Poor man’s Sinigang


Sinigang is one of the most popular Filipino soupy dishes. This is a very simple meat and vegetable tamarind-based soup we eat with rice. The most popular meat used is pork (Sinigang na Baboy). For alternatives, one can also use beef, shrimp or milkfish. Other souring ingredients can also be used aside from tamarind. For example, some cooks use calamansi or kamias. They taste just as yummy and work especially well with shrimp and milkfish. I am loyal to the Knorr tamarind-soup base though.

A friend of mine told me that she had experimented with another version of Sinigang — Sinigang na Tuyo. Now, “tuyo” is a dry, salted fish. It is usually fried in oil and eaten with fried rice (“sinangag”). One can also have a healthy serving of tomatoes on the side to add some sweetness to this tuyo-and-rice meal. Oh, Filipino food is yummy. Anyway, Sinigang na Tuyo sounded pretty adventurous so I decided to try it myself this weekend.

My mom’s cook had prepared Sinigang na Baboy already, so I just used part of the mixture for my “experiment.” I had the uncooked tuyo soaked in water first, so the scales could be removed more easily. Afterwards, we mixed in the tuyo with the small helping of the Knorr tamarind-soup base and vegetables. I let it simmer until the fish looked cooked enough.

The verdict? The tamarind-based soup was pleasantly sour, with just the right spike of saltiness from the tuyo. The tuyo was not too fabulous. I think I should’ve fried it a bit prior to placing it in the soup for simmering. Frying might have given the tuyo a more “vibrant” flavor.

I could eat the soup on its own. I could eat the tuyo alone. But I couldn’t eat the soup and the tuyo in one spoonful. It was just too salty. I’ve never eaten anything saltier than that dish! I couldn’t eat too much of everything for fear of what could happen to my kidneys.

My Dad liked it, though I think he was just being polite. H called it “Poor Man’s Sinigang,” as tuyo is regular fare among the lower-class here in the Philippines. I think this experiment is worth another try, only this time, I won’t use a tamarind-soup base, maybe a kamias or calamansi soup base for a less sour taste. I’d also fry the tuyo for more flavor, maybe even make sure the tuyo I get is not too salty — if that’s possible.

P.S. Here’s a link to the usual Sinigang Recipe.

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