After years and years of making sinigang for my sinigang-obsessed family, I finally decided to try and make it differently, just for fun. The result is a stewier, thicker, more intense dish that is probably how I’m going to be making sinigang 4 out of 5 times, it’s that good.
Be warned, this is a Filipino making Filipino food. I have zero measurements. Eyeballing is life. And it’s the only thing that will convince your Mom, your Dad, your titas, your titos, and your lolos and lolas that you actually know how to cook.
- Bacon, 2-4 strips
- Pork belly, cut into strips or thin chunks
- Garlic cloves
- Chinese eggplant
- Baby bok choy
This delicious mess starts with pork belly, sliced into thin strips like you would if you were making stir fry. Put the meat in a bowl, then at least two hours before cooking, but preferably overnight, pre-season the meat with salt, pepper, a dash or two of fish sauce, and about a third to half a packet of sinigang mix depending on how much meat you intend on using. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge so that the flavours can all get to know each other.
The next morning (or two hours later) go and preheat your oven to 400C. I mean, I did say this is a roast sinigang. Go on, pre-heat it. I promise, it’s worth it.
Prep your veg. Very thinly sliced yellow onions. Roughly mince enough garlic to make you happy – we prefer the purple kind that’s like, 5 times as expensive as the regular white ones. Get it, it’s worth it, and life is short. Be bougie about your garlic. Two or three tomatoes, sliced in chunks. The kind on the vine is delicious and adds a wonderful nuance to the sourness of the soup, but Roma tomatoes work really well, too! Not going to lie, I often cheap out on tomatoes.
So that’s onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Still with me? Yes? Okay.
Grab yourself some okra. Discard the heads, slice them into rounds. Use a lot of it, because this is a stew. Now for some Chinese eggplant. Now I’m in Canada, so wherever you are, this might be called by a different name. In the Philippines it’s just that regular long and thin eggplant that we use for tortang talong. Yes, that one. Discard the stalk part, and cut it into rings. You can cut those rings in half, too, if you want more evenly sized vegetables.
Since this is sinigang, you’ll definitely want some greens. Ideally, it’s kangkong, but you know, that shit’s not available here. Get you some baby bok choy. You can use some other bok choy, or whatever is on sale, but I love baby bok choy because you can get the greens and the stem in one bite. Mmm, delish.
And now, to cooking.
Get yourself a cookie sheet. I’ve done this lined in foil before, but I honestly don’t think it makes that much of a difference. Lay out your bacon on the sheet, and roast it off, 5 mins per side. Maybe more if it’s thicker, a little less if it’s thinner. Roast it off until the fat renders out, and then keep it aside for garnish. Now, get your chilled and pre-seasoned pork belly strips, and toss it in the bacon fat. Make sure they’re in a single layer for better colour.
Roast it for 10 minutes, then pull out the tray and drain the roasting liquid off into a bowl. Keep this to the side, you’re going to want it later. Give the meat a toss and put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Take it out. If you’ve done this right, the meat should be sizzling, and some nice colour and crispness should be starting to happen. Toss it again, and put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Then take it out and set aside.
In a shallow pan with about 4 inch sides, heat up a little bit of vegetable oil – and I do mean a little bit. This is a dish with a lot of pork belly, the fat will render out, again. So, hot pan, a shot of cold oil, then heat until the oil shimmers.
If you’re cooking in North America, this is when you switch on the fan above your stove, because this thing’s gonna smoke. It’ll smell heavenly, but it’s going to smoke.
Ready? Okay, go. Onion first. Make sure that the onion slices separate from each other, so that each one has the chance to coat evenly with oil and to cook properly. Stir it often enough that the slices go soft, thin, and delicious, but without burning. Just before they become too soft, toss in your garlic gently. Don’t throw it in like it’s a grenade. That should make some really amazing smells in your kitchen, and your shirt is going to smell like cooking for the rest of the day.
When the garlic is soft and beginning to go golden, put in your tomatoes. This is where you need to be careful, because tomatoes have a lot of water content in them, and if you just toss it in willy-nilly, you’re going to get splashed with hot oil, and that’s not cute. Be careful. Stir it in so that the onions and garlic and tomatoes get to play. Let it cook until the skin begins to separate a little bit from the tomato. When it does that, this holy trifecta of Filipino cooking is now ready for the meat.
Carefully add the meat in, and let it sautée for a few minutes. It won’t take a long time because the meat is already cooked, you’re just doing this to layer in more flavours into the stew. Now, remember the roasting juices that you drained from the tray earlier? Add that to your stew, and let simmer again for a minute or two. When it begins to bubble, add cold water, enough that the meat is covered. Let it boil again, and when it does, add your okra and eggplant.
Turn your heat down and let that simmer until the veg is done to your liking. When it is, add your bok choy to the pan, but don’t stir it. Cover it with a lid and let the bok choy steam to your preferred doneness. I like my bok choy with a lot of crunch, so I cover it for 2 mins and then that’s it. Stir in the bok choy just before serving, then serve over a heaping bowl of rice.
I promise you, you’ll be happy you made this dish. It’s fantastic.