Friday, May 09, 2008

Sinigang na Baboy!

Sinigang na Baboy is arguably my favorite meal in the whole world. For those who don't know, sinigang na baboy means 'sour soup with pork', roughly the equivalent of the Thai tom yum, only less spicy. In fact, many Filipinos compete to make the sourest sinigang possible. In my opinion, it's best eaten on a cold, rainy day, as the hot soup is always refreshing in any circumstances. Here are the ingredients and steps to make sinigang.

First, you need the broth, and to make that, you need some tamarind first. Locally, it is called sampaloc, and half a kilogram usually suffices for making the broth. Clean the sampaloc, and place it in a pot with roughly 7 or 8 cups water. Heat for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on your tastes. I think the rule of thumb is the longer the sourer, though I think there's also a danger of draining away all the sourness. The best way to see if the broth is ready is when the tamarind pods are "mashable" or at least very soft. After boiling, discard the solid tamarinds, and strain. Don't worry if the broth looks cloudy, it's supposed to be that way, in fact, most people I know think that it's meant to be that way.

Ideally, while this is being done, you should have your pork ready by then. Typically, we use pork ribs for sinigang, although pork chops are also an acceptable substitute. Some cooks sear the pork first to add some zest to it, but typically, this is not required. Make sure to add a lot of bony parts, as these help to add flavor to the broth. Most Filipinos also opt to keep the fat in the pork, citing its velvety smooth texture as the pinnacle of all delights. Add a large quantity of water to the pork, together with some chopped tomatoes and spring onions (green onions if none of the former). Since sinigang is a typical Filipino dish which means the more ostentatious the better, many also add leeks, eggplant, sitaw (long beans), long green chili, and patis (fermented fish sauce); some also add black pepper to make it spicier. The quantity depends on the cook's liking, but usually these are in quantities that do not outnumber/outpower the pork. Let this simmer for at least 40 minutes.

After this is done, add the tamarind broth to the pork. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and then add kangkong leaves (water spinach). These are a favorite of mine, and I like them in large doses in my sinigang. You can also add the water spinach earlier, with the rest of the pork, but this might turn them a rather unappetizing shade or brown. Thus, it's preferable to add them later so that they retain a somewhat vibrant green hue. I also like to add more onions at this point, just because they're awesome, LOL.

Finally, when all is done, sinigang na baboy is served! It is always eaten in the Philippines with magnificently hefty servings of steamed white rice. I like to put some of the broth in a cup and then just pour everything on top of the rice. The pork is tender and exudes a very sour, yet absolutely very tasty, uh, taste. You may also keep some more patis at hand, to make it even sourer; kalamansi (calamondin) is also another fine option. Kainan na!

*Note: The word sinigang is actually a method of cooking. Fish, prawns, and chicken siningang are all respectable dishes on their own. Typically, 'sinigang na manok' or chicken sinigang is not called thus, but given the moniker 'sinampalukang manok'; that is, literally, 'sampaloc-ed chicken'.


Rita said...

There is a Hakka Chinese version of this sort of thing made with pigs trotters (feet) that need cooking for hours. It is one of my favourite dishes. There are times when I really miss S. E Asia! Westerners do not appreciate the joys of fatty meat, broth and rice; it is soul food!

Glad you're back!

Deo Gratias.

Archistrategos said...

I LOVE pig trotters! One of the least healthy dishes I know is crispy pata, or deep-fried crispy pork trotters. It's the equivalent of eating a tub of lard with butter on top, but it tastes sublime!

Andrew said...

I believe it's called 'tu khar chor' or pig trotters with vinegar. The Hakka dish, I mean.

Personally, my favourite dish is a stew, with spam, minced pork, onions, potatoes, baked beans and chicken stock which grandma used to cook. Mmmmm... Still delicious even after refrigerated and thawed out. These are the tastes of my childhood.