When I’m cooking a dish for the first time, I like to read through dozens of recipes. Each one is a little different, but slowly the crux of it emerges. The archetype, Plato might say.
For a national dish like Sinigang, a sour soup from the Philippines, the quintessential version is under constant and gentle dispute. I love reading the recipe comments feuding over ingredients, but always, because this is a Filipino dish, kindly and politely. Something akin to: “Authentic Sinigang would never have potatoes, but your recipe looks nice, too.”
I first had Sinigang this summer, while in the Philippines. My husband loves it. The taste is a little too sour, too pungent for me to sip without wincing a little. I felt like a little girl tasting blue cheese for the first time and trying to act all grown up. Yes, really! I do love it!
I hope, as with blue cheese, I’ll grow into it.
Tamarind is often the key souring agent for Sinigang, but when I spied a box of Sinigang soup packets in the Philippines, I couldn’t resist. It came back on the plane with me.
Here’s my first go at Sinigang, a warm, comforting, savory blanket of vegetables and sea on a chilly day. You can use pork or fish, instead. Daikon radish, bok choy, okra, spinach, and ginger could all be added. I used what we had around.
My beginner version is much less sour than what you’d have in the Philippines, but with the sourness dialed back a bit, I really did love it.
Brianne’s First Sinigang
- 2 packets Sinigang soup mix (for this particular box, 1 packet = 4 cups)
- 6 cups water
- 2 cups of thin green beans (or “snake beans” or whatever variation you like)
- 1-2 cups frozen shrimp, peeled and already cooked
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 2 garlic gloves, sliced or minced
- canola oil
- 1 small Asian eggplant or half of a big U.S. one, sliced and cut into semi-circles
Drizzle the canola oil into a skillet on medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and tomatoes. Let it cook for a few minutes until the garlic and onions soften. Stir occasionally so the garlic doesn’t burn.
Meanwhile, heat the 6 cups of water in a pot. Add in the green beans and eggplant slices. Bring the water to a simmer.
Once the garlic/onion/tomato mixture has softened a bit, add it to the pot.
Add one soup packet; stir till dissolved and taste. Add the second soup packet, or part of it, if you like more flavor and sourness. You can also add fish sauce for a more pronounced savoriness.
Let the soup simmer 10-15 minutes or so, until the beans and eggplant are tender to your liking.
The shrimp can be added toward the end. If they are already cooked, they will only take a minute or two to thaw.
Serve with rice.