We've talked before about how tamarind is the "secret ingredient" in a lot of Asian cooking. A combination of sweet and sour, it just gives some dishes an extra "oomph" that they wouldn't have otherwise. Until I googled "tamarind soup recipes" I had no idea exactly how many kinds of tamarind soup there are!
After poring over each recipe, I settled on making pork sinigang, which is a Filipino recipe. Sinigang is a soup that has a base of tamarind, tomatoes, and onions. A choice of meats or seafood are added, and then vegetables such as green beans, bok choy, potatoes, and daikon radish. Sinigang is very sour, and served over rice. I already had most of the ingredients, so I didn't really have to do a lot of extra shopping for this.
First stop for me was the Manila Oriental Market in San Francisco, which is a really great place for Filipino and Southeast Asian ingredients. At the market, they had Knorr brand Sinigang soup mix packets, but I didn't like the fact that they contained monosodium glutamate and other preservatives, which I wasn't too keen on. I did a google search to see if I could just make the soup with tamarind concentrate (I already had a jar at home!) and sure enough, it seemed that I could. Reading the ingredients on the Knorr packet showed me that it was also comprised of tamarind powder, powdered shrimp, and salt, so I picked up a package of dried shrimp, thinking I could experiment with that and get the right balance of flavors.
I added the tamarind concentrate to the soup a tablespoon at a time, tasting, wondering how much it would take to get the sourness that makes a sinigang. As it turns out, it needed a lot! I ended up adding the whole 14-oz. jar. In the end, it turned out very yummy. Next time, I'd like to experiment with tamarind pulp or fresh tamarind and see how it tastes.
As this was my first foray into Filipino cooking, I have no idea how authentic my recipe was, so I hope Filipino readers will read my recipe and tell me what they think. I read several different recipes for pork sinigang - there are many! - and picked different elements that I could work with. It came out more like a stew than a soup, but as it's meant to be served over rice, this worked out just fine. So tasty!
Kathryn's Pork Sinigang Soup Recipe
3 lbs. pork ribs, cut in 1-inch chunks. I know, this seems like a LOT, but they shrink when cooked, and there is a lot of bone and cartilage included. You need these, though, as they give the soup its flavor.
1 medium onion, quartered and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 cups water
1 14-oz. jar of tamarind concentrate
1/4 cup of small dried shrimp
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped tomatoes with juice
2 white potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 carrot, peeled and cut in chunks
1 cup daikon radish, sliced (optional)
3 cups of baby bok choy, halved
In a soup pot, saute the onions and garlic in the oil until golden. Add the pork and cook until evenly browned. Add the water, the tamarind concentrate, dried shrimp, fish sauce, salt, and tomatoes. Simmer, covered, for a hour or 2,stirring every so often, until the meat is very tender and falling off the bone, and the flavors have developed nicely. Add the potatoes, carrots, and daikon, and simmer for 10 more minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Turn off the heat and add the bok choy and stir it in until it is nicely wilted - you won't need to have the stove heat on, the soup itself is hot enough to cook the greens.
Serve over rice.
Would you like to try more tamarind soups? Here is a small list:
• Spicy Tomato And Tamarind Soup
• Vietnamese Tamarind Soup with Catfish, Pineapple, and Okra (Canh Chua Cá)
• Thai Prawn & Tamarind Soup
• Thai Sour Fish Soup
• Buddhist Tamarind & Vegetable Soup
• Spicy Sweet Potato & Tamarind Soup
• Sinampalukang Manok (Chicken in Tamarind Soup)
• Sambar - Vegetable and Tamarind Stew
(Image: Kathryn Hill)
(Originally published October 19, 2009)