Sinigang na manok (chicken and vegetables soup with tamarind extract)

“Sinigang” is a sour soup. A good “sinigang” results in the correct blend of saltiness and sourness of the soup. Its main ingredient can either be meat or seafood. Its soup base is either tamarind (usually when using meat) or guava (for fish or shrimp).

The vegetables traditionally used with “sinigang” are kangkong, talbos ng kamote, sitaw or sitao (yard-long beans) taro, eggplant, okra and green chili pepper. Kangkong is a green leafy vegetable that grows in swampy areas. An important vegetable in Southeast Asian cooking, kangkong is also known as water spinach. Talbos ng kamote refers to the tender leaves of the sweet potato. Taro is an edible rootcrop with white flesh. Where kangkong and talbos ng kamote are not available, spinach or mustard leaves are good substitutes. I said OR because I have never tried using both at the same time.

Sinigang has also been traditionally prepared using rice washing, instead of plain water, to start the soup. Unless you are very sure about the sanitary conditions under which your rice was packed and bought, I really won’t recommend this, especially if you bought your rice in the wet market where it has been openly displayed and been subjected to dust. Since the purpose of using rice washing is mainly to thicken the soup and to give it a cloudy appearance, the same results can be achieved by including taro among the ingredients.

Although sinigang has always been associated with pork, beef, fish and shrimp, I discovered that chicken is an equally good main ingredient. It is important, however, to use stewing chicken — the kind you need to boil longer — to come up with a good broth. Fryers yield an unsatisfactory bland stock.

When making sinigang, cook just enough for one meal. It never tastes good after it has been refrigerated and reheated.

If using eggplants, slice just before adding them to the soup; otherwise they will discolor. Some people soak sliced eggplant in salted water purportedly to get rid of its “bitterness”. I have never done that since I find no “bitter” taste to get rid of — Asian eggplants are sweetish. »

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