A Trio of Sinigang

Fish Sinigang

What little knowledge I have about Filipino American history dwarfs what I know about the history  of the Philippines.  Being born and raised in Southern California, and spending my entire scholastic career in the public schooling system doesn’t exactly lend itself to learning about the historical accounts of a foreign nation–even if that foreign nation is where my ancestors are from.  I barely even know anything about American history.  I mean, the state of California is like, being ruled by the Terminator right now.  I’m serious, I just Googled it.

Anyhoo, because of this blatant and embarrassing lack of knowledge, I was especially pleased when I found out the theme for the latest go-around for Lasang Pinoy: Cooking for Heroes. For this latest installment of Lasang Pinoy, we were to choose a Philippine National Hero and then answer the age-old question that if this historical figure were invited over for dinner, what would you serve them?

For this Lasang Pinoy event, I decided I would choose a Filipino historical figure that I knew very little about.  Actually, I chose three historical figures: Fathers Mariano Gomez, Jose Apolonio Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora.  These three Filipino priests are better known under the acronym of GOMBURZA (Gomez, Burgos, Zamora) and fought for reform against the Spanish government.

GOMBURZA spearheaded a secularization movement to entrust Filipino parishes to the local Filipino clergy rather than being ruled by the corrupt Spanish friars.  Of course, the three priests were seen as hostile to the Spanish government and were eventually implicated in the Cavite Mutiny and were all executed on February 17, 1872.  The martyred priests became one of the calls to action among Filipinos to resist the Spanish and fight for Filipino independence.

For Fathers Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora, I decided to cook Sinigang–a Filipino sour soup somewhat similar to the Thai Tom Yum Soup or the Chinese Hot and Sour Soup. Except instead of using lemongrass and lime (tom yum) or vinegar (hot and sour soup) as the souring agent, Sinigang utilizes tamarind for its source of sour.  And since there were three priests, I decided to make three versions of Sinigang using three different sources of tamarind.

Shrimp Sinigang

Sinigang Mix

Shrimp Sinigang

The first Sinigang I prepared contained shrimp, onions, chilies, tomatoes, and baby bok choy.  It was also the easiest and fastest to make–perhaps due to the fact that I used powdered tamarind soup mix and easy peel shrimp.  Traditionally, head-on shrimp are used, but the easy peel were all I had on hand.  I’m tempted to say that this first version was my favorite, if only because my mother also uses the powdered mix (gasp!), so it was closest in flavor to what I’m used to.  But from searching online, it seems that a majority of Sinigang recipes also use the powdered mix.  Surprisingly enough, powdered tamarind soup mix is readily available at regular grocery stores (I found mine at Vons). So if you’ve never made Sinigang before, the powdered soup mix is an easy introduction.

Pork Rib Sinigang

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Pork Rib Sinigang

The second soup I made contained pork ribs, onions, daikon radish, chilies, and baby bok choy.  Instead of using powdered tamarind, I used tamarind concentrate in a jar.  The jar in the picture above is a Thai brand that I found at the Asian grocery store.  I loved this version of Sinigang if only for the wonderful slick of pork fat that flits on the surface of the stock.  Yes, you could spoon off the fat if you wanted, but why would you want to?  Mmmm, pork fat.

Fish Sinigang

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Fish Sinigang

For the third Sinigang I prepared, I continued on up the Tamarind evolutionary chart and used actual tamarind pods to flavor the broth.  To make this broth, I removed the tamarind pulp from their shells and threw the pulp in some water with the heads and bones from two whole fish (I used trout, but any fish can be used).

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After about 30 minutes, I strained the stock and then threw in more onions and tomatoes, some chilies, and yes, some baby bok choy.  I don’t know why, but besides grilled baby bok choy, I love those little cabbages in Sinigang.  This version of Sinigang, although just as sour as the previous two, was also just a bit sweeter because of the fresh tamarind.

After making three Sinigangs, I have a new appreciation for the soup and for the different nuances provided by each type of tamarind.  Sinigang is a delicious, easy to make, and versatile Filipino dish.  You don’t have to use the same vegetables that I used for my recipes and you don’t have to use the same protein for each stock.  Mix it up a little and try to create your own Sinigang recipe.  I can only hope my versions would have been satisfactory to GOMBURZA.

Shrimp Sinigang

1 lb. shrimp, shells removed and set aside*
10 cups cold water
1 large onion, sliced
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoons tamarind soup mix
2 Tablespoons patis (fish sauce), plus more to taste
Freshly squeezed kalamansi juice to taste
2 thai bird chilies (optional)
2 baby bok choy, leaves separated and chopped

In a large pot, bring the shrimp shells and water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming off any scum or foam that floats to the top of the stock.  Remove shrimp shells from stock and discard shells.

Add the remaining ingredients to the shrimp broth, except for the baby bok choy and shrimp, and continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Taste broth and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Add the baby bok choy and shrimp to the pot and simmer for another five minutes or until shrimp are done.  Serve in soup bowls, add rice to the soup bowl if desired.

*You don’t have to peel the shrimp if you don’t want to, especially if you’re using head-on shrimp.  If you don’t want to peel, just boil the onions and water until the onions soften, then throw everything else in, including the shell-on shrimp.  Cook until shrimp are done and suck away on the shrimp heads!

Pork Rib Sinigang

1 lb. pork ribs, separated
10 cups cold water
1 lb. daikon radish, cut into half-inch chunks
1 large onion, sliced
2 Tablespoons tamarind concentrate
2 Tablespoons patis (fish sauce), plus more to taste
Freshly squeezed kalamansi juice to taste
2 thai bird chilies (optional)
2 baby bok choy, leaves separated and chopped

In a large pot, bring the pork ribs and water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, skimming off any scum or foam that floats to the top of the stock.

Add the remaining ingredients, except for the baby bok choy, and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the daikon radish softens.  Taste broth and adjust seasonings as necessary. 

Add the baby bok choy  to the pot and simmer for another five minutes.  Serve in soup bowls, add rice to the soup bowl if desired.

Fish Sinigang

Two, 2 lb. trout, heads and bones removed and set aside.
10 cups cold water
10 tamarind pods, pulp removed from shells
1 large onion, sliced
3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced
2 Tablespoons patis (fish sauce), plus more to taste
Freshly squeezed kalamansi juice to taste
2 thai bird chilies (optional)
2 baby bok choy, leaves separated and chopped

After removing head and bones from the trout, cut the fish into two-inch chunks and set aside.

In a large pot, combine the fish heads, fish bones, water, and tamarind and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain the stock and discard all of the solids.  Return strain stock to pot.

Add remaining ingredients, except for baby bok choy and trout, to the stock and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Taste stock and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Add the baby bok choy and the trout to the pot and simmer for five minutes until the fish is cooked through.  Serve in soup bowls, add rice to the soup bowl if desired.

  • toni October 29, 2007, 11:31 pm

    Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn that looks so good! May I have a serving of each Sinigang please? 😀 GOMBURZA won’t want to leave your home after tasting thta Sinigang trinity of yours!

    Reply
  • oggi October 30, 2007, 7:39 am

    All three versions of sinigang sa sampalok look and sound good specially the fatty pork rib, yumm!

    Reply
  • Manggy October 30, 2007, 7:59 am

    I think powdered sinigang mix is my favorite because of the salt in it! Gross though it may be, I can eat the powder itself. Thanks for 3 different easy recipes!
    I’ve never tried the variants made sour only by tomatoes/ calamansi/ balimbing (starfruit) though.

    Reply
  • elmomonster October 30, 2007, 8:20 am

    Nicely done! I’ve been known to mix up sinagang a-la-Knorr. Also, I heard that souring agents can also vary. I’ve had it with guava once. Not as sour, and it makes your whole house stink like guava.

    Reply
  • Wandering Chopsticks October 30, 2007, 10:46 am

    Hey!, sinagang is almost canh chua ca (Vietnamese sour fish soup), except we use bac ha (taro stems) in place of bok choy. Also there’s pineapples and sometimes okra.
    http://wanderingchopsticks.blogspot.com/2007/08/canh-chua-ca-vietnamese-sour-fish-soup.html
    I use seedless fresh tamarind myself but I like how you went from powder to concentrate to pods. 😉
    It’s been interesting for me to see the similarities between a lot of VNese and Filipino dishes.

    Reply
  • Manggy October 30, 2007, 11:23 am

    Hi chopsticks, actually instead of bok choy, water spinach is more commonly used (rau muong in Vietnamese, kangkong in Filipino), although I’m not sure where Marvin can procure some where he is!

    Reply
  • darbunk October 30, 2007, 1:48 pm

    Your soups look de-lish, especially the shrimp with the rice. I love all manner of hot and sour soup…don’t really care where it’s from. I had a version from Mexico last week and it was great.
    BTW, I use tamarind for thom yum. I find it gives the soup more depth than just lime alone. Learned that from my mom.

    Reply
  • leah October 30, 2007, 2:13 pm

    Before there ever was Knorr Sabaw and Sinigang Mix, Filipinos in the old country used tamarind pods. But— they used the green ones, not the brown ones which technically are “ripe” and therefore sweet. Kalamansi juice is also never used in authentic sinigang, but, hey, this is the old US of A where Olive Garden passes for Italian!!! So, I say, go for it!

    Reply
  • raissa October 30, 2007, 11:18 pm

    there is a version of sinigang sa miso. I have tried this and its quite good. I am not a fan of sinigang sa bayabas. Like leah said, the one used in the Philippines are the green ones so its really sour. dang i should stop thinking about green tamarind coz its making my mouth water. I miss eating those and also the brown ones. The sweet kind found in grocery stores here just cant compare to the fresh ones back home.

    Reply
  • Jeremy Jansen October 31, 2007, 3:48 pm

    That is an exceptional blog. One of my faves since you started your site. Of course, this doesn’t look very appetizing to a round eye like myself (especially with the fish skin still on … yuck!) but I commend your history lesson and taking the time and effort to whip up three different soups.
    No, I mean YOU!

    Reply
  • shalimar October 31, 2007, 6:52 pm

    gomburza.. fantastic post and am jealous its been a while I have not joined LP due to the fact am on constant go and got no kitchen of my own to cook.
    i tried with miso once from Celia Kusinera blog not bad….. my mouth watering. at this moment am here in florida (work related)

    Reply
  • Burnt Lumpia October 31, 2007, 8:56 pm

    Hi Toni! I did have a lot of leftovers, so I would have gladly given you a sampling.
    Thanks oggi. Yes, the pork rib sinigang was tasty!
    Manggy, I’m going to have to try the mix by itself;)
    Hey Elmo. There’s nothing wrong with sinigang al la Knorr;) And you’re right, there are other souring agents for sinigang I’ve just never had them.
    Nice post Dub C! I do see the similarities, fish heads and all!
    Thanks again Manggy! I wonder if I can find kangkong in the Asian market here. Things are always hard to find for me because everything is labeled differently and I don’t always know what to look for.
    Thanks for stopping by darbunk! I agree, all manner of hot and sour soup is good.
    Hi Leah. I couldn’t find green tamarind, and although the brown is sweet, it is also still quite sour.
    Raissa, all this talk of green tamarind has really got me thinking now. I wonder how much more sour it is!
    Double J, fish skin is delicious. Don’t be so scurrred.
    Shalimar, hopefully you can participate in the next go-around. At least you are traveling;)

    Reply
  • ed b. November 1, 2007, 1:27 am

    i have to agree with raissa that you have to try the sinigang sa miso, which typically has a milder sourness to it than regular sinigang…and while you’re at it you should also try the sinigang sa bayabas (guava)…though i’d have to say that it’s an acquired taste/smell because you have use overripe guavas for this, which kinda smells like sweaty socks when you cook them :P, but is really delicious once mahuli mo yung lasa. 😉

    Reply
  • maybahay November 1, 2007, 2:58 pm

    i’d be very happy to sit in front of any of these versions with a heap of steamed rice. they all sound delicious,marvin. i don’t cook sinigang much myself because mum makes it very well. yesterday, i had some of her tamarind sinigang na bangus with kangkong. sarap!

    Reply
  • Cynthia November 1, 2007, 5:23 pm

    An education, plus food? what else can anyone ask for…

    Reply
  • Gay November 2, 2007, 7:12 pm

    Sinigang is a comfort food for me. Whenever I am away from home for a long time, I usually have sinigang right after I come back.

    Reply
  • Julie November 2, 2007, 9:21 pm

    Dang, I never knew it was so easy! My mom always looked so busy when she made it (with the powdered mix, of course), but that’s probably because she was cooking five other things at once. I’m going to have to try this. I thought about trying a Lasang Pinoy challenge, but I didn’t know any Filipino Heroes, so I didn’t feel like I had time this month to give it a shot. Maybe next month, though.

    Reply
  • JUST ME November 3, 2007, 9:21 pm

    Love your commentaries and the food pics you display. My mouth is watering as I type.

    Reply
  • Julie November 5, 2007, 7:39 am

    Sweet, I made Sinigang Bagus using the Knorr mix for last night’s Filipino Food party, and most of my friends braved it and even liked it! Good call! I just used bagus and spinach, so it’s simple, but it was dang tasty!

    Reply
  • Mike November 6, 2007, 4:00 am

    this trio of sinigang makes my mouth water even though i’ve just had dinner . . .
    thanks for joining lasang pinoy 21! see you again in future events . . .

    Reply
  • Lorraine November 6, 2007, 8:21 am

    Ohhhh, I can eat sinigang every day of my life and never tire of it. What a lovely post, thanks!

    Reply
  • Dhanggit November 6, 2007, 3:13 pm

    Its a lovely entry for lasang pinoy and truly filipino :-), how i miss sinigang…hmmmmm..by the way thanks for dropping at my blog..just a little bit curious..why burnt lumpia????

    Reply
  • bursky November 6, 2007, 5:54 pm

    sinigang has been my favorite soup whenever we eat. and the kangkong, for me, is essential. kainin niyo na lahat ng laman, pero akin yung kangkong (at puso ng saging). 😀

    Reply
  • stef November 6, 2007, 5:58 pm

    Sinigang would be perfect tomorrow evening — it’s going to be 28 F here…. so glad I came here and got the idea from you. Now if I can only decide which of the three to make. Although, it might be fun to do a little Gomburza sinigang myself. Thanks for joining LP!

    Reply
  • Burnt Lumpia November 8, 2007, 7:58 am

    Hi ed. I will definitely look into the sinigang sa miso. And the guava version sounds very interesting, I didn’t know guavas had a bad smell.
    Ooh, bangus and kangkong definitely sounds delicious maybahay!
    Thanks Cynthia! I’m learning a lot too as I go;)
    Hello Gay, sinigang is a comfort food for most Pinoys no matter what version I think.
    Julie, the sinigang with the powdered mix is very very easy. It takes no time at all.
    Thank you JUST ME.
    Hi Julie, I’m glad your friends liked it. Keep spreading the food to the masses!
    Hi Mike, thanks for stopping by and for the LP welcome!
    Hi Lorraine, thanks for visiting my blog.
    Dhanggit, I chose to name this blog “Burnt Lumpia” to sort of signify my lack of skill in the kitchen when cooking filipino food (i.e. I can burn even the simple foods). Also, “Burnt Lumpia” just sounded funny;)
    Hi Bursky! Thanks for stopping by! I’m going to search around and see if I can find some kangkong. Who knows, maybe my mother has some in her garden and I just didn’t know about it.
    Thanks stef! Sinigang is especially good in cold weather.

    Reply
  • ed b. November 9, 2007, 10:08 am

    guavas, irregardless of their ripeness, don’t really smell bad, but if you cook with the overripe ones their smell gets magnified and they end up smelling like sweaty socks…but please don’t let that discourage you. 😛
    also, i doubt your mom has kangkong in her garden, not unless there’s a pond in it…kangkong only grows in water or marsh-like areas. 😉

    Reply
  • iska November 9, 2007, 10:21 pm

    Hi Marvin! That was really awesome! 3 ways to cook sinigang.
    Though I want the real deal (tamarind pods) I would say I love the 2nd version. Need I say more? Pork fat! Yey!

    Reply
  • Theda February 27, 2008, 9:59 pm

    Thank you for this post! I have only cooked sinigang a la Knorr’s or Mamasita. I’ve been looking for ‘sinigang from scratch’ recipes.

    Reply
  • knorr philippines March 18, 2009, 8:20 pm

    Whoa! Sinigang is one of my favorite. My mom always cook that for me whenever I request it, and now her sinigang is more delicious than ever she said that she discover to use something new, and I found out that she use Knorr Tamarind soup base. It is really great.
    -krisha-

    Reply
  • emsydemsy October 12, 2009, 12:05 am

    I think the reason why sinigang number 3 is much sweeter is because you used “ripe” tamarinds, ones whose pulps are brown (and sticky, I assume). The ones really used are unripe tamarinds whose pulp are sort of avocado green in color.
    Unripe tamarind is the base of the powdered sinigang mix. :)

    Reply
  • Sinigang July 26, 2010, 11:38 pm

    Hi!
    Your Sinigang looks really delicious!
    I’m collecting a list of the best sinigang recipes in my blog, and I included your sinigang recipe (just a link though, hope you don’t mind). You can see it at
    http://kumain.com/sinigang-recipes/
    Keep in touch!
    Tanya Regala

    Reply
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    Reply
  • Aymz March 14, 2012, 2:41 am

    seeing the list of your Sinigang made me think of cooking ‘Sinampalukang Manok’ using the young leaves of tamarind, with ginger and gabi. ooohhhh yum! luckily we get it here in UAE.
    bwy, for info – the last time i went for vacation in the PHP my father (he is 84yrs. now)went back to the old style of cooking Sinigang from the natural ingredients, meaning he stopped using the popular sinigang mix, as he researched about it, it is not healthy due to so many processed ingredients that they put in it. the taste of the fresh tamarind brings back memories of childhood when we use to go up the tamarind tree and pick the fruits ourselves.

    Reply
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    Reply
  • Joanne Danganan July 6, 2015, 5:48 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I’m a SoCal native Pilipin@ as well, but I grew up eating sinigang, tinola, adobo, lumpia, dinuguan… Now at 27 yo, I crave not only to eat it, but to make it as well! These recipes I will definitely file away… In fact, I’ll be cooking shrimp sinigang tonight!

    Reply
  • eric buenaventura January 6, 2016, 12:03 am

    Awesome dish love this one, my favorite… I will try to remake one as well for my sundate :) I hope I can make it this dish will shock my girl :) but the problem is I’m too busy to handle market…

    Reply

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