Friday, January 27, 2012

Sinigang (Pork in Sour Broth)

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This dish is very different from what I ate growing up in the city of Smiles. The region where my parents lived is known for its sweet delicacies and the regional food was influenced as well for this reason. My Dad though likes to have something soupy every time we have a meal be it for breakfast or dinner but that is the kind of food he loved growing up. My generation is a bit different since I never really loved soupy dishes until I was a bit older so there was a bit of a gap until eventually I learned to love them. 

Sinigang is a dish from the northern part of the country and is quite unusual in that the broth is flavored with tamarind or ripe guavas to give it this distinctive sour flavor. Now, we do use tamarind to season a fish stew to achieve a puckering sour flavor but very rarely use it in broths. Having lived in Manila most of my adult life, I learned to love this dish since my good friends who kind of took me in loves to make this dish. Mind you, they really want it sour. I tried making this dish whenever I had the chance to visit my folks and my Mom loved it. Not really sure about my Dad but he must have loved it too since he eats quite a bit of it now whenever I make this at home. 

L-R: Taro, Green Beans, Eggplant, Baby Bok Choy
Tamarind Pods and Anaheim Peppers
Copyright 2012 LtDan’sKitchen blogs
Here in Bozeman, I'm lucky to realize that they sell tamarind in one of the stores where they sell a lot of Mexican ingredients. It cost me an arm and a leg, though I cannot really complain since it is a rare treat for me. I have to admit that I have not made this for quite some time now and when I did, I would use the ready-made packet which is a bit of a cheat but you have to make do with what is available. However, most folks back home do use the flavored packets as well so I should not feel like I took the easy route. So the next time you see a tamarind, you may just want to grab a few and try this pork dish which will surely surprise you with how good it tastes. One other thing, the vegetables you can use range from eggplants, green beans, bok choy, taro, spinach, and radishes. You can usually go up to three or even four of your favorite veggies in any combination that is pleasing to your palate. Just make the necessary adjustments to make sure that they are cooked through but not overcooked and mushy.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The ideal cut for the pork used in this dish is the pork butt but it is also good to combine it with pork neck bones to impart a rich flavor to the broth. I actually made this in tandem with a version using shrimps and there is a bit of a deviation from the cooking procedure in that you add the shrimp last to avoid overcooking them. You also omit the Anaheim peppers and add slices of Roma tomatoes prior to serving. I do have to own up to the fact that for the shrimp version, I had to add two tablespoons of the flavored packet since the shrimps sold here are usually peeled so there is hardly any shrimp flavor imparted to the broth. 

Sinigang (Pork in Sour Broth)

4 lbs pork butt, cut in large pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 onion, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 Anaheim pepper
1/4 lb green beans, ends trimmed
1 lb taro, peeled and halved
1 large eggplant, sliced into eighths
4 baby bok choy, ends removed
5-6 ripe tamarind pods
salt and pepper
6-8 cups water
2 tbsp fish sauce (optional)

1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat and saute the garlic and
    onions. Season with salt and pepper and cook until softened.

2. Add the pork and cook until browned on all sides. Season with salt and
    pepper. Add 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the tamarind and
    simmer covered for about 30 minutes over low heat. Check if any foamy
    crud is formed while the pork is cooking. If it does, just skim it using a
    ladle and discard.

3. Pick out the softened tamarind and transfer to a glass bowl. Add one cup
    of broth and mash the tamarind. Return the mixture to the pot by passing
    through a sieve. Repeat macerating the tamarind with more broth as
    necessary. Add the Anaheim pepper and taro and simmer for another 30
    minutes. Check for flavor and add the fish sauce if using or just use salt to
    adjust the flavor. There should be a good balance between sour and salty. 

4. Add the eggplants and simmer until almost tender. Add the bok choy and
    the green beans and simmer until just cooked and heated through. Check
    the flavor one last time and make the necessary adjustments. Serve with
    a bowl of steamed rice.

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