing 1/4 cup pulp and 1 cup hot water in a medium bowl. Let stand for 20 minutes. Break up the paste and mix it with the water with a fork. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve set over a bowl, pressing against the solids and scraping the underside of it to collect as much of the pulp as possible. Discard solids.