Sinigang na Isda – Filipino Fish Sour Soup

Few cuisines value sourness quite as much as Filipino. Whether from vinegar, citrus, or unripe fruits, sourness adds sparkle, helping balance intensely fishy flavours and rich, fatty meats. The Philippines’ quintessential sour dish is sinigang, a seafood soup that usually relies on tamarind pulp for tartness.

Sinigang na Isda - Filipino Fish Sour Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1½ kg snapper fillets, skinned, bones reserved
  • salt, to taste
  • 12 large raw prawns (shrimp), shelled, deveined with tails and heads left intact
  • 2 squid, cleaned, each cut into 6 pieces, scored in a crisscross pattern
  • 1½ tablespoons fish sauce
For stock
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 5 cm piece ginger
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 red onion, quartered
  • 4 pods fresh green tamarind or 1 golf ball-sized ball tamarind pulp
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • water, to cover (see notes)
  • salt, to taste
For accompaniments
  • 4 tomatoes, quartered, seeds removed
  • 12 small leeks or green beans, trimmed, left whole
  • 1 bunch gai lan (Chinese broccoli) or similar Asian green vegetable, trimmed
  • 6 small green chillies
  • 12 red Asian shallots, halved
  • 1 daikon (white radish), peeled, cut into thin sticks
To make the stock
  1. Wash the reserved fish bones and place in a large saucepan with all of the stock ingredients, except the salt.
  2. Bring to the boil over a high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook, skimming frequently, for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes to allow the sediment to settle.
  4. Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the solids. If the stock is still not clear, strain it through cheesecloth.
  5. Return to a clean pan, season with salt and bring to a simmer.
To make the soup
  1. Blanch each type of seafood and each accompaniment separately in the stock and set aside.
To serve
  1. If serving immediately, place a teaspoon of fish sauce in each serving bowl, divide the blanched ingredients among the bowls, pour over the stock and serve immediately.
  2. Alternatively, you can blanch everything beforehand, then reheat in the stock just before serving.
For a hefty broth, rice wash is tossed in. The rice wash or ‘hugas bigas’ (obtained from the second washing of rice) adds a unique opaque thickness and silkiness to the soup.

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