Sinigang (Tamarind based Stew/Soup) is one of the pillars of Filipino cuisine and yet it is one of the simplest and easiest recipes in the Filipino menu. It's hard to go wrong when cooking this. But mishaps are not totally absent. Frequent mistakes stem from:
- Meat is still not tender
- Vegetables too soggy (although some people want that... i don't understand why hahaha)
- Too salty
- Too sour
- Too little soup (in Filipino, a dishwhen called "Sigang" implies it has a lot of soup)
What do we need?
Meat. I'm using pork but a lot of other things can be turned into a Sinigang. Beef, Shrimp, and Fish.
River Spinach (Kangkong), String Beans (Sitaw), Tomatoes, Green Pepper (Siling Pansigang), Okra (I don't like Okra, so no Okra for me), and Onion/s (Native ones are more tasty).
Taro (Gabi) - my favorite ingredient. I love to overcook it to the point it makes the Sinigang very turbid. Yum yum yum... I squish it with the steamed rice so it looks like mashed baby food hahahaha. I'm getting hungry.
Tamarind. or Tamarind flavor mix.
Wash and peel things that needed to be peeled. Cut the string beans into 1 1/2 inch sticks. Don't throw the stems of the River spinach, I like them so I place them separately with the leaves. I am talking about the real stem not the stem of the leaf ok? I'm weird I know, just like what the rabbit eats, I like them...
Slice the tomatoes whatever way you like, they'll just end up unrecognizable. Quarter the onion. Slice the okra into 1/2 inch sticks.
Tips : When using tamarind, you don't peel them ok? Just wash them well. When using kamias, just wash well too. When using Bayabas, was well and remove the ugly things at the ends (same as kamias too).
Get a thick pot or if you have big enough earthenware that would really be great. When my mom cooks Sinigang, Nilaga, or her famous Beef Pares, she cooks it on charcoal. It has an effect, the slow even heat of the charcoal coupled that it adds a sort of smoky flavor is really superb, and couple that with using earthenware *droools yum yum really. But I use a big thick pot because I want to put a lot of sabaw (soup).
Oh before I forget, people also put Labanos (radish). More often than not, it is ignored by people because it is sort of bitter, I sort of have a love-hate relationship with it and did not use it. I only put all the ingredients when I'm cooking it for a guest, or party but for myself I only put what I want which is right, right?
So put your pork in the pot, onions, tomatoes, and tamarind (you don't see tamarind here, I used artifical flavoring). Put water and make sure everything is submerged. Now a secret ingredient (yum yum)... put Patis (fish sauce) hahaha. Some don't do this anymore (health issues) but the flavor of the dish after is oh......
Boil. Boil. Boil. Check from time to time it may spill over. Some like to remove the "dirty" fat that floats. When no one's looking I don't remove it LOL. That's the LOVE! When the tamarind is cooked(soft/really soft), remove them and keep them first. So when your meat is nearly soft, put in the taro. I usually put it in way earlier because I want it to be really squishy. When both the meat and taro are cooked, mash the tamarind in a little of the broth and put the extract in the soup, use a strainer and bathe the seeds and the rind with broth from the pot until you feel all the flavor has dropped in. Mix and try tasting if the sourness is just right. Remember that the heat tends to numb the flavors so if anything you are cooking tastes just right, it's alright don't add any more!!!
After the tamarind flavoring, put in the radish, okra and the string beans, after a few mintues then put salt to taste, mix, then turn it off and put the veggies in mix quickly and cover. The remaining heat will cook the River Spinach leaves. You don't want them super soggy.
When using Kamias or Bayabas (Guava), after getting them out when they're soft, mash them and return everything in, no filtering required.
When using fish (I love Sinigang na Bangus!), note that they cook fast so be very very careful.
How do I know when my fish is cooked? -- look at their eyes. If they're opaque white. They're done.
Whew... this is longer than I expected and took two efforts to type. LOL.