Although tamarind is the most popular, and common, ingredient for flavoring sinigang, other fruits like kamias may be used. When cooking sinigang with seafood instead of meat, bayabas (guava) is the souring agent of choice.
When cooking sinigang with pork (or beef), choose a cut with bones because it is the bones that make the broth rich and full-bodied. Pork tail is traditional but we prefer ribs or bone-in belly because they are meatier.
And because we don’t like scum to boil into the broth, we parboil the pork. The pork ribs are left to boil for about ten minutes to allow the scum to float on the surface of the water.
Instead of skimming off scum which can be a tedious process, the parboiled pork is drained and rinsed under the tap. Goodbye, scum. The rinsed pork goes into a clean pot, covered with water and simmered with fish sauce.
The vegetables are cooked in a separate pan when the pork is more than halfway done. The spice base consists of shallots, tomatoes, garlic and finger chilies.
As for the vegetables, there are many vegetables that can go into a pot of pork sinigang. Kangkong (water/swamp spinach), sitaw (yard-long beans), talong (eggplants), labanos (radish) okra and gabi (taro) are traditional — add all of them or only some of them, it’s really your choice. For this recipe, we used kangkong, talong and labanos.
Make sure to rinse the kangkong well (it grows in swamps after all) before cutting. When you cut the vegetable, separate the stalks and leaves because they will not go into the pot at the same time.
With the pork simmering in one pot, saute the shallots, garlic, tomatoes and chilies in another. Once they soften, take as much broth from the pot with the pork as you can leaving just enough for the pork to continue simmering in. Add the broth to the pot with the sauteed vegetables. When the broth comes to a boil, start adding the vegetables.
Because a variety of vegetables are used to make sinigang, it is important to drop them one by one into the pot. Normally, I add the kangkong stalks and radish first. But with mature kangkong such as the kind used here, the stalks take longer to cook than usual so they were added first.
Meanwhile the radish was quite young which translates to a shorter cooking time. So, they went into the pot at the same time as the eggplants.
Last to go into the pot are the kangkong leaves which require only a few minutes to wilt and get cooked through. The cooked pork is added at the same time as the kangkong leaves.
The tamarind extract goes into the pot at this point too. After five minutes of simmering, the meat and vegetables have had sufficient time to soak up some of the tartness of the tamarind extract.
Pork ribs sinigang
Pork and broth
- 1 kilogram pork ribs
- fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 onion - peeled and diced
- 2 tomatoes - diced
- 4 cloves garlic - peeled and smashed
- 2 to 3 finger chilies - slit
Vegetables and seasoning
- 1 bundle kangkong (swamp / water spinach) - stalks and leaves separated
- 2 Asian eggplants - diced
- 1 white radish - peeled and cut into rings
- ½ to 1 cup tamarind juice
Parboil the pork ribs
- Rinse the pork ribs, place in a pot and cover with water.
- Boil for about ten minutes to allow the scum to float on the surface.
- Drain the pork and rinse each piece well under the tap.
- Place the pork in a clean pot, cover with water, add about two tablespoons of fish sauce and bring to the boil.
- Set the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer until the meat is tender.
Make the spice base
- When the pork has been simmering for almost an hour, heat the cooking oil in another pot.
- Saute the garlic, onion, tomatoes and chilies until softened.
- Uncover the pot with the simmering pork, scoop out as much of the broth as you can without leaving the pork dry (continue simmering them) and pour into the pot with the sauteed spices.
Cook the vegetables
- Add the kangkong stalks into the pot with the spices, and simmer for five minutes.
- Add the diced eggplants and sliced radish, and simmer for five to ten minutes depending on how mature they are.
- Add the kangkong leaves, the pork and any remaining broth.
Season and complete the dish
- Pour in the tamarind juice and stir.
- Taste the broth and add more fish sauce to create a good balance of salty and sour.
- Bring the pork ribs sinigang to a boil, cover and simmer for another five minutes or just until the kangkong leaves are wilted.
- Serve at once.