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Vegetarian Sinigang (Filipino Tamarind or Sour Soup)
From: MC Baker

So Vegetarian is almost an unheard of word in the Philippines, but while in college I still wanted the Filipino tastes while trying to be vegetarian. Since all of the recipes I know had meat (even the veggies are cooked in pork) I had to come up with some of my own. This is one of those. Tofu sinigang apparently isn't unheard of in the Philippines but this recipe came out of trial and error. The soup is pretty sour cooked to "full strength" but can make a pretty nice fast meal with rice.

SERVES 4

  • 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their juice or 3 peeled chopped tomatoes, with their juice
  • 1 large potato, diced to 1 inch cubes or 3 small potatoes, diced to 1 inch cubes
  • 1 large bok choy or other greens
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 lb tofu, diced to 1 inch cubes
  • 1 chayote or zucchini, diced to 1 inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, diced small
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 package sinigang tamarind soup mix (If tamarind is sweet you'll want to add kalamansi or lemon juice) or 5 g tamarind broth cubes (If tamarind is sweet you'll want to add kalamansi or lemon juice) or 2 tamarind pods (If tamarind is sweet you'll want to add kalamansi or lemon juice)
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 cups water (approximate, you may want to adjust this to your liking)

Chop all veggies. If using a large Idaho potato peel it before chopping. If using small potatoes you can leave the skins on. Many people have never used chayote. If you use it for the first time, just cut it in half from where the dip is. It's similar to a mango with the shape of the pit being flat, but the pit is soft unlike in a mango so there's no need to cut around it. Remove the pit/seed from the two halves and peel if you like. I don't believe peeling is necessary.

A note about the tamarind soup mix: If you're vegetarian or sensitive to MSG check the ingredients on the packet. I think they all have MSG, and most have pork, fish or beef in them. I found tamarind broth cubes which have less of those things in them which is great, but the best is if you can find real tamarind. I have found both of these in Asian grocery stores in the US, though you can occasionally find them in the ethnic foods isle of a grocery store. If you're using tamarind remove the hard outer shell. The insides feel and sometimes smell like the insides of raisins or prunes. If the tamarind tastes sweet it's not going to give you the right flavor for the soup, but can still be close with kalamansi or lemon juice added. It should be a sour taste. Soak the tamarind pulp, seeds and all, in 1 cup of warm water. Mash this with a fork to remove most of the tamarind from the seeds. Fish out the seeds and the membranes and reserve the liquid to add after potatoes are cooked.

Cook potatoes in water with a touch of salt for about 10 minutes, or until almost cooked through.

Add remaining veggies and seasoning and cook 10-15 minutes more, or until veggies are cooked to desired consistency.

Taste broth and adjust water and tamarind seasoning and salt to your liking. Keep in mind that if you're serving this with rice, as I always do, you probably want more intense flavors and a more stew like consistency.

I typically double this recipe since it keeps well in the refrigerator and it gets eaten quite quickly even with just me and my husband. It is important to cook the potatoes before you cook the other veggies because the acid from the tomatoes and the tamarind mix prevent the potatoes from ever cooking through if you add them straight away. The quantities are still an approximation as I've never measured.