Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sinampalukan Manok (Tamarind'd Chicken)

I’m as romantic as the next girl (I think) but when it comes to Valentines I prefer to spend it at home. That’s not to say I have something against this day of hearts and roses and such – I am not one to turn up my nose at romance. In fact, I think everyone should indulge! Goodness knows that we might be in a better place if we all took some time to cuddle instead of plot and scheme. And a day that makes us stop and be nice to someone else (or to ourselves!) is a good day in my book no matter how trite that sounds!

(side note: one of the things I love about writing in a blog is that I can go off-tangent as many times as I please and I can run-on sentence to my heart’s content!)

AnyWAY, Valentines = stay at home. Yes, definitely, or at least as much as I can help it. I don’t know how it is over where you are, but Valentines here is frenetic. Frenzied. Off-the-charts hysterical. Everyone is out. It’s impossible to book a table, and when you do the restaurants are packed. You can just imagine what this does to our already horrid traffic. A good day to stay home and cook.

But I didn’t! Cook that is. This Valentines C decided to cook for me :) Now, I have to say at this point that, although most of the time I cook and C washes up, it isn’t always that way. Once in a while C cooks and C washes up. Steaks, for example, are always made by C (unless I have a rub or marinade I want to try, but even then I don’t actually cook the steak). As is sinigang – the ubiquitous Filipino sour soup.

Sinigang is one of C’s favourite dishes that I never learned to cook...so he did. And how. He started by following a friend’s recipe and built his own from there. He is nowhere near the persona of voracious foodie, waxing lyrical about truffles and fennel pollen. He is still a jock through and through. But sometimes, when he suddenly sits up in the middle of the night to explain exactly how he cuts the eggplants for his sinigang or what cut of meat he will use next, I have to wonder.

So this is what he made for us for Valentines – Sinampalukan Manok. When Filipinos refer to sinigang, they are usually referring to a soup with vegetables and meat (or fish), with a souring agent added. Most commonly used is sampalok (tamarind), but around the Philippines they also use kamias (Averrhoa bilimbi), unripe mango, or guava to sour the soup. For the meat, you can use pork or beef, fish or prawns. There are a myriad of versions and combinations for sinigang but for some reason, when you use chicken, it’s called Sinampalukan Manok (literally Tamarind’d Chicken).

C doesn’t use a recipe when he cooks any of his sinigang but I can share the general framework for his Sinampalukan Manok: He boils some water (he uses a lot because he likes a lot of soup) in our biggest pot with onions (whole but peeled) and tomatoes (whole), ginger (peeled and sliced), long green chilis (sili pangsigang, whole), some gabi (taro, peeled), and patis (fish sauce). Then he adds the chicken. When the gabi is soft he fishes it out, mashes it, and returns it to the pot. This makes the soup really thick which is how we like it. He then leaves it to cook until the chicken is tender. When the chicken is almost done he adds labanos (radish, sliced), let’s it cook a bit, and then adds eggplant (sliced on the diagonal). And then he adds the sinigang mix*** (no, we don’t make it from scratch!). We taste and adjust seasoning accordingly – if it needs more salt he adds fish sauce, more sourness then he adds more sinigang mix, more heat means more chilis. We like our sininigang really sour (the type that makes your forehead knot) and really spicy. Finally he adds mustasa (mustard) leaves, which he says are the perfect greens for sinigang. Stir, take off the heat, and enjoy with lots and lots of rice!

We used the free-range chicken from our organic farmer (the same place we got our duck) so we had to cook it for much longer than our regular grocery birds. The meat had leagues more flavour though and the dark meat was much, much darker...like actual meat as opposed to poultry.

This may not seem like the most romantic dish in the world but it can’t be beat for comfort and warmth. And someone doing the cooking and washing up helps too! Thank you C for a wonderful Valentines! :)

***You can make your sinigang na sampalok or sinampalukan broth from scratch by pounding and boiling tamarind. One day we'll try that...but for now sinigang mix does it fast and right for us :) Sinigang mix is available all over the Philippines from the biggest supermarket to the littlest sari-sari store. Elsewhere in the world you can find it in any Filipino store (which you will find anywhere there are Filipinos – which means everywhere).


Jude said...

I'm guilty of using the sinigang mix instead. That's how we used to do it back home anyway so it's plenty authentic to me :)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Delicious looking! You are lucky that C cooked for you ;-P...



Watergirl said...

That's a heartwarming gift from C to you on Valentine's. Sounds like a great recipe too! I used to think sinampalukan meant you had to slap (sampal) the chicken around lol!

Christelle said...

I need to know what it tastes like (or should taste like) to reproduce the dish.
Sinigang sounds gorgeous but I have not seen it anywhere around where I live. I REALLY REALLY want to try it now!!
I've placed it on my must try before I die list :))))))))

This is an excellent article, thank you so much for sharing!

[eatingclub] vancouver || js said...

I had asked people whether we can do sinigang with chicken -- and I just got horrified reactions from several. LOL I thought I was doing something ungodly, but I guess I just didn't know the proper name for it.

Marvin said...

Though I've tried making sinigang from Tamarind before, I use the mix regularly as well. I've never tried it with chicken before, but it sounds just right for the rainy weather we've been having on this side of the world.

Irene said...

What a wonderful Valentine's Day! My hubby and I almost never go out, and we've stopped planning things because no matter what we plan, it never happens and we seem to always do something else! This year, we planned to make lamb chops at home, but at the last minute decided on sushi. :)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Jude! We’ve always used sinigang mix as well when I was growing up so it doesn’t seem too “cheat-y” to me ;)

Hi Rosa! Thanks! Yes, I think so :) I made cookies too though! Heehee :)

Hi WG! Haha! Too funny (although there is a similar dish!) :)

Hi Christelle! Glad you enjoyed the post! If there is a Filipino/Asian store anywhere near where you live you should be able to find it – and I’m sure the Filipino proprietor would only be too happy to help you out! :)

Hi JS! Hahaha! I knooow! It’s really strange...like when people don’t realize that Clark Kent and Superman are the same guy!

Hi Marvin! This is fantastic for rainy weather! I’m not surprised you’ve tried making it from scratch before – you’re such a great emissary for our cuisine :)

Hi Irene! That’s sounds spontaneous and fun! :) I love sushi!

veron said...

I miss sinigang...and I have never made sinigang from scratch...always from the mix which is really good anyway!

Dhanggit said...

oh my gosh! sarap!! my grandma used to cook this for us! you just gave me idea to try this recipe here in france :-)

Manggy said...

Hmm, I never noticed that back at home... I wonder if I've ever been out on Feb 14 ;) You forgot we also use kalamansi as a souring agent! Aah!
I love that you mash the gabi into the soup. Genius. It does look perfect!
Do you think Thai tamarind paste might work as a substitute for people who can't find powder?

ChichaJo said...

Hi Veron! Yup, the mixes are pretty good...but I’m curious to try using real sampalok...one day! :)

Hi Dhanggit! You should! Especially if the weather is cold :)

Hi Manggy! It’s a madhouse! Oh yes, kalamansi! I haven’t tried that version though...I can imagine it to be delicious! I will pass on the compliments to C :) I have never tried making this with Thai tamarind paste as a substitute so I don’t know how similar it will come out but I imagine it’ll make a good soup as well! Hmmm...another thing to try next time :)

Tartelette said...

That is one Valentine sexy chicken leg! Love the flavor pairing! I agree with going out to eat on V-Day, prices are up, service is poor and talk about making a man feel bad if "he" did not get jewelry or flower and the guy at the next table did!!
Celebrating the love inside the home is one that I love too.

Midge said...

Joey, your sinampalukang manok brought back fond memories of one of my dad's late aunts who was a champion at making the dish. My Lola Charing made it with sampaloc from her own trees and threw in young sampaloc leaves to add another layer of sourness to the broth. She used to serve her sinampalukan with pork barbecue, oddly enough.

Marketman said...

I love sinampalukang manok, particularly on a sotrmy/rainy day... And it's much quicker than other meaty sinigangs to make!

mikky said...

would you believe that i haven't tried one??? thanks to you, now I will... :)

Belinda said...

Hi Joey! I am so with you about Valentine's Day...I love all of the romantic, frivolous things associated with the day too, but I always prefer to be at home...now, if I could just get my fella to take a page out of C's book, and cook for me, that would be a perfect day! lol How wonderful that C has a specialty that he makes for you...a true gift from the heart. :-) I love reading and learning about real, authentic Filipino foods when you highlight them, and it ALWAYS make me wish I was able to whip up these wonderful sounding dishes in my Georgia kitchen!

P said...

hi, joey. this is off topic, but hey, it's you so anything bacon can't possibly be that out of place:


thought of you when i saw this. check it out. the artist also has posters that read Jamon Serrano Makes the World Go Round.

Gattina said...

Oh he is so sweet!!! totally a labour of love!
please continue to indulge us :) :) with your beautiful writing and story!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Helene! Heehee ;) Yes, prices are up on Valentines and a lot of restaurants come up with these set meals which bug me because I like to order everything myself!

Hi Midge! That sounds incredible – one day we will conquer the fresh sampaloc sinigang!

Hi MM! You bet! Except with free range chicken...takes quite a while!

Hi Mikky! It’s really yummy! Hope you can give it a try :)

Hi Belinda! I’m so happy you enjoy my Filipino food posts :) Our cuisine is not as popular as other Asian cuisine so it’s great to hear positive feedback :) I think gifts from the heart are the best ones of all :)

Hi P! Thanks for the link! They are adorable!!!

Hi Gattina! Aw! :) Thank you for your sweet comment! I’m happy you liked the post :)

Anonymous said...

Hi! I made Hainanese Chicken taken from marketman's archives with last week's organic chicken. It worked out very well and was thinking you might want to try it too.


ChichaJo said...

Hi Annette! That sounds like a great idea! :) Will keep that in mind!

emily said...

a little trick i have to make it extra sour (without adding more than the packet of mix i put in) is to use lemon or kalamansi juice. makes my face squeeze just thinking of it.