Recipe: Sinigang (Filipino hot/sour soup)

Here’s a very nice winter soup that’s easy to make, with an excellent hot & sour flavor. My version is loosely based on a recipe from The Filipino-American Kitchen, by Jennifer Aranas; I use tamarind and calamansi as the souring agents instead of vinegar along with some other changes. This is a pretty adaptable dish as long as you get the basics right. Compare also to this online recipe.


The necessary ingredients are calamansi juice, which you can get in frozen packets, and tamarind. This can be gotten in various forms; for this soup I used a Filipino salted tamarind candy whose name I forget. It comes in sleeves with little pods of tamarind flesh around the seed; I’m not fond of them outright, but they work great as little self-contained bouillon cubes in a recipe like this. When the soup is done, the flesh has melted away and you just need to keep an eye out for the seed (or remove it beforehand). Below are the calamansi packets I use (1/2oz each) and the tamarind candies. Both are available at Meechu’s. I also added some thin Mung bean noodles for texture.
If you can’t get these items, lime juice is a decent substitute for calamansi and mild vinegar (like rice vinegar) can replace the tamarind. You’ll have to play around with quantities.
Most of the quantities are approximate; taste as it simmers to get the flavor right for your preference. I like it pretty hot and sour; if you’re not sure, hold back a bit on the pepper and tamarind until you see how it develops. Add rice vinegar if it’s not sour enough.
2 quarts poultry or vegetable broth
1 decent-sized chunk ginger, grated
1 medium-strength Thai chili, minced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1lb tomatoes, diced small
2-3T soy sauce
2 (1/2oz)packets calamansi juice
2 tamarind candies, about dice-sized
1/2lb daikon radish, sliced thin or grated
Hefty handful mung bean noodles or similar thin noodles
dash of dried basil
black pepper to taste
Heat broth to a simmer. Add all ingredients except daikon & noodles, and simmer for as long as you want to combine the flavors (at least an hour). You want a decent burn from the pepper and a strong but not curdling sourness.
When you’re about 15 minutes from eating, add the daikon and any other vegetables or greens you want. Don’t overdo it; this should be a thin, brothy soup rather than a stew. Soak the noodles in warm water for 5 minutes, then drain & add to soup and cook another ten. After ladling into bowls, sprinkle dried basil & black pepper on top for a dash of flavor and color.
Let me know if you try this and what you thought. Alternatve versions could include seafood (shrimp or mild fish), in which case you should replace some of the soy sauce with fish sauce and, or regular meats like pork.

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