Everything You Need To Know About Sinigang
There's nothing like a bowl of asim-kilig sinigang!
There is something irresistible about sinigang: the tender meat, the soft vegetables, and the savory, sour, sometimes spicy broth. Sinigang is a beloved Filipino ulam dish not only because of its deliciousness but also because of how simple it is to cook and how easily its ingredients can be adapted to suit anyone's taste.
What is Sinigang?
Sinigang is a Filipino soup or stew that usually features pork, beef, or seafood in a savory sour broth. Aside from garlic and onions, sinigang also usually contains vegetables like sitaw or yardlong beans, okra, gabi or taro, labanos or white radish, talong or eggplant, and kang kong or water spinach.
Sinigang is best known for its sour broth, and one of the most commonly used souring agents for sinigang is the sampalok or tamarind. But sinigang broth can also be made with other souring agents like bayabas or guava, kamias or bilimbi, and batwan or binukaw. Fruits can also be used as souring agents, particularly green mangoes, santol or cotton fruit, pineapples, and citrusy fruits like calamansi and lemon. Some sinigang recipes also include miso to add a deeper flavor to the broth.
Even though this sour and savory Filipino comfort dish can be cooked using so many different ingredients (so much so that each Filipino household may have wildly different sinigang recipes), one thing is true for all kinds of sinigang: it is best served piping hot with rice.
How to Cook Sinigang
Sinigang comes from the Tagalog word sigang, which means "to cook in broth and condiments, or to stew."
While sinigang recipes can vary from household to household, the process of cooking sinigang is more or less the same. If you are cooking sinigang with meat like pork or beef, the meat is placed in a pot with water along with the aromatics: onions, garlic, and if the recipe has it, tomatoes. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and skim off the scum that will float to the top. Lower the heat to medium and cover; let the broth simmer until the meat is tender.
Then add the souring agent (whichever one is preferred) and the gabi if it is included in the recipe you're using. When the gabi is tender, add the rest of the vegetables, making sure to pay attention to their different cooking times: okra, eggplants, yardlong beans, white radish, green chili first, and any green leafy vegetables last.
If you are making seafood sinigang, add the seafood right before the vegetables. Serve with hot rice.
How to Serve Sinigang
Sinigang is considered an everyday Filipino ulam dish, particularly a sabaw or soup that is best enjoyed with rice. Some prefer to eat it with patis or fish sauce as a condiment to add to the flavor or cut through the sourness of the sinigang broth.
Because of how easily sinigang can be prepared in big batches for relatively cheaper prices, it is not only popularly sold in karinderia or roadside restaurants in the Philippines; it is also commonly served at big family gatherings or even regular meals at home. Heirloom or gourmet versions also abound in Filipino cuisine or Filipino fusion restaurants since sinigang recipes are so versatile and can be made as fancy or as simple as its cook prefers.
Sinigang recipes can be made with so many combinations of meat and souring agents that you can actually classify them using either. However, to keep it simple, we've categorized our sinigang recipes by protein, and in each section, what kind of souring agent is used in each recipe will be emphasized. If you're adventurous enough to go beyond using sinigang mix, here's how to cook sinigang using different souring agents.
1 Pork Sinigang or Sinigang na Baboy Recipes
Pork sinigang or sinigang na baboy is the most common meat used to make sinigang, so much so that in supermarkets in the Philippines, there's a pork cut called the "sinigang cut"! It may vary, but sinigang cut is usually a mixture of buto-buto, which is the bony part of the pork neck and hips. Buto-buto translates to "bones," but that doesn't mean you don't get any meat on this pork cut! Alternatively, you can also use almost any part of the pig when making pork sinigang: pork spareribs, pork shoulder or kasim, and pork hock or pata are also common cuts to use.
The following recipes all use sampalok as a souring agent unless otherwise noted.
• Sinigang na Baboy sa Bayabas Recipe/ Pork Sinigang in Guava Recipe (uses bayabas or guava as souring agent)
• Sinigang na Baboy sa Mangga Recipe/ Pork Sinigang with Mango Recipe (uses green mangoes)
2 Beef Sinigang or Sinigang na Baka Recipes
Beef sinigang or sinigang na baka features flavorful beef cuts that give the sinigang a unique twist: it tastes like a cross between nilaga and sinigang! These beef sinigang recipes are made using sampalok.
3 Shrimp Sinigang or Sinigang na Hipon Recipes
Shrimp sinigang or sinigang na hipon is not only one of the sinigang dishes that cooks the fastest but it is also one of the most flavorful sinigang! The natural sweetness of shrimp creates a delicious contrast with the sour broth and is sure to leave you hankering for a second (or third) serving.
Yummy Editor Tip: Want a heftier shrimp sinigang? Swap out the shrimps with prawns! You can also play with different souring agents for your sinigang na hipon recipe, and we've included three options for you below.
• Sinigang na Hipon Recipe/ Shrimp Sinigang Recipe (uses sampalok or tamarind)
You can also watch how to cook sinigang na hipon here. This video also shows how to cook with fresh sampalok from scratch!
• Sinigang na Hipon sa Kamias Recipe/ Shrimp Sinigang in Kamias Recipe (uses kamias or bilimbi as a souring agent)
You can also watch how to cook sinigang na hipon sa kamias here.
• Sinigang na Hipon sa Bayabas Recipe/ Shrimp Sinigang in Guava Recipe (uses bayabas or guava as a souring agent)
4 Fish Sinigang or Sinigang na Isda Recipes
Fish sinigang can feature different kinds of flavorful fish, from mild tilapia to flavorful salmon. Miso also goes really well with sinigang na isda recipes. It adds a deeper umami flavor to the already delicious seafood and balances out the savory sour sinigang broth.
Unless otherwise noted, the following recipes are all made with sampalok.
• Sinigang na Banugs sa Bayabas Recipe/ Bangus Sinigang in Guava Recipe (uses bayabas as a souring agent.)
• Sinigang na Isda sa Mangga Recipe/ Fish Sinigang with Mango Recipe (uses green mangoes as souring agent)
5 Chicken Sinigang or Sinigang na Manok Recipes
Chicken sinigang or sinigang na manok is a great alternative for those who don't eat pork or those who want to enjoy sinigang on a budget. Chicken meat is not only usually cheaper than pork or beef but it cooks faster because there's no need to tenderize it!
6 Vegetable Sinigang or Sinigang na Gulay Recipe
Vegetable sinigang or sinigang na gulay is a great sinigang recipe for those who want to load up on fresh yet flavorful vegetables. You can even served this as a side dish with your fried ulam meal!
Other Sinigang Recipe Variations
1 Sinigang Fusion Recipes
Kick your sinigang game up a notch with these modern and international twists on the classic Filipino sinigang.
• Corned Beef Sinigang Recipe (Watch how to cook Corned Beef Sinigang here)
• Sinigang sa Pakwan Recipe/ Sinigang with Watermelon Recipe (Watch how to cook Sinigang sa Pakwan here)
2 Sinigang Rice Recipes
Sinigang mix may be amazing at flavoring sinigang broths, but it can also be used to flavor fried rice and even paella!
3 Sinigang Mix Recipes
Aside from adding the signature savory sour flavor to sinigang, sinigang mixes can also be used to marinate meat and seafood. Here are some creative sinigang-flavored roasts and bakes for you to try.
Tips For Making the Most Flavorful Sinigang
1 Brown your meat before boiling them.
This is an extra step that can be skipped, but it's one that yields a big difference in taste for very little effort. Browning your meats, especially pork, beef, and chicken, forms a light crust around the meat which will give the soup more depth of flavor, and a nice counterbalance to the sourness.
2 Don't overcook seafood if you're making seafood sinigang.
Cooking sinigang may be a straightforward process, but you still need to pay close attention to how you cook your choice of protein. Meat is usually added at the beginning because they need to be simmered in the broth longer before they become tender, but seafood is the opposite: they cook so fast that they need to be added towards the end of the cooking procedure! Overcooked seafood can lose its fresh taste or have a rubbery texture, so don't add them too early into the broth.
3 Don't limit yourself to sinigang mixes or just one souring agent.
Sinigang mixes are undoubtedly the most no-fuss way to make sinigang, and these are usually made from sampalok or tamarind. However, you can also try making it with real sampalok! Alternatively, you can also use other souring agents. While they are predominantly sour, of course, they can also add different dimensions of flavor to your dish. For example, using bayabas or guava makes the sinigang broth milder with a hint of sweetness while green mangoes will add a fruitier taste to your sinigang.
4 Add some heat with green chili or siling haba.
If you want a little kick in your sinigang, you can add green chilis or siling haba (which literally translates to "long chili"). Green chilis are great for sinigang because while they make it spicier, the heat doesn't overwhelm the sourness of the sinigang and actually makes it more appetizing! In fact, green chilis are so commonly used in sinigang that they can also sometimes be called siling pangsigang, which means "chili for sinigang" or "chili for stewing."
You can control how spicy you want the sinigang to be by paying attention to how long the siling pangsigang stays in the broth; for milder sinigang, they can be taken out as soon as the soup is done cooking. For more heat, leave the green chilis in; it will continue to get spicier as long as it's in the soup. To maximize heat from the green chilis, you can either add more or simply cut them up before tossing them into the broth.
Sinigang Storage Tips
1 Refrigerate leftover sinigang right away.
Sinigang keeps well, but since it usually has a lot of vegetables, it's best to refrigerate it right away to prevent the vegetables from spoiling too fast and making the broth go bad. Simply let the sinigang cool to room temperature and refrigerate, and it will be good to eat for up to four days.
2 For longer storage, you can freeze sinigang, but separate the vegetables.
Pork, beef, and chicken sinigang freeze really well and are great options for make-ahead meals because they keep indefinitely as long as they're in the freezer. It's better to blanch the vegetables separately or with the broth while you reheat though because vegetables tend to get mushy after having been frozen and reheated. Seafood sinigang may be frozen as well, but this runs the risk of the seafood becoming overcooked when reheated.
3 Your sinigang might have gone bad if it looks slimy or forms small bubbles on top.
While sinigang generally keeps well, leaving it out or in the refrigerator for too long can make it go bad. Because it is already sour, it may be difficult to tell if it's gone bad by taste, but you can tell when sinigang is spoiled by giving it a good look: if it forms small, foamy bubbles on top or looks slimy after being reheated, it may not be safe to eat anymore.
Trivia about Sinigang
• Sinigang isn't just a beloved soup dish in the Philippines. In fact, it's been ranked as one of the best vegetable soups in the world!
• Jose Rizal, the Philippine National Hero, features sinigang in his novel, Noli Me Tangere. In one of the scenes, he narrates how to cook sinigang na ayungin.
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