Sinigang can easily be confused with nilaga. The major difference is that sinigang are stewed in souring agent, usually tamarind. Popular choices – after tamarind, that is – are guava, calamansi, santol. I had learned to use lemon here in Saudi Arabia. It is awesome!
There are also differences in the choice of vegetables between sinigang ang nilaga, but if you are not really familiar with them, looking at these two dishes if they were to be placed next to each other, you would squint. You’d feel like you are looking at twins. No worries, that is understandable. My own son, Adnan, declares his love for sinigang ang nilaga. He would sometimes complain that he has not had sinigang/nilaga “for the longest time.” I asked him once if he knows the difference and he gave me a look. That look I associate with a student caught by his teacher unprepared for the day’s recitation/quiz. It made me smile. After that, I find it amusing to test him “lunch is ready, tell me whether this is sinigang or nilaga.” He must have gotten tired of failing the test, he now has a better declaration: “I so love Filipino dishes.” Well, I know he is not lying when he says that.
Back to sinigang. Beef, chicken, fish, shrimps can all be used for sinigang. There is this other popular meat I purposely did not mention as you would not find it in this blog ever anyway 🙂 In fairness, though, I heard repeatedly that it is best for the recipe.
Sinigang is a matter of taste in the sense that it can follow your preference and/or capacity for sourness; it will still be called sinigang. I personally like it to be really sour. For me, if it misses that “asim” (sourness), it does not deserve to be called sinigang. But then, yes, it is a matter of taste.
This is one recipe you would never get wrong; one recipe you might not perfect as it always comes out a bit different than the last time you did it.
Basically this is it… below is a basic sinigang recipe. I used beef here, so the title says. Enjoy.
- 1.5 k beef chunks (bones-in)
- 1 medium-sized tomato, quartered
- 1 medium-sized onion, quartered
- A handful of fresh tamarind
- Salt to taste
- Green or string beans cut to 3” pieces
- 1 medium-sized raddish, sliced thinly
- 1 medium-sized eggplant, sliced thinly
- 1 bunch of kangkong or romaine lettuce
- 5 tbsp patis (optional)
- 2-3 serrano chilis
- 5 cups water
- Put onion, tomato and beef in a casserole and let boil till meat are soft - about an hour and a half. Alternatively, use pressure cooker.
- Add the tamarind and salt, boil for another 10 minute or until the tamarind starts to break apart. Do not overdo.
- Scoop the tamarind in a bowl, add about a cup of soup water then mash. Strain the tamarind onto the casserole/pot and discard the skin and seeds.
- Add the string/green beans, chili, raddish and eggplant and simmer till vegetables are done.
- Add patis (if using) and kangkong. Cook for half a minute and remove from fire.
- You may prefer to add the string/green beans when the other vegetables are halfway done, so that the beans are not overdone.
- Patis adds character to the taste of sinigang, so I use it. However, if I were to use instant mixes (which are readily available in the local market), I delete salt and patis in the recipe.