Sinigang is a savory Filipino soup characterized by its salty/sour taste. The sour taste comes from the extract of the tamarind fruit (sampalok). Sinigang is often made with pork, beef, fish, shrimp with the addition of different kinds of vegetables. It is a very popular dish and is made with different variations.
A Bit Of History
Tamarind tree is a hardwood tree which is native to Africa but is also common in tropical regions like the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Malaysia. The fruits are green or brown bean-like pods with seeds surrounded by pulp. The pulp is where we get the tamarind extract.
Sinigang is popular nationwide in the Philippines but the version presented here is more common in the Luzon region. The Visayan and Mindanao versions use ginger as an ingredient.
Sinigang is related to the Malaysian ‘singgang’. I don’t know which came first but the Malaysian version is also based from tamarind juice and uses ginger and lemongrass and hot chilies in the soup.
Thailand’s tom yum soup is also a closely related dish but tom yum’s sour taste is from lime juice and not tamarind. It is also made with lemongrass and ginger like the Malaysian ‘singgang’.
Sinigang is best with fresh tamarind extract but in cases when it is not readily available, there are powdered mixes more widely available that can be used. The sour taste can then be enhanced with lemons or limes according to preference,
Filipino Sinigang soup Recipe
- 1.5 lbs chicken pieces
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 2 pc medium tomatoes cut in 2 inch cubes
- 1 bunch round red radish leaves removed
- 2 cups spinach water spinach or kale
- 1 cup green beans if long green beans, cut into 3 inch length
- 1 pc long Asian eggplant or 1/2 round eggplant
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 4 cups water or chicken broth
- 1 pc small package Sinigang mix makes 1 liter soup, or 8 0z jar of tamarind concentrate (order links below)
In a soup pot, add cooking oil
Saute onion and tomatoes for 2 minutes
Add chicken pieces and fish sauce and cover for about 10 minutes on medium heat
Add 3-4 cups liquid and let boil.
Add green beans, radish, eggplant and simmer until vegetables are tender. Add hot peppers if desired.
Season with salt, pepper, sinigang mix or tamarind paste up to desired sour taste
Add spinach on top and turn off heat.
If using fresh tamarind instead of Sinigang mix:
Use about 1 1/2 cups tamarind. Crush tamarind so the pulp is exposed
place in a non-reactive bowl and add 1-2 cups boiling water
Soak for 10 to 15 minutes, mashing with a spoon to get the juice out
Pour into a strainer over another empty bowl
Use this extract to flavor the sinigang
You can use fresh tamarind in place of the sinigang mix. You can also use tamarind concentrate. Links provided below the post.
How to Serve
Like most Filipino dishes with broth, this is served with steamed white rice. Some people, like my dad, even used fish sauce with crushed red-hot chili peppers as dipping sauce. The soup is best served and sometimes eaten with fried fish or chicken as an accompaniment.
Very frequently in our household growing up, this was served as a simple meal with servings of carbs and meat and vegetables in one dish.
Variations of Sinigang:
Personally, I prefer pork ribs in sinigang. It is just so much tastier but here I used skinless chicken for less fat.
There are other ingredients that are used to provide the sour taste:
- calamansi or lemons
- unripe green mangoes
- miso (fermented soy) – this is used more for fish
Other vegetables can be included:
- taro (gabi) – gives the sinigang broth a milky color
- white radish
Kinds of protein that are included:
- pork belly, butt or shoulder
- pork ribs
- fish (milkfish is a popular choice)
Health Benefits of Sinigang:
Tamarind can lower cholesterol and blood sugar. It has antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is good for sore throat and heat stroke and has a lot of antioxidants. There are some studies showing that it can help diabetes.
Long green beans (sitaw):
Green beans are good for heart health. It has anti-oxidants similar to those in green tea. It has cancer-fighting and diabetes-management properties. Loaded with Vitamin C which helps fight infection and colds and flu.
The myth that eggplants have no nutrition is just a myth. Eggplants with its purple color has a lot of anti-oxidants and is good for heart disease, controlling blood sugar and good for weight loss.
Radish has a tart taste but is good in soups like sinigang. It is heart healthy, cleans the digestive system and detoxifies the body. It is high in fiber, and can be used to control blood pressure. It is good for the skin and speeds up metabolism.
Taro is a starchy vegetable and can be used in place of potatoes. It is high in potassium and fiber and Vitamin E which is good for heart health and fights cancer. The potassium can help control blood pressure. Older people should talk to their doctor before eating a lot of taro as older people’s kidneys have a harder time removing potassium from the blood.
What do You Think?
Fall and winter nights are coming and I see us having sinigang more. It is quick and easy to make, can be made with few ingredients and provides good helpings of protein and vegetables. It is a humble dish that satisfies. Make it part of your healthy meal choices.
As promised, here are some links to buy some ingredients you may not have in your grocery.
Kain Na! (Let’s Eat).