How to Make a Bowl of Really Delicious Sinigang
A bowl of steaming sinigang always spells comfort food. Here are a few tips on how to do it right!
Sinigang is one of those dishes Filipinos can never get enough of. It's comfort food perfect for all seasons: it warms you up during the gloomiest of rainy days, and as the late food writer Doreen Gamboa-Fernandez says, the sour broth cools the body down in our hot weather. Just perfect!
Don't just throw the ingredients into a pot and leave it to cook for an hour. Here are some tips to help you confidently produce a yummy bowl of this Filipino classic.
All about the base
Since sourness is the heart of sinigang, pick the souring agent you like best.
For ease and convenience, go ahead and use a packet mix. If you're going traditional and want to prepare sinigang the way your lola did, then use fresh fruits.
Sampaloc is the one most commonly used. To prepare, boil in a pot until soft; mash then strain. You can also use kamias, ripe guava, green mangoes, calamansi, and batuan.
Ripe guava is the least sour and adds a sweet, fruity flavor. Kamias and calamansi are usually paired with seafood sinigang. Green mangoes are used to complement fish such as maya-maya. Batuan is a fruit related to mangosteen and is more available in the Visayan region.
Add the souring agent little by little until you get the sourness you prefer.
Other ingredients are also used to add different dimensions to sinigang. Miso is sautéed along with onions and tomato to add a richer flavor and is paired with fish like bangus, hito, or salmon. Gabi is crushed to make the soup thicker, while another trick is to use rice washing instead of plain water.
For beef and pork, the combination of bones and fat amp up the flavor. Belly and ribs are delicious choices. If making Sinampalukang Manok, use thighs and legs instead of breasts.
Make sure fish are clean and gutted. Split the fish heads and remove gills. Choose the freshest seafood whenever available!
Low and Slow
Recipes tell you to 'bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer'. Take heed! Turn the temperature down and simmer, don't boil.
Boiling, where liquid churns vigorously and you see bubbles breaking the surface, doesn't mean you'll finish cooking faster. Instead, it can make the meat get dry and tough. Simmering, keeping the temperature at a medium-low heat and you see gentle bubbling in the pot, will give you moist and fork-tender meat. It also helps fat and proteins released by the meat float to the top, so you just have to skim this scum off with your ladle.
Simmering is especially important if you're making seafood sinigang. Delicate fish should be cooked at a simmer to prevent it from breaking apart and turning into mush.
Veggies go last
Don't overcook the vegetables! They must still be crisp to bite and remain vivid in color.
Save for tomato, onion, and siling haba, vegetables should be the last to go into the pot. Add chopped labanos and sitaw in the last few minutes of cooking. If using eggplant and okra, add those next. Once you turn off the heat, add kangkong, then cover the pot.
It's best to allow the people who will enjoy the sinigang to tweak it to their palate. It is always the individual's taste buds that rule. A side serving of patis, calamansi, and siling haba can help them achieve the flavors they want. With these, the result is always the perfect bowl of delicious, sour, comforting sinigang and with lips puckered in delight!
Ready to cook sinigang? Click here for sinigang recipes.
Photography by At Maculangan and Erwin Obcemea.