Since I got pregnant I could only eat either sweet or citrus flavor. I love fruits more than ever especially the ones with a lot of sugar like persimmon, watermelon, cantaloupe, berries, and sometimes avocado drizzled with honey. I also loved Pho soup but it takes time to make and I don’t have the energy so I got reminded of one famous Filipino dish and how this dish used to make me want to eat a lot. For us, in the Philippines, our moms make the best food in the world and my mom used to make this for our family quite frequently. The broth of this soup is really enough to make you want to have soft white rice with it. Oh, and the milkfish, when its belly is thick with fats, it tastes so good! For me, it’s the only fish with a yummy belly! Back in the Philippines, we use this fish a lot. It’s one of the most popular fish in the country along with sardines and tilapia. We either make soup with fish or fry them. If you have seen the Philippine map its an archipelago with 7,107 islands and aside from Hawaii, it’s the closest to the deepest seabed in the world—the Marianas Trench so you can easily imagine how abundant the country is with saltwater and freshwater fish. The country is teeming with real wild caught fish. It’s definitely blessed.
I can’t help to mention this, since you know I like to know what’s going on around me, that the Pacific has been in conflict for some time now due to the overlapping maritime borders that East and Southeast Asian countries share. The population is growing and the food supply needed to support the entire population growth of the region is growing really fast—hence, the militarization of the Pacific. Some countries even took measures that would prevent their neighbors from fishing in their own Exclusive Economic Zones. However, as if that’s not enough, the Fukushima meltdown has been aggravating the insatiable needs of the region who rely vastly on a seafood diet. Let’s just put it that way. It’s not a good picture but things are getting better aside from the Fukushima issue.
Anyway, Sinigang is a very traditional Filipino food that you can find in any home during lunch time even in small restaurants along the streets but particularly in the North. Sinigang can be pork, shrimp or chicken but bangus or milkfish is my favorite because it’s the healthiest version. Everyone knows by now that we get good omegas and iodine from fish. You can try any of these meat versions and I’m sure you will love it. The taste of the broth comes from real fresh and unripe boiled tamarind that is mashed. You will know when the tamarind is not ripe because it is tough and the pulp is still greenish inside when you break it in half. You can also use miso for a thicker broth, radish is also great, ground guava leaves, and tomatoes for a more sour broth. I love this dish. It’s very appetizing! Aside from that, you can put okra, eggplants, string beans, and green peppers for a little kick of spiciness. Green peppers (not bell peppers) reduce the fishy taste and adds a good spicy aroma to the dish. For leafy greens, you can use potato leaves or water spinach, bokchoi, or a leafy cabbage called pechay.
Traditionally, sinigang is cooked in a clay pot but now that we are in a modern era we use metal pots. Although some regions still use clay pot which to my opinion yields the best tasting and healthiest dishes. I can still remember drinking ice cold coca-cola when I was a kid after eating lunch. Back then, I didn’t know how bad coke was for your body! But yes coca-cola is a big part of the new generation of Filipinos. Some even prefer drinking powdered orange juice like Tang or Ovaltine. Because in the Philippines it’s almost always warm, Filipinos love anything cold and sweet after eating lunch.
Note that this dish is super easy and anyone can make this even those who never cooked before. See, I couldn’t cook anything until I had to learn to feed my husband’s big appetite! And even though Balkans are big pork eaters, my husband has changed for good and is now more of a reducetarian than an omnivore. He eats some turkey from time to time so maybe the best description is really “reducetarian”. Leave me a comment if you have any questions or DM me on Instagram. Ciao!
Note: This will serve 2 people. If you want to make for 4 or more just add more fish and more water then adjust the salt and pepper.
4-quarts deep pot
1 small saucepan
1 fine strainer
1 wooden spatula
1 large milkfish, cleaned, cut into 3-4 pieces
7 cups filtered water
3 cups string beans, cut into 2 inches
8-10 fresh raw tamarind, unskinned
2 tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 bundle bokchoi or potato leaves
2 green peppers (long ones)
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 medium radish, cut into quarters
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp salt, to taste
1/4 tsp pepper
1. Bring water to a boil. Add tomatoes, onions, and radish. When the tomatoes are soft and mushy lower the fire.
2. In a small saucepan, throw in the tamarind until it is soft enough to mash. Using a small bowl, mash the tamarind in a fine strainer extracting all the juices. Set the juice aside and throw away the mashed skin and seeds.
3. Throw in the milkfish and simmer for at least 8 minutes.
4. Add the tamarind juice, fish sauce, salt and pepper, and green peppers. If you have okra, eggplants, and any other neutral tasting veggies add them at this point. Simmer for a minute or two. Throw in the bokchoi or potato leaves. Turn off the heat because vegetables cook immediately.
5. Serve in a bowl with white jasmine rice or as is. Enjoy!
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