Monday, January 26, 2009
Chicken sotanghon with patola. Or chicken vermicelli soup with Chinese okra. Or Filipino chicken noodle soup.
My dad made this soup for lunch one day, after a long morning of playing pretend with a a certain two-year-old. It was warm and comforting and filling. The noodles were enjoyably slurpable, the broth steaming and flavorful, and the patola (Chinese okra) was kind of like a cucumber. Another one of those dishes that I'm not quite sure if my parents just made up or if it's actually a soup served in Filipino households.
Dad called it Filipino chicken noodle soup. Which was what I was planning on titling this post until someone commented on my Flickr photo of this dish. In Tagalog.
"Anu yan Filipino sotanghon?" *
My first reaction was, "Uhhhh...what?" Yes, it's true: I don't understand my parents' native language, even though I grew up hearing it every day of my life. Back then, my parents didn't know that little kids soak up languages like a sponge, so they taught my sisters and I only English so we wouldn't get confused. My Filipino vocabulary was limited to such words as "vomit," "butt," "naked," and "fart." Oh, and "Have you eaten yet?"
Now, of course, I wish I had learned it. Not being able to understand makes me feel a sort of disconnect, leading me to wonder...Am I Filipino-American? Or American-Filipino? Oh God. Does that even make sense?
OK, clearly it's getting late, and what started out as a post about a soup with slurpy noodles has turned into a mini cultural identity crisis, which is just absurd. So let's wrap things up, shall we?
Here's my conclusion: Foods in different languages just sound way better than their English counterparts. Filipino chicken noodle soup, or chicken sotanghon with patola? No contest. So what if I had to ask my mom what sotanghon means? I guess it just goes to show that if there's one language I can learn, it's that of food.
*The question on Flickr asked if the photo is of sotanghon, or vermicelli. Also known as glass noodles.