What would be your last meal on death row? It took me a while to answer that question, but the more I eat pork sinigang, the more I stick with it as the last thing I want to eat before I go. It’s my comfort food and it’s the dish I request from my father when I return from a trip. If you ask the Dr., it’s also his favorite Filipino food.
Back in the Philippines, I grew up eating it many ways. The only requirement is its sour taste, but the sourness always depended on where the cook was from. The most familiar to me is using tamarinds. We had a tree in the backyard and the tamarinds would be simmered in a pot to make the sinigang broth. Kamias, or bilimbi, was also used by squeezing them and straining the juice. Nowadays, though, Knorr makes the soup base with the concentrated flavor of the tamarind. They sell for 80 cents in Chinatown stores. I like this dish best when the sourness hits the back of my ears and my left eye uncontrollably closes, so I usually end up using the entire packet. I add a Serrano pepper towards the end to give it an extra kick.
As for the vegetables in sinigang, Filipinos use kang kong–called swamp cabbage or water spinach in Chinatown–but you can certainly use other vegetables that don’t have a bitter taste. Broccoli and long string beans, or sitaw, are easy. Okra is also good, as well as daikon radish and eggplant. I’ve tried daffodil leaves but they didn’t work.
Using a crock pot allows you to slow-cook your spareribs without paying attention to them. Leave it overnight or cook it while you’re at work. Eight hours will leave you with meat falling off the bones. My way is to slow-cook in a Dutch oven for at least an hour and a half, removing impurities that rise to the top using a ladle. Filipinos love their pressure cookers, but those things scare me. Besides, I like taking my time when I cook.
1 packet Knorr Tamarind soup base
1 tomato, halved
1 red onion, quartered
1 green Serrano pepper, cut in two
1 bunch kang kong
2 small eggplants
1 small daikon radish
1. Use a Dutch oven with enough water to cover the spareribs and simmer for at least two hours. Remove impurities that float to the top.
2. When spareribs are ready, bring to a boil and add tomato and onion. Simmer until tomato is bruised. Add the vegetables and cook until tender. If using eggplant and okra, add them last to avoid overcooking.
3. Add tamarind soup base and salt to taste. Saltiness and sourness should be balanced. The vegetables will tone down the taste. Throw in the pepper before turning off the heat.
Where to buy sinigang packets in New York City