How To Make Sinigang from Scratch

Sinigang is my favorite home meal of all time. It is my ultimate comfort food. While it may be nostalgia, sinigang is a healthy soup with many options on preparation. You can use nearly any protein you want (pork being the most common) or leave it out altogether and just stick to vegetables.

Not only is sinigang delicious but it is quite healthy too! It is usually filled with vegetables and a clean protein with out too many additives. Making it from scratch does take a little extra effort but overall, it is totally worth it!

This sinigang recipe will guide you through the process of making the dish using tamarind paste and pompano fish. If you want an easier recipe using a flavor mix, follow my quick and easy sinigang recipe here.

What makes sinigang special?

Anyone will have a different answer but for me, growing up in the Philippines, this dish is comfort. It is probably the one dish I crave the most from Filipino cuisine and it is something I can make almost with my eyes closed. Just keep in mind the basic principles and you could probably make this without any instruction!

Another thing that makes sinigang special is all the different variations. From different sour fruits to proteins and even including vegetables, you really can use whatever ingredients you want as long as you make a sour soup!

What are the ingredients for sinigang?

While the exact ingredients can vary, the basic ingredients for sinigang are water, a protein of your choice (optional), vegetables, and a souring agent.

Naturally, being a soup, sinigang’s base is water mixed with a souring agent such as a sour fruit or, if really desperate, vinegar. I can’t remember the last time I flavored sinigang with just vinegar so I won’t talk about it at all in this recipe. There are options when it comes to sour fruit but tamarind is the most common.

You can use as many or as few vegetables as you wish. My favorites that I always must have are okra, daikon, onion, tomato (yeah, tomato is a fruit), and a leafy green of some sort. Bok Choy is an easy one but I’ve also used cabbage, kang kong, spinach, etc. Unfortunately, this time I didn’t use eggplant but I LOVE eggplant in my sinigang. These are just examples but you can easily put in any vegetable you prefer. I imagine broccoli would be good.

Finally, protein is an important piece of the dish but also entirely optional. If you’re going meatless, you can easily leave out the pork that I prescribe in this recipe. Pork is usually the most common variant and ends up titled sinigang na baboy or literally sinigang with pork. My most secret and favorite protein ingredient, however, is salmon! I’ll often use 1 salmon head with a few fillets in my sinigang as I find it is a clean but mostly tasty addition. In this recipe I throw in pompano which is a great fish because there is a lot of meat without too many bones and no fish scales to worry about. Other options include chicken, shrimp, and pork ribs.

What fruit is used to make sinigang sour?

There is a huge variety of fruit you can use to make your sinigang sour. In past, I have used guava and lemon but, in my opinion, the best is tamarind. This is also the most common.

Make sure to strain out any seeds, flesh, or unwanted bits of fruit from your soup after all the sour flavor is extracted.

Is Sinigang vegan?

Since the main flavors come from sour fruit, its easy to turn this dish vegan. While this recipe uses pork and fish sauce, you can leave out animal meat and products entirely! Vegan fish sauce exists and is usually flavored with mushrooms. Alternatively you can use any ingredient to get umami flavoring like soy sauce or just plain salt.

Process

Making Sinigang is pretty straight forward: make your soup, add veggies, simmer until everything is soft, add fish and when its all cooked, enjoy! Don’t forget to serve with white rice!

Full recipe and ingredients list is below.

First, sautee the aromatics: garlic and onions. Then add tomatoes.

Make the soup by extracting the flavor from the tamarind paste. Add fish sauce and salt to taste.

Add your vegetables and simmer until they’re soft. Usually the daikon will be the last to soften up.

Add the fish and when its cooked throughout and tender.

Finally, add your leafy greens. Once these are fully wilted, it is time to serve!

Don’t forget to eat it with some freshly cooked white rice!

Recipe

Sinigang (Tamarind Paste)

Simple recipe to make sinigang with tamarind paste using pompano as the main protein
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 8-10 garlic cloves
  • 1 white onion
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 2 liters water adjust to taste
  • 1 package tamarind paste (14 oz) to taste
  • salt to taste
  • fish sauce to taste
  • 1 daikon radish sliced, to taste
  • 12 pieces okra more to taste
  • 6 yellow chili peppers see photos
  • 2 whole pompano
  • many handfuls of spinach to taste. Any leafy green will do here.
  • cooking oil

Instructions
 

  • In a large stew pot, pour in enough oil to sauté garlic and onions. Once these have browned a little, add tomatoes. Continue sautéing until the tomatoes begin to break down slightly
  • Add the water, setting aside some in a separate bowl. Add the tamarind paste to the water you have set aside. Mash with a wooden spoon to extract the flavor. Strain this mixture into the large stew pot. You can press the flesh and seeds against the strainer to extract all the sour flavor.
  • Add salt and fish sauce to taste. Use this time to add more water or tamarind to find the flavor you want. Some people love it puckery sour. Others enjoy it more savory.
  • Add the daikon, okra, and yellow peppers. Bring to a boil and simmer until the daikon is soft.
  • Toss in the pompano and simmer until fully cooked.
  • Finally add handfuls of spinach until you don't want any more
  • Serve with white rice and enjoy!