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RotD 21 August 2014: Sibut Minestrone

Hello, I’m back from a several-week-long unintended hiatus. Things have become so busy on our end in preparing for the 4th Philippine Conference on Research in CSR; I do hope you could join! It’s on Monday, 29 September 2014, at the Asian Development Bank in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila, Philippines.

But on to something a bit more short-term first…

As you might have inferred from some of my previous posts, I am absolutely in love not just with the minestrone, but with the concept of such itself: a healthy meal-in-a-bowl that also serves as food for the soul. I’ve only had two kinds of minestrone – a usual, but heartwarming, tomato one and my own take on a “Genovese”. The recipe I’m featuring here is a third and very unusual kind.

Earlier this evening, I suddenly felt I wanted to eat a vegetable and pasta soup from only one container, which meant minestrone. But there was none of our usual native chicken stock. Instead, what we had boiling in the crockpot was sibut, a Chinese-Filipino dish that Wikipedia translates as “four-herb chicken soup”. It’s a black soup that tastes somewhat like Chinese medicine – perhaps due to the herbs – but comforting nonetheless.

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I usually eat just the soup and the little red-orange things you see in the picture above – those are actually goji berries – without the chicken itself, as my weird practice of eating sinigang is like. But for the purposes of what I would do, I really needed just the soup – goji berries optional.

I asked Manang repeatedly if mixing vegetables and pasta with sibut wasn’t a problem, and she repeatedly reassured me. So, convinced, I set to work making my sibut minestrone.

Sibut Minestrone

Serves 1

You'll need:
(1 tsp.) olive pomace oil
(1 strip) bacon, torn into bite-sized pieces
(1) spring onion, chopped finely
(1½ cups) sibut soup
an assortment of vegetables on hand
(2 oz.) macaroni, ditalini, or other soup pasta

As usual, my approach to eating – which is part of the reason behind my constant soup- making, is to use whatever’s there, and so for this evening, my three staple veggies – pechay, tomatoes (albeit a fruit), and string beans – were in abundance. Anyway, those are always what I use for Italian minestrone, so I figured out using them for a, well, Chinese-Filipino minestrone wouldn’t be bad.

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To save time (it was getting late), I cooked my macaroni first while the vegetables, bacon, and soup were being prepared. Typical pasta fare: a pot of boiling water, salted generously, pasta thrown in and cooked for about 10 minutes, some pasta-cooking water withheld, pasta drained.

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When my ingredients were ready, I first heated the oil in another soup pot, then added my spring onion and then bacon. On hindsight, it seems better to add the bacon first, especially if you want it somewhat crisp, as the spring onion cooks very quickly. I like it more than regular onions for its verdancy that gives a nice garden touch to a soup, and I eat it a lot anyway, being the Chinese family we are.

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Once the bacon had reached the point of crispness I desired, I poured in the whole cup-and-a-half of soup, then the green beans, tomatoes, drained macaroni, pasta water, and pechay (in that order). I simply waited for the whole thing to come to a bubble before I served myself.

As always, I added my ever-trusty extra-virgin olive oil.

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Far from tasting like a forced or arranged marriage where two very good but entirely incompatible elements cancel each other’s good traits out, my experiment was actually a success. As sibut is simply a chicken soup cooked with herbs, it had no problem in warmly accepting (pun intended) the truckload of vegetables that went its way. It was a surprisingly pleasant eat.

For some reason, we’ve been having sibut at home for some time now, instead of the usual native chicken stock (the chicken of which is the same used here anyway, just that the sibut herb packet – as Manang says – is added). And I like that. I’m looking forward to more sibut experiments, such as soup spaghettis et al.

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