She looked the way I remembered her. A petite lady with big, tall hair. Her face beamed with a smile so familiar. Her son, Alvin, towered behind her. Alvin is a dear friend from way back, one of the very few people who knows me through and through.

Everything in their home in Pickering felt strangely familiar. The pile of slippers by the front door. The portraits of the siblings on the walls. The Last Supper that loomed large above the dining table. Everything from the brown, leather couch to the clutter of trinkets next to the television reminded me of their home in Manila, not far from where my family used to live.

“It’s been so long,” I said as I reached out and gave her a hug.

“So how long are you staying here for?” She asked. “Not too long, I’m afraid. Just for the weekend.” I said. Alvin has flown to California to see me so many times but for one reason or another I’d never had the chance to visit his family in Toronto until this past summer.

“I’m happy you’ve finally come for a visit,” she said.

“The last time I saw you was before you moved to Canada twenty years ago.” I said. “Has it been that long?” She said. “Time flies, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, it does but you don’t look a day older,” I said.

“Oh, that’s music to her ears,” Alvin said while he flashed a big grin at his mother.

Packed into a three-day weekend, my trip was short but sweet. Alvin took me downtown where we strolled around the streets from the Old City Hall to the Gooderham Building, stopping for a break and a cup of coffee at Saint Lawrence Market. He showed me where he works, where he gets his afternoon Tim Horton’s, and where he takes the train to get home. He took me to the Ontario countryside where we drove up and down the rolling hills, and saw the vineyards and, of course, the famed Falls. He took me to his favorites, La Mesa and Kanto, for a Filipino fix, and introduced me to his friends over a raucous dinner, ever so typical of Filipino gatherings.

But the highlight of my visit came in the morning of my last day. It came as a steaming bowl of sinigang. “I won’t let you fly home without a taste of my cooking,” Alvin’s mother insisted. It was clearly an offer I would be too foolish to refuse. So we sat down to a meal together and feasted on a huge salmon head she simmered in tamarind and miso. “I made it extra sour for you,” she said. “I can tell,” I said as I puckered my lips in delight. We swapped stories about Canada and California, about Filipino celebrities and scandals while a Filipino telenovela played in the background.

“Well, we hope it won’t take another twenty years before we’ll see you again,” she said as she sliced ripe mangoes for dessert.

“With sinigang this good, I don’t think it will,” I said with my mouth full.


Sinigang na Salmon sa Miso Recipe, makes four to six servings

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small red onion, sliced
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
2 tablespoons miso
1 pound salmon steaks, about two steaks, cleaned and scaled
4 cups rice-water, water used for rinsing uncooked rice
1/4 cup tamarind concentrate
2 tablespoons fish sauce
salt to taste
2 bunches mustasa (mustard greens), ends trimmed and cut crosswise in half

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Saute garlic until lightly browned. Add onions and saute until fragrant and softened. Add tomatoes and saute until softened. Add miso and saute until well combined. Add salmon steaks and rice water.

Stir in tamarind concentrate and fish sauce. Bring to a boil and simmer until fish is cooked. Add salt to taste. Add mustard greens and simmer for a couple of minutes before serving the soup hot.

Cooking Notes:

1. Salmon heads and salmon belly can also be used to make sinigang. When cooking with heads, remove gills and split them open. Add rice water enough to just cover the heads.

2. Mustasa is mustard greens or gai choy. Romaine lettuce is a good substitute.

3. In place of tamarind concentrate, the popular sinigang mixes available in most Asian stores can be used. Calamansi or lemon juice can be added to make the soup extra sour.


Salmon Sinigang sa Miso

Salmon Sinigang sa Miso

  • Eva Wong Nava

    Sinigang na Salmon is my favourite soup to have during the winter months. I discovered this soup through my filipina nanny who cooked it so well, even my younger daughter who is now 6 loved it. She was 2 at that time when she tried Sinigang na Salmon over a bowl of white rice and always asked for more.
    I love this tweak with miso paste. Thank you again for yet another great recipe…..

  • rover

    Such a beautiful story. I am always envious of people who can envelop the love and the warmth between humans around food with such elegance. I feel as if I just walked into the house with you and shared in this experience. Thank you.

  • Amanda @ Easy Peasy Organic

    I’m excited about a miso-tamarind combination! Planning to vegetarianize your recipe … not sure how yet but we’ll see how we go :)

  • Amanda @ Easy Peasy Organic

    PS. why rice water? does it change the texture or flavour much?

  • TheHungryGiant

    although your posts are always good, this is something extra special. The story you wove around the recipe, and vice vera, is really really great! I hope I can make this one soon enough.

  • Mario Silva

    I made it tonight. Followed your recipe using two salmon heads. First time I used miso in sinigang na salmon. It was great! Thank you for this recipe!!

  • nicole apostol

    Sinigang na Salmon is something my mother makes me all the time. Now that I’m away at college, I miss it more than anything. I’m trying your recipe out this weekend, let’s hope it goes well, haha!

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Mario for trying the recipe! So happy to hear you enjoyed it.

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Gio! How’s cooking school? Have you started yet?

  • Jun Belen

    Amanda, sinigang is a light stew but the broth becomes a little thicker when made with rice water.

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Amanda for writing. A vegetarian sinigang sounds wonderful. Vegetables commonly used to accompany fish or meat are onions and tomatoes, mustard greens, long beans, white radish, and even taro.

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Eva for writing. A steaming bowl of sinigang is perfect on a cold Fall day like today.

  • Jun Belen

    Good luck, Nicole!

  • Jun Belen

    WOW! Thank you for the very kind compliment!

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Niecey. Yes, a small dish of patis spicked with chilies always accompanies my sinigang. It’s the perfect sawsawan.

  • TheHungryGiant

    Yes, I’m halfway through with the culinary part! I still have baking though. I intend to graduate next year. Cooking school is stressful, as it should be, but every day is a great experience. I don’t get to blog as often as I want to, but I get by. :D

  • Jun Belen

    Focus on school! You are living my dream. So proud of you for taking the plunge. We’re rooting for you!!

  • Row

    Hope this doesn’t sound weird, but this made me miss salmon head. My parents often made sinigang with salmon head, and the broth was always extra sour, just the way I like it. Nothing beats home cooking. Thanks (again) for making me smile. :)

  • Jun Belen

    Absolutely not weird at all. We are a people who love fish heads!

  • Mario Silva

    My wife, who is a GI (genuine italian) also loved it!! I seem to always check your food block to look for what to cook.

  • Jun Belen

    I can just imagine the food that comes out of your kitchen — both Filipino and Italian!

  • Pingback: Sinigang na Salmon sa Miso | Personal Blog of Michelle Tedor-Quitos

  • Esther@thefussfreechef

    Hello, hv been visiting your blog for a while and love your stories and recipes. I’m not familiar with filipino food at all, but this sounds very interesting, will definitely give this a try very soon. Thanks:)

  • Jun Belen

    Esther, thank you so much for writing. Please do try it and let me know how it goes. Don’t forget a dipping sauce of patis — fish sauce — to help you fine-tune the flavors.

  • Dave

    I lived in the Mariana Islands for several years, and so dined on lots of Filipino food, but tonight was my first time actually preparing a meal. The soup was wonderful, and the chocolate pudding received rave reviews.

    Dave in Utah.

  • Jun Belen

    Dave, thank you so much for writing. I am so happy to hear that the recipes worked for you and that everyone enjoyed your food. Please do come back and try the other recipes. Happy Holidays!

  • golathay

    thank for your posting : du
    lich da lat

  • Cynthia

    Bought a salmon fish today from the supermarket. Decided to cook soup with the salmon head and bones. Googled for recipes and decided to try yours due to the many good reviews. I was skeptical at first but to my amazement this soup turns out to be marvelicious! Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe :-)

  • Jun Belen

    I am so happy to hear you enjoyed the soup. Have you made sinigang before? I think the addition of miso to tamarind is wonderful. Thank you for writing, Cynthia.

  • Ken Biin

    I’m not familiar with filipino food at all, but this sounds very
    interesting, will definitely give this a try very soon. Thanks:)

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Ken. I hope you’ll give Filipino food a try. Happy 2013!

  • Pingback: How to Make Daing na Bangus | Jun-Blog

  • nikko

    It was my first time to cook sinigang using miso. I saw your blog I tried it. it was so delicious. Even my girlfriend loved it too. Thanks and more power.

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Nikko, for writing back. Happy to hear that you enjoyed the recipe!

  • Ayan Lang

    So, I made this. I have no idea if I made it correctly, since I’d never tasted it before, and I made it with a fish head, which I’d never handled before, so it was an evening filled with exciting firsts. (I ended up whacking the collar off and using that in the soup, but the rest of the head was beyond my cleaver skills, so it went in the garbage.) Oh, and all I could find was pressed dried tamarind, which I didn’t know how to reconstitute. Plus I used sliced Korean rice cake (ddeok, dduk, tteuk: instead of rice, because I had some in the freezer. So whatever I made probably wasn’t very accurate, but it sure was tasty.

  • Jun Belen

    And it’s all that matters — that you enjoyed it! Thank you for writing.