I hated ‘Sinigang na Bangus.’ It was one of those fish broth served every other day on the dinner table, and the ‘Bangus’ itself was a major headache to eat with all its tiny bones that can stick down your throat when swallowed. It took me a while to like ‘Sinigang’ again; actually a long time. Fish fillets are abundant here, fresh or frozen, and with this availability, I was able to create a fish ‘Sinigang’ dish: Wild Cod Fillet in Sour Broth. My intention at that time was to have that flavourful ‘Sinigang’ taste without using any shortcuts and without the headache and interference from those pesky fish bones. I poached the fish and created a broth specifically for that one.
Pork ‘Sinigang’, however, is a bit sensitive and melodramatic. It’s a one-pot wonder like any Filipino dishes; requiring attention on the first step of cooking to achieve an intense and somehow special kind of sour broth only known and familiar to Filipinos in Pinas and overseas. What urged me to try this ‘Sinigang’ challenge was the presence of tomato sauce. I just enjoy playing around with tomato-based dishes and when the ‘Sinigang sa Pula’ came up on-line (through a former classmate in HS whom I had not spoken to in decades), I knew I had to give it a test. Initially, I made an easy, typical Pork ‘Sinigang’ by just adding tomato puree, but it lacked the body and the colour I had expected. It just tasted like any ordinary Filipino sour broth (now with tomatoes). It was singular, square and plain; as many Pinoy dishes tend to be like (particularly stew and broth dishes).
I was finally able to visit Chinatown and gather up all the ingredients during the week for the second round of this sour broth bonanza that would put my stamp on this now seemingly and increasingly becoming popular dish. This has become a ‘collaborative’ effort between me and my former HS classmate; her intellectual, savvy and unmatched marketing talents in the corporate arena of juice and sauces, and my less of ability just to bang pots and pans. It took me about an hour and a half to complete this version of ‘Sinigang sa Pula’ and was still dissatisfied with the taste after all the work. Like many broth dishes, specifically those with tomatoes, they become gentler to the scoop, smoother to the slurp and definitely sexier on the next day.
- Garlic, minced
Diced Tomatoes (canned)
Cubanelle Pepper (or Finger Pepper)
Baby Bok Choy
- Ground Black pepper
Whole Black peppercorns
Saffron threads (or Achuete, or Turmeric)
Flour (for coating)
Cut the pork shank into cubes, season with salt and pepper, and coat with flour. Pan-fry until golden brown in a stockpot and set aside.
Sauté the garlic, shallots, ginger and Thai chili on the same pot. Add a couple of tablespoons of Tamarind paste and stir vigorously. Dump the diced tomatoes next followed by the cubed pork shanks. Slowly incorporate the chicken stock; enough to make it into a broth. Add a stick of Lemongrass, a piece or two of Bayleaves, Whole Black Peppercorns, Sea Salt , Patis, Ground Black Pepper, and a touch of Cane Vinegar. Let it boil to simmer, covered, until the shanks are fork tender.
Pull the shanks out of the pot and strain the broth into a sauce pan. Return the pork shanks back into the sauce pan. Add the Saffron Threads, Jicama and Cubanelle Pepper. Let the pan boil to simmer one more time, covered, before finally adding in the Baby Bok Choys. Cover and allow the remaining heat to cook the vegetables. Drizzle with Patis one more time and season to taste before serving.
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