Hey everyone, and happy Wednesday!
Fun fact…tomorrow’s my birthday! So what better way to say hello to a new year, than with a brand culinary adventure!
Yep! We are “flying” to the other side of the world, to the Philippines to try some of their delicious cuisine!
So right off the bat…you may be wondering, what is this delicious looking soup?! Because if you’re anything like me, I had never even heard of this! It was only brought to my attention by a certain gentleman friend. It is his favorite food that he grew up eating.
Sinigang is a popular Filipino vegetable and meat soup that is SOUR and SAVORY and SPICY! It gets its tart flavor from tamarind! Which is this alien looking fruit that has the consistency of dates, and comes in this strange looking pod. And it is SOUR! Yikes — Sour Patch Kids can’t hold a candle to the pucker power of this pod!
Anywho — I found out later that there’s a tamarind soup powder that you can make this soup with. (Which, of course would have saved a lot of time and energy…) But, I ended up getting the tamarind pods themselves, and made it from scratch — pulp, seeds, mess, and all! But hey — it was actually super fun!
And the cool thing about Sinigang is that you can customize it to your liking! So for example…I made two batches: the traditional pork rib, extra spicy, traditional version for the gentleman, and a NOT spicy ~seafood~ version for me!
Traditionally, the veggies used are: eggplant, snake beans (which in America are like string beans), okra, taro root (I couldn’t find this, so I used yuca — but you can also substitute with sweet potato or even carrots), water spinach (which, in America is much like bok choy, or even spinach *not baby spinach*), and tomatoes!
But the secret is the broth. It is sooooo flavorful with the sour tamarind and all the veggies!
You eat this over rice. So you have all the big chunks of veggies and the fall-off-the-bone meat, on top of your pile of rice. And then you spoon the broth over the rice, and it soaks it up. MMM!!!
((I made mine with cauliflower rice, and it was just as delicious!))
So — ok! The soup itself is gluten free and Paleo! And if you make the substitutions I did, it is Specific Carb Diet friendly too!!
Here’s What You Need: (Serves 4) (This is the traditional version, I will post my seafood version below)
1 1/2 lbs pork spare ribs (if you can get your butcher to chop them into small pieces, that is ideal — but I just used the whole ribs, and it was just fine)
Several generous pinches of salt
1/2 large red onion (or one small red onion) roughly chopped
2 roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
3-4 Tbsp fish sauce (you can get gluten free fish sauce!)
2 cups taro root (or yuca) – large cubes
3 heads baby bok choy (or spinach)
1 cup of green beans cut into 1″-2″ pieces
3 long green peppers
7-8 okra pods, top chopped off
1 Japanese eggplant, chopped into large pieces
2 Thai chilies split open
1 cup Jasmine rice per person, cooked according to the package directions! (Or, cauliflower rice!)
Huge Stock Pot, or Dutch Oven
Good Chef’s Knife
Large Pyrex bowl, or mixing bowl
Liberally season your pork ribs with salt and pepper.
Heat a large, heavy bottomed stock pot – or dutch oven – over medium – high head. Add a small amount of oil to coat. Once hot, add the ribs in a single layer, to sear. They should sizzle as soon as it hits the pan. Do not crowd the pan – do this in batches if you need to. Sear both sides, about 3 minutes per side — you want a really nice, golden brown color.
Once the pork ribs are seared, add them back into the pot and cover with water — about 1 cm over the ribs. Simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes, until a layer of foam from the ribs has formed on the surface. Skim off the foam.
Then, add your onions and tomatoes and simmer for another 45 minutes, until the pork is fork-tender.
While that’s simmering away, make your tamarind juice. First, extract your tamarind pulp from the pods. Do this by breaking the hard pod shell, and extracting the sticky pulp. There is a veiny membrane that encases the sticky pulp that you’ll need to peel away. Also: there is a seed that is in the center of each little “bubble” segment. You will extract the seed after the soaking process.
Once you have about 2 cups worth of pulp, place it in a medium-sized bowl. Cover the pulp with boiling water, and let sit until it is cool enough to handle. Then, squish the tamarind with your hands until all the pulp and the water have combined into a thick sludge. Make sure to remove all the seeds here, too.
Then, strain through a mesh strainer, to remove all the fibers. ((You can also skip this set entirely, and just use a tamarind soup mix packet.))
Now is also the time to start cooking your rice, according to the package directions!
After the 45 minutes and the pork is fork tender, add the yuca (or taro) cubes, okra, long green peppers, and the Thai chilies. Let simmer for 7 minutes.
Then, add the green beans and egg plant and cook for 2 more minutes. Then add the bok choy and let soften. Check the yuca by piercing with a fork — it should be tender.
Season the soup with your fish sauce and tamarind juice. It should be sour! Season to taste.
Serve with jasmine rice!
This soup saves for 3 days in the refrigerator. When serving leftovers, refresh the sourness by adding a squeeze of lime to taste!
SEAFOOD VERSION & SCD SUBSTITUTIONS
Substitute 1 1/2 lbs of shrimp — peeled, de-veined, and TAIL ON — for the pork. Sear in the same fashion in 2 Tbsp oil until the shrimp have cooked through. Follow the same directions as the pork.
OMIT the Fish Sauce. Substitute with 1.5 tsp salt. (More or less to taste)
OMIT the Okra
Substitute carrot for the taro/yucca. (They are starchy veggies like potatoes and not SCD-legal)
Substitute cauliflower rice for regular rice. (I sauté my cauliflower rice in 1 Tbsp EVOO with salt and pepper for about 6 minutes over medium-high heat, until golden brown and tender. This makes a huge difference!)
Oh my word, you guys. THIS WAS AMAZING!!!
The flavor was truly unlike anything I have ever tasted before! This whole ~soup soup~ phenomenon is…phenomenal! haha But seriously — it was like a party in my mouth! There was a beautiful savoriness from all the veggies and the protein, and then this *POW!* punch of tang from the tamarind. But then there was a sweetness from the veggies and the shrimp…it was addicting, and had me going back for bit after bite!
First of all, it was a beautiful dish: all of the colors from the veggies. And then this truly magnificent broth. It was beautifully cloudy and swirling with flavor. And spooned over the rice, it was rich and luxurious, and the perfect seasoning for sticky and spongy rice!
And the textures were marvelous — from the chewy rice, to the fall-off-the-bone pork. To the eggplant that had wonderfully absorbed that glorious broth. It was absolutely delicious.
I can’t say enough good things about this dish!
For my first Filipino cooking adventure, I’d say it was a success! 😉
And one final note…do not serve with instant “minute rice.” That is sacrilegious. Consider it like serving shredded cardboard. (I may or may not have learned this from experience.)
See ya tomorrow, for a special birthday post!
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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