It’s been so long since I made Sinigang na Baboy (Pork in Sour Soup). This is a true Tagalog dish that is quite special because families would make this usually just on Sundays much like a Sunday Roast here in the US and UK. It may be hot and humid in the Philippines but despite that nothing beats a hot bowl of this delicious Pork in Sour Soup to help you cope with the muggy weather. It is true comfort food for any Filipino!
I made this many many years ago and when I did I used the sinigang packet seasoning which guaranteed a truly delicious sinigang. However, the price you pay for that is a guaranteed MSG fest! I guess, that’s the nature of any seasoning packet – whether for Sinigang or any other dish that uses it. However, ever since I had kids, I try to move away from anything that has MSG in it knowing its ill-effects on one’s health especially if used on a continued basis. Sadly, MSG is added in so many foods today to add flavor. You have to be very careful when you read the label as there could be hidden MSG in it. Note that even though a label may not specify MSG per se, it doesn’t mean it’s not there as it can take on several names such as – yeast extract, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed protein, enzyme modified, etc. just to name a few. Of course, in the Philippines we know this to be Vetsin, Ajinomoto or Umami. To know exactly what the other names/labels are used for MSG all you need to do is google it. It always comes handy when you go shopping.
Anyway, we digress as this post is not all about MSG though I thought I’d mention it anyway. Another reason why I haven’t made this favorite soup of mine is because it’s hard to find the souring agent that we use in the Philippines. Rarely, if at all, will I find some tamarind, guava or kamias where I am (called Cucumber Tree, Tree sorrel or Balimbi Tree) which are the typical souring agent used in Sinigang. Also, while occasionally, I will get some white radish, I didn’t find any as of the time I made this. So making a truly authentic sinigang in my place is quite tricky.
However, I was missing this recipe so much that I thought there must be some other way to make the broth sour. I remember my cousin telling me years ago that I can actually use Lemons and she has made sinigang using it. I thought that I should put this theory to the test. Last week, I bought a bag of lemons as I usually use it for my daily Green smoothie and I still had some. Also, instead of making the sinigang more expensive by buying all the other veggies that go with it like string beans, okra, taro root, eggplant, and bok choy, I decided I will make do with what I have available which happened to be a bag of spinach and a bunch of Asparagus. The latter replaces the beans and the spinach stands in for the bok choy. Amazingly, they all worked together. The Lemon gave the soup a very fresh tangy flavor that worked so well with the pork and all the other veggies! So when you don’t have any of the mentioned veggies, just use whatever you have at hand and as long as you’ve got some Lemons you can have an amazing Sinigang that tastes as good as the original tamarind- based one. Try it and you’ll see what I mean!
1 Tablespoon Oil (use Olive or Coconut Oil for Paleo diet)
1/2 large Onion, chopped
2.2 lbs / 1 Kilo Pork Belly, Tenderloin or Ribs (boneless or bone in),* cut into 2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons Fish Sauce (use Paleo approved if on this diet)
2 Lemons, juiced*
6 medium Roma Tomatoes, quartered
8 cups water (add more as needed)
2 Green Banana Peppers, slit in the middle
1 lb Asparagus, chopped/sliced in 3-inch-lengths
4-6 large handful of Spinach leaves (or a bunch of Bok Choy)
Salt, to taste
*I want a meatier Pork Sinigang so I used the Boneless Ribs. Pork Belly is great too but for those who want some bones then the Bone-in Ribs are perfect.
*I actually used about 3 Lemons, I added the juice of the third Lemon at the end of the cooking. I wanted it quite sour but feel free to just use 2 and follow your taste buds.
Handy Tool: Large and deep Saucepan/Dutch Oven
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or a Dutch Oven. Sauté the onion for a couple of minutes. Add the pork pieces and sauté until lightly browned. Pour in the Fish Sauce and the Lemon juice. Stir.
Add the tomatoes and the water and bring to a boil. Using a spoon, remove the scum that rises to the top. Simmer until the pork is tender, roughly an hour.
Add the asparagus and banana peppers and simmer for about 8-10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Season to taste with some more lemon juice, fish sauce or salt. Add the Spinach leaves and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat.
Serve hot with freshly cooked rice and some Patis (Fish Sauce) and Toyo (Soy Sauce) dipping sauce on the side. 🙂
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