How’s your week so far? We’re doing okay and not much is going on except that our city is on lockdown again. But then again, that’s the norm for a year now. We’re getting bored sometimes and when that happens, our tastebuds long for something exciting, like a hot bowl of sour – and by that we mean super sour – soup. Don’t you have moments like this, too?
So we decided to cook sinigang, one of our native cuisines. It’s a popular Filipino sour soup that’s commonly served at home and even at local restaurants. It’s so common here that you can buy powdered sinigang mix from the grocery store. All you have to do is dump the powder mix into a pot of boiling water together with the other ingredients. But we wanted to take the traditional route and cook sinigang from scratch. Besides, it’s much healthier and flavorful that way.
By the way, this is quite a versatile soup. You can choose your favorite meat or seafood: chicken, pork, beef, fish, shrimp, shellfish… and each and every type of meat imparts a distinct flavor that’s unique. You can also add in different kinds of vegetables. Vegetables that go well with sinigang are kangkong (water spinach), taro, tomatoes, onions, long green chilis, radish, moringa leaves, eggplant, string beans, and okra. This is best enjoyed with rice.
The sinigang soup base is tamarind. But over time, different variations of the sour soup base were developed. Aside from tamarind, you can use guava, lemon, lime, green mango, and bilimbi as a souring agent. We’ve cooked sinigang with lemons as soup base a few times before. We’ve also had sinigang with guavas and bilimbis. But nothing beats the sourness that comes from tamarinds.
While it’s definitely easier and faster to cook sinigang using powder mix, we don’t mind waiting an additional 30-40 minutes to let the tamarinds boil and bring out its juices. You can do so many things during the wait and once you have the first taste of this traditional Filipino soup, you’ll realize that the wait was well worth it.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED FOR THIS RECIPE
TAMARINDS – You need raw tamarinds for this recipe. Clean them thoroughly and remove the stems before boiling.
TOMATOES – To amp up the sourness. Tomatoes also give a slight hint of sweetness.
RED ONIONS – While you can use white onions, red onions are stronger in flavor. Thus, creating a more interesting flavor.
WATER SPINACH – Or kangkong. If you can’t find this, moringa leaves are just as good. Always remove the leaves from the stems.
TARO – A well cooked taro lends a mellow flavor and a cloudy appearance to sinigang.
STRING BEANS – If you want vegetables with a bite, add string beans. The string beans develop a slightly sweet taste when cooked in this sour soup.
LONG GREEN CHILIS (optional) – They don’t actually make sinigang spicy when they’re cooked whole. The local practice is to cut them into pieces when everything’s cooked if you want to make it spicy.
FISH SAUCE – Add according to taste.
YOUR CHOICE OF CHICKEN PARTS – Wings, thighs, legs… you can pick anything you want. If you’re not in the mood for chicken, you can always use your choice of meat.
Same goes with vegetables. If you prefer the other ingredients mentioned earlier, go ahead and add them to this dish. Just a heads up though, the taste of sinigang will vary depending on the ingredients. But it is still sinigang because it makes use of the same sour soup base. Get ready to explore the different flavors of sinigang every time you make use of different ingredients. This is why we love this Filipino dish.
- 500 g. your choice of chicken parts, thawed
- 4 strands of string beans cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 medium size red onions cut into quarters
- 4 medium size tomatoes cut into quarters
- 250 g. water spinach (kangkong) leaves removed from the stem
- 1 medium size taro, peeled and cut into 3 equal pieces
- 2 long whole green chilis (optional)
For the soup base:
- 5 cups of water
- 500 g. raw tamarinds, cleaned
- Fish sauce (to taste)
- In a pot, put water and tamarinds and boil for 30-40 minutes, until all tamarinds are cracked and juices have come out. One sign to look out for is when the water has become whitish in color.
- Lower the heat down to medium heat after boiling the tamarinds. Remove the tamarinds from the soup base. There’s no need to remove the tiniest bit of tamarind.
- Add the chicken, tomatoes, red onions, taro, and long green chilis. Cover the pot and cook until the tomatoes are wrinkly and soft; the taro is soft; and the soup becomes more cloudy.
- Now add the water spinach and string beans.
- Once the spinach and string beans are cooked, add fish sauce according to taste.
That’s how easy sinigang is! Remember, this is a versatile dish. You will always come up with a different flavor profile, say, for example, if you used shrimps, mussels, or red meat instead of chicken. The kind of meat you’re using plays a huge role in sinigang‘s over-all flavor.
DO NOT LEAVE OUT BONES AND SHELLS
For a flavorful soup, always use meat and seafood with its bones and shells still intact. Do not remove these parts to make sinigang delicious. We highly recommend using spareribs of pork and beef because it adds so much depth to the soup.
FIND A BALANCE BETWEEN SOUR AND SALTY
While we always say that any salty flavoring should be measured according to taste, when it comes to sinigang we recommend that you find that balance between sour and salty. How? The initial taste should be sour enough that you’ll slightly make a face, but towards the end you’ll get hit by a sharp, salty flavor. Our tip is basic: add the fish sauce little by little until you find that balance.
ALWAYS USE FISH SAUCE
Salt is nothing compared to the rich salty flavor of fish sauce. As much as possible, use pure fish sauce without the sugar, food coloring, and other artificial ingredients.
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