If there was one dish my mother could eat every day, it would be sinigang. The sentiment is common among Filipinos, whose mouths pucker in anticipation of the refreshing sour soup. Pork soured with tamarind is one of the most popular sinigang combinations. This modern recipe comes from chef and friend Richie Gamboa of 21 Restaurant in the city of Bacolod in the Philippines. I added pork ribs for the sweet meat and the extra flavour that the bones add to the broth. Look for fresh horseradish at selected greengrocers; its fragrance and zing are worth the search.
- 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) vegetable oil
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) American-style pork ribs, cut into individual ribs
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) skinless boneless pork belly, cut into 4 cm (1½ inch) pieces
- 1 large onion, cut into wedges
- 3 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 1 small red capsicum (pepper), seeded and cut into wedges
- 100 g (3½ oz) tamarind pulp (see note)
- 250 ml (8½ fl oz/1 cup) boiling water
- 4 cm (1½ inch) piece horseradish, peeled and cut into thirds
- 1 Japanese eggplant (aubergine), cut into 3 cm (1¼ inch) slices on the diagonal
- 200 g (7 oz) snake (sitaw) or green beans, trimmed, tied into knots if desired
- 2 tsp salt flakes
- thinly sliced spring onions (scallions), steamed rice, fish sauce, and kalamansi or lemon wedges, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Heat 2 tsp of the vegetable oil in a large, deep saucepan over medium–high heat. Cook the pork ribs for 4 minutes, turning until browned on both sides. Transfer to a plate once cooked. Add another 2 tsp of oil to the pan and cook the pork belly for 4 minutes, turning until browned. Set aside with the ribs.
Add the remaining vegetable oil to the pan and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring and scraping any bits from the base of the pan, for 2 minutes. Add the tomato and capsicum, and cook, stirring occasionally, for a further 4 minutes, or until starting to soften. Return the pork to the pan with 1.5 litres (51 fl oz/6 cups) water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low–medium and cook for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the tamarind pulp in a heatproof bowl and cover with the boiling water. Leave to stand for 15 minutes to soften, then mash to combine well (I use my hands). Strain through a sieve into a bowl, pushing the seeds to extract their liquid. Discard the solids.
Add the tamarind mixture to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Add the horseradish and eggplant, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the eggplant is almost tender. Add the beans and cook for a further 3 minutes, or until the vegetables and meat are tender. Add the salt and season with freshly cracked black pepper; the soup should be a balance of sour and salty. Transfer to a large serving bowl and scatter with spring onions. Serve with steamed rice, fish sauce and kalamansi.
Tamarind, or sampalok, is a pod-like fruit from the tamarind tree, which grows abundantly in the tropical Philippines. It has a wide variety of culinary applications; in unripe form, it is the most widespread souring agent for sinigang. Overseas, packaged tamarind pulp (compressed sticky pulp with seeds) and bottled tamarind concentrate (seedless viscous liquid) are substitutes; use the type specified. Tamarind leaves also sour sinampalukan soup, while pulp is boiled into tamarind candies with a distinctive sour-salty-sweet finish.
Recipes and images from 7000 Islands by Yasmin Newman, published by Hardie Grant Books, rrp $49.95.