Kitchn Love Letters

This 69-Cent Powdered Soup Mix Is Instant Comfort

updated Jan 8, 2021
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soup sits in a white bowl on a wooden table next to a metal spoon
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

If I had to sum up my childhood in one dish it would be sinigang, a soup made with a sour, savory broth, vegetables, and meat or seafood that’s native to the Philippines. When my dad makes it, he uses bone-in pork ribs (or salmon), labanos (daikon radish), a tomato, and an onion. The labanos, which he peels and slices into rounds, soaks up the sour broth and makes every bite extra tangy — just writing this is making my mouth water.

There’s also one secret ingredient that gives my dad’s sinigang its signature sour flavor: Knorr Tamarind Soup Mix, which we buy at the local Asian grocery store for just 69 cents a packet. (Alas, this Filipino soup starter is made by a German company.) He adds this to water, stirs, and voila! An instant sinigang base. The packet instructions call for eight cups of water to dissolve the powder, but my dad recommends six cups for a more concentrated, more sour broth. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Buy: Knorr Tamarind Soup Mix, $0.69 for 1.41 ounces

In the weeks before I made the move from New York to Florida to live with my now-husband, I had one request for my dad: that he make some of my favorite Filipino foods, including sinigang (and that he let me watch). Like many home cooks, he doesn’t work off of recipes (or measure anything!), so watching him cook was the only way to ensure I’d learn to get everything just right.

Like many Filipino dishes, this recipe is cooked in one pot and is super simple. First brown a package of pork ribs over medium-high heat in a splash of olive oil, then add six cups of water. From there, raise the heat to bring the water to a boil, adding in the labanos or radishes, quartered tomato, and onion as the water comes up to temperature.

When the water comes to a boil, add the powdered soup mix, lower the heat, and let the sinigang simmer for about 25 minutes. Ten minutes before the soup is done cooking, throw in the chopped bok choy stems, then the leaves when there’s two minutes left. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

As I packed up my things for my big move to Florida more than a year ago, my dad made sure I left with plenty of packets of Knorr Tamarind Soup Mix so that I could have a taste of home whenever I needed one. At the moment, I have just one packet left in my pantry — and I am saving it until my family sends me more in a care package or I break down and order some on the internet.

What store-bought grocery is instant comfort for you?

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.