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My Family’s Beef Sinigang

February 17, 2010

Enjoy the Sinigang!

There really is nothing like food from home.

Growing up, the chef in the family was my dad, and despite his failings as a father (oh yeah, I went there), he always made sure we weren’t just well fed… we were well fed. During a lull in his career, he once even contemplated becoming a full-time chef which he rejected since he preferred cooking only for his family. I can understand that. I like my food that salty and that spicy and not bland, thank you, and when you cook for people that pay you to do so, they might complain about the levels of this and that, which I have no patience for. It tastes like that and you’ll like it. That is also how I’ll serve my future children. It will only be later on that they can be potentially ridiculed for what they bring for lunch.

Which reminds me of a story back in Junior High, one of those events that reminds you that racism and ignorance still exists even though it isn’t in the forefront of your mind. My best friend at the time and I were chatting away about our favourite Chinese dishes, when one girl—and I really don’t think she meant it with any malice—asked if we ever eat “any normal food.”

“What do you mean, normal food?” I asked. She shrugged, but the gesture seemed as if we should have already known the answer.

“You know, like pizza, hot dogs…” she went on. Her tone was dead serious. All my friend and I could do at the time was exchange glances and roll our eyes.

It was a revelation to me that house special chow mein is still exotic to some people.

But I digress.

We’re here to talk about sour Filipino soup. Specifically, the way my family always made it. All measurements are approximate, because since this is a family recipe, I’ve always eye-balled portions and never use any measuring spoons or cups.


Ingredients List

1 package stewing beef chunks (you can also use pork or chicken or fish here—my sisters prefer pork ribs)
2-3 dried bay leaves
1 large diced medium tomato
1 large onion, halved and sectioned into 8ths
1 tbsp sea salt
2 tsp tabasco sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce (patis)
1 packet Mama Sita Sinigang Soup Base (no, we’re not making tamarind stock from scratch)
1 bunch spinach leaves (maybe more)
2 tsp white pepper
1 head of broccoli
1/2 cup cassava and/or taro root, peeled and cut into large cubes


  1. Step 1 Add stewing beef (or other nice cut of beef) along with 2-3 dried bay leaves, and the diced tomatoes.
  2. Step 2 Add onions to the pot. Cover ingredients with water, just about a cm above the contents. Add sea salt.
  3. Step 3 Bring ingredients to a boil. Make sure to skim the muck that comes up top.
  4. Step 4 Simmer ingredients for about half an hour or so, until meat is more tender.
  5. Step 5 Add the entire packet of sinigang soup mix to simerring soup.
  6. Step 6 Add the patis (fish sauce), a couple dashes of tabasco sauce, and white pepper. Stir. If you are using cassava or taro root, add them here now, as well, as they take longer to soften than rest of the vegetables
  7. Step 8 Once meat is cooked and the right tenderness (test it with your fork), 5 minutes before you serve, add the rest of the vegetables.
  8. Step 9 Add more spinach or vegetables to suit. As spinach wilts, you can underestimate how much can fit. I usually add more than my initial batch. Sometimes I add extra water if it reduced too much as well as to balance the sourness.

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