Sinigang from raw Tamarinds

Ever since I was little I loved Sinigang. The tartness of the broth, the softened Dikon radish and the deep green seaweed were all so tasty to me.

imageOne of my aunts used to say that if I ate it too often, I would smell sour. I didn’t care because I was happily eating vegetables and  felt proud for eating spinach like Popeye.

A couple years ago I was living in Jamul and didn’t know where the nearest Asian market was. Dustin and I were also sharing a car, had extremely poor wifi service, and no data so it’s not like I could use a smartphone to find a place. There was Hispanic food at this fruit and vegetable stand that was walking distance from our place so I decided to take home some Tamarindo.That night I was the happiest Filipina in Jamul for proudly making  Sinigang from scratch.

imageThis past weekend Dustin took me on a date night to see my friend’s performance with the Samahan Dance Company and it was so beautiful and inspirational that it sparked a desire in me to bring more Filipino culture to my home.

I’m looking up tribal fabric prints to incorporate into my sewing but it’s been hard to find online so far. Lately I’ve been regularly reading up on cultural events local to my family’s hometown as well as local monuments and attractions. I’ve visited there a couple times in my youth so it’s nice connecting the dots between my vacation memories and historical information available. Also, the performance made me miss my favorite Filipino food very badly so decided to revamp that Sinigang I made in Jamul and this is what I came up with.

imageThis recipe is perfect for people who don’t eat meat and can be easily adapted to be vegan or vegetarian by substituting fish sauce for salt.

1 package dried tamarind

mineral spring water (filtered works too)

1 bundle long beans (ends cut off and cut into thirds)

1/2 medium/large organic onion (thinly sliced)

1 organic tomato (cut into wedges)

1 large daikon (white) radish (sliced into 1/4inch disks)

2 small/medium purple eggplants (same as radish)

2 yellow peppers (each pierced with a fork twice)

1 cup organic spinach

1 package okra

Patis (fish sauce)

(Optional) white rice as a side dish

  1. Put 2 or 3 cups or water into a pot and turn on the heat. As it is coming to a boil, crack open the tamarind pods. Remove the innards and devein them.
  2. As the water is boiling place the tamarind into the water and boil until softened about 3 mintues. Water should look golden.
  3. Remove the seeds from the softened  tamarind. Back in Jamul I mashed and strained it with a small strainer or used a fork to separate it but this method took a very long time. This time I placed it in a food processor with the dough attachment hoping to knock the seeds out and it worked! Add a little bit of the boiling liquid and run on dough setting for about 20 seconds.
  4. To get the most pulp out of the food processor, pour water into it and swish it around.
  5. Place a strainer over the pot and pour the food processor contents into the pot. You have now successfully made tamarind soup base from scratch! You can reduce this and save it in the fridge or freezer (up to 6 months) or continue with the recipe to make fresh soup.
  6. Bring the soup base to a boil, add more water if necessary to get the pot half full or 3/4 full depending on how many veggies or meats you’re mixing in.
  7. Once boiling, add long beans, radish, onion, tomato, eggplant, peppers and okra. Let it get back to boiling and let it boil for about 10 minutes.
  8. Turn off the heat and add spinach. Add fish sauce to taste.
  9. If you do not add fish sauce, the Dikon radish adds a very bitter taste to the soup, almost like a soapy kick to the soup after tasting the sourness of the tamarind. For whatever reason fish sauce balances it out so it goes away. For vegans, use salt but I’m not sure of that will get rid of the bitter since I love Patis.
  10. Traditionally, there’s a protien in the soup too but I’ve always been a fan of all the veggies in it. Tofu can easily be tossed in and it absorbs the flavored beautifully the next day. If you’re a meat eater, boil meat in a separate pot til throughly cooked through. Or you can cook it separately not in water , then toss it in. Fresh pork, fresh beef, fresh veal to 145° F. Beef, pork, chicken, lamb, veal 165°F Seafood can be boiled directly in the broth during step 6.

Please let me know if you’ve tried this recipe and what you liked and didn’t like about it. It’s pretty customizable to fit your tastes. For example, Dustin’s not a fan of the slimy okra innards so sometimes I leave it out but I love it. Comment below if you have any suggestions for upcoming dishes! ❤️

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