Every culture has its version of boiled meat and vegetables. In the Philippines, the generic nilaga (literally, boiled) can refer to boiled beef (baka) and vegetables, boiled chicken (manok) and vegetables or boiled pork (baboy) and vegetables. The vegetables vary. But, almost always, there is a combination of leafy and non-leafy vegetables.
This is nilagang baboy, an updated version of three old recipes. What’s new in this version? Pork spare ribs instead of the more bone-y (and cheaper) cut used for soups. On the dining table, spare ribs are easier to serve in individual bowls, and they are easier to eat with just a spoon and a fork.
Although scum won’t make you sick, I am not particularly fond of finding impurities floating in the clear broth of my nilagang baboy. To make sure that the broth is clean and clear, I parboil the pork ribs in water then drain and rinse them.
The cleaned ribs go into a fresh pot of water then onion, garlic, peppercorns and fish sauce are added. The pork is left to simmer until tender. During that time, due mainly to the presence of bones in the pork ribs, a flavorful broth is developed.
To ensure that the pork does not get overcooked, the ribs are scooped out and the broth is strained before the vegetables are cooked in it. In this recipe for nilagang baboy, we opted for a combination of sweet corn, potatoes, squash and bok choy. Corn and squash add a subtle sweetness to the salty broth, and the effect is really lovely.
Corn takes longest to cook so it goes into the simmering broth first. After about ten minutes, the potato wedges go in. Another ten minutes later, the squasg wedges are dropped in.
Bok choy, halved for tenderize the stalks better, is pressed into the broth. When a bit softened, the pork ribs are added back and everything simmers together until all the vegetables are perfectly done and the pork ribs are heated through.
Pork ribs and vegetable soup (nilagang baboy)
Pork and broth
- 1 kilogram pork spare ribs - cut between the bones
- 1 small onion - cut into halves
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½ teaspoon peppercorns
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 1 to 2 sweet corn - peeled and each cut into four to six portions
- 2 to 3 potatoes - peeled and cut into wedges
- ¼ squash - peeled, deseeded and cut into wedges
- 4 bunches bok choy - split into halves and rinsed well
Cook the pork
- Place the spare ribs in a pot, cover with water and bring to the boil. Allow to boil for ten minutes until scum has risen to the surface.
- Dump the pork into a strainer and rinse to remove all impurities.
- Put the pork ribs in a clean pot and cover with water.
- Add the onion, garlic, peppercorns and fish sauce.
- Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about an hour or until the meat is fork tender.
Cook the vegetables
- Scoop out the pork and move to a bowl.
- Discard the onion, garlic and peppercorns.
- Drop the corn into the broth and cook for ten minutes.
- Add the potatoes and cook for ten minutes.
- Add the squash wedges and cook for five minutes.
- Lay the bok choy halves on the hot broth and press down lightly to make sure all the leaves and stalks are submerged in the hot liquid. Cook for five minutes.
- Return the pork ribs to the pot and simmer just until the meat is heated through.
- Taste the broth and add more fish sauce, if needed.
- Divide the pork ribs and vegetables among four bowls, ladle in hot broth and serve.