How delicious is a warm, homey bowl of sinigang? The most basic of basic Filipino soups, “sinigang” means “stewed” or simmered and that’s exactly how the sinigang is cooked.
Every Filipino home makes their best version of sinigang to their personal taste. Still, as varied as the recipes can get, the key pillars of sinigang remain faithful: it has a protein (be it fish, pork, shrimp, or maybe even beef), it has a generous amount of fresh, chunky vegetables, and most importantly, above all, its broth needs to be hot and distinctly sour. How you go about in attaining these three important factors all depend on where you are, what’s available, and your favorite flavors.
We run down the different ways Filipinos sour their delicious sinigang.
The most common kind of souring agent with sinigang is sampaloc or tamarind. Most sinigang mixes also use sampaloc. It has a very slight fruity note, but more importantly, its sour note hits you with a punch. Sampaloc is most often found in sinigang from Luzon.
2 Kamias or bilimbi
Another souring agent commonly used in Luzon is kamias or bilimbi. It’s found usually in the wild but not cultivated, making it also another difficult find when you’re trying to buy it. If you do chance upon it, don’t hesitate about using it as a fresh souring agent for your sinigang.
3 Batwan or binukaw
Batwan, or batuan in Visayan and binukaw in Tagalog, faces the same conundrum as kamias. Although extremely delicious as a souring agent for sinigang, it’s difficult to procure because it’s typically found in the wild and not propagated. It has a fresh, strong, distinct, and fruity acidity that can really bring to life your version of the sinigang. It’s also commonly used in kansi, which is a cross between nilaga and sinigang.
Although it’s hard to get in the metro, it can sometimes be found in the Pasig Fresh Market. You may also buy online from Lazada called batwan powder which is a good substitute that doesn’t spoil as fast as the fresh fruit.
4 Green mangoes
Creating your first sour fruit sinigang is best started with a bunch of unripe manibalang mangoes or green mangoes. Thinly sliced as if you would put in a salad or eat it as is with bagoong, these mouth-watering strips of fruit will go straight to your favorite meat or seafood viand. For those who are tired of eating the usual okra, eggplant, and water spinach, adding the sour mango to the mix will definitely be a welcome addition to your tastebuds’ delight. Thankfully, this can be a new staple ingredient to your sinigang because luckily for you, it’s always in season in the Philippines!
Usually, when using calamansi or other citrus fruits, it’s best to add it last. Vitamin C, which is what gives these citrus fruits its tanginess, actually comes apart with high heat. A fresh squeeze at the end also helps preserve its distinct flavor notes.
5 Pineapple or pina
Here’s another fruity sinigang for you: sinigang sa pinya. As mangoes add more flavor and uniqueness to your sinigang, the pineapple will bring a more satisfying twist that is guaranteed to make your mouth water. Due to its fibrous texture, a chunk of pineapple soaked in the sinigang broth will absorb all the taste of whatever meat or seafood you are using. We recommend using fresh pineapples from the market, but if you are using the canned ones, don’t forget to drain the sweet syrup before adding it to your broth.
For a fruity but earthy flavor, santol is your best bet for this sinigang recipe. A relatively unpopular take on the popular Filipino sour soup, this is still worth the try especially if you’re a santol fanatic. If you want to achieve the right amount of flavor, the ratio of santol should be the same as your pork (1 kilo santol = 1 kilo pork).
To prepare the fruits, simply peel the outer layer of the fruit and cut in halves. Add after cooking your usual sinigang ingredients and let the fruit steep for at least 15 minutes. If this is your first time trying this recipe, let us know how you like it!
7 Bayabas or guava
Bayabas or guava, when cooked, has a very strong flavor. Hence, this type of sinigang is the best broth for strong-tasting fish like bangus. Think bangus belly on top of rice soaked in the unique guava broth. It’s going to be a taste to remember. It goes without saying that ripe guavas will give you a sweeter broth, so you should pick unripe guavas for a more sour preference. You can also use it for your favorite pork sinigang!
Imagine your usual sinigang bowl full of ripe, luscious red tomatoes! Note that more tomatoes will make the sinigang broth silkier and will complement any of your preferred mix of meat and veggies. It’s an excellent broth choice for seafood sinigang as well. To make the broth thicker and ultimately redder, try adding tomato paste.
9 Pakwan or watermelon
Perfect for sweet tooths, this pakwan or watermelon sinigang is an option for you. Extra props if you actually love pakwan because the broth is going to be full of that sweet watermelon. Yes, it’s basically a savory version of your favorite juicy fruit since it still relies on some sampaloc to make it tangy but it’s a wonderful complement. Though this type of sinigang is usually cooked with beef, the shrimp and pork version is just as good. A must-try for adventurous sinigang-lovers!
10 Lemon or lime juice
Tried every type of sinigang on earth? Lemon or lime juice might give you that non-traditional taste that you’re looking for. Probably another practical solution to our loved-ones living abroad where calamansi is not available, lemon or lime will save you. Though you can use shrimp, beef, and pork for this dish, shrimp is our highly recommended protein source. Tweak it a bit and you’ll get your favorite Tom Yum dish.
Sinigang is the taste of home. It’s may be as unique to every Filipino household as adobo but at its core, it’s similar wherever in the Philippines you find yourself. Let these ideas and other recipes from other parts of the Philippines inspire you to make your own family’s sinigang even better and more imaginative.