chicken / poultry Filipino

Sinampalukang Manok (Chicken Stewed in Tamarind Broth)

Wednesday, March 05, 2014Enz F

We, Filipinos, are very fond of sour and comforting foods. Being a country where climate is mostly wet for the rest of the year, we find solace out of the gloomy weather from the warmth of our soothing and uplifting soup dishes. And truly, the birth of our sinigang dishes could be a towering proof of this. 

Speaking of purely Filipino cookery, sinigang is considered to be one of our most indigenous dishes. It is believed that the dish was already served by our forefathers even before the Spaniards came to rediscover the Philippines. The exact date of origin and the name of the person who created it were something that history was not able to document. It is also good to note how our national hero, Jose Rizal, referred to sinigang in one of his famous books, “Noli Me Tangere” (Touch Me Not). One chapter of which, entitled “Ang Pangingisda" (The Fishing Expedition), Rizal narrated how the character named Andeng led the preparation of the rice wash, and tomatoes and kamias (bilimbi) as ingredients for the stewed fish, while the rest of the girls in the event took charge of the vegetables by cleaning the talbos ng kalabasa (squash vine tendrils), and cutting the paayap (string bean cowpeas) into short pieces the length of cigarettes. In one scene from the same chapter of the book, Rizal was able to showcase his knowledge of the different kinds of local fishes and seafoods, and which dishes suited best for each. There was a mention of ayungin (silver perch), which was according to Tia Isabel (also one of the characters) was used for cooking sinigang. The litany went on to enumerate more like biâ (goby) whish was set aside for escabeche (fried fish in sweet and sour sauce), dalag (mudfish) and buan-buan (tarpon) for pesâ (ginger stewed), hipon (shrimp) to be placed in the pot (maybe for halabos or to be scalded) and banak (mullet) to be roasted, tomato stuffed and wrapped in banana leaves (locally known as pinaputok na isda). See, those were just a handful of Rizal's cooking tips that he was able to tackle in his writings and there were still a few more known dishes he quoted in the other sections of the novel. How one could now sense what a certified foodie the national hero was during his time. His mother must really be a great cook. Here is an excerpt of the Filipino verse from his book with English translation:

"Si Andeng, ang kapatid sa suso ni Maria Clara, kahit na may mukhang malinis at masaya, ay balita sa kahusayang magluto.36 Naghahanda ng sabaw-sinaing, kamatis, kamyas, na tinutulungan o inaabala ng ilang binata na marahil ay nagnanais ng kanyang kalugdan.37 Ang mga dalaga ay naglilinis ng talbos ng kalabasa, mga gulay, at pinagpuputol-putol nang singhaba ng sigarilyo ang mga paayap.38" 
"Andeng, Maria Clara’s childhood friend, inspite of her carefree and happy face, had a reputation of being an excellent cook.36 She prepared the rice water for stewing the fish, adding to it some tomatoes and kamias, helped or hindered by some of the young men, eager perhaps to win her favor.37 The other young women cleaned the squash vine tendrils, the snow peas, and cut the cowpeas into short pieces the length of cigarettes. 38" 
"Si Tia Isabel ang nag-uutos. ‘Ang ayungin ay mabuting isigang; bayaan ninyo ang biya sa eskabetse, ang dalag at ang buwan-buwan ay sa pesa; ang dalag ay mahaba ang buhay. Ilagay ninyo sa lambat upang huwag maalis sa tubig. Ang mga hipon ay sa kawali! Ang banak ay sa inihaw, balutin ng dahon at palamnan ng kamatis.81 Itira ninyo ang iba upang pampain: masamang ubusin lahat ang laman ng baklad, 82’ ang dugtong pa."
"Tia Isabel commands. ‘The silver perch is good for sinigang; leave the goby for the escabeche, the mudfish and the tarpon for pesâ; the dalag can live a long time. Put them back in the net and back in the water. Shrimps to the pot! The mullet need to be roasted, wrapped in banana leaves and stuffed with tomatoes.81 Leave everything else for restocking: it is not a good idea to empty the fishtrap completely, 82’ she added."

What sets sinampalukang manok apart from other sinigang dishes is the use of young tamarind leaves.
Now back to sinigang. There are lots of sour dishes that I grew up eating like pinangat (soured fish dish) and pinaksiw (vinegar stewed), but sinigang takes the more soupy side. Though there is no clear etymology as to its real origin, sinigang is traditionally a broth dish that uses sampalok (tamarind) or kamias (bilimbi) extract as the base. If you are going to browse our local cookbooks, do not be amazed to find many variants of sinigang. In fact, almost all kinds of meat – name it, from seafoods and fishes to chicken, pork and beef – have their very own version of this sour broth dish. I have personally dined in some eateries and restaurants serving sinigang na gulay (sour broth with mixed veggies, no meat), sinigang na corned beef (corned beef in sour broth) and even sinigang na longganisa (sausage in sour broth) in their menu. Through the passage of time and maybe due to regional differences, the dish has evolved into a number of varieties making use of different kinds of souring agents like bayabas (guava), calamansi (calamondin), green mangoes, cucumber, pineapple and strawberries. Sinigang is usually named after its main sour ingredients, e.g. sinigang sa bayabas (guava sour broth). In Pampanga, Philippines, Kapampangan natives call their local version bulanglang. Apart from the protein meat and the sour base, other vegetables and spices are basically included like kangkong (water spinach), talong (eggplant), okra, sitaw (string beans), siling haba (long green chili), luya (ginger) and sibuyas (onions). If you want a thicker soup, just add some gabi (taro corms). You may also use the second rice washing of the uncooked rice for the broth to produce a richer flavor. Some are even cooked with miso (Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans) complemented with mustasa (green mustards). I will show you how to cook sinigang na bangus sa miso (milkfish in sour broth with miso) in my other blog post.

Sinigang traditionally uses the extract from sampalok (tamarind) as the soup base.
Sinampalukang Manok is a variation of sinigang, considered to be one of the most indigenous among Filipino dishes.
With the many names and variations of sinigang, here came Sinampalukang Manok (Chicken Stewed in Tamarind Broth) into being. What sets it apart from other sour dishes is the use of tamarind leaves. Whenever I feel cold and sick, a bowl of sinampalukang manok makes me feel better. This soup is so refreshing that it gives me extra boost of energy to go on with the stress-filled workday. The simplicity of the dish gives me a relaxing feel of a peaceful and simple rural life the Filipinos used to have during the early days and dreamed of living nowadays. Truly, sinigang or sinampalukan or any how we call it, is an epitome of a classic dish that no matter how it has been passed on from generations to generations, remained faithful to every Pinoy's palate.

So here, sharing with you a very uplifting dish that has earned its respect not only because of its wonderful flavors but also for its very rich historical values and purely Pinoy taste. It is, indeed, a bowl that can mutually bring together the more than seven thousand scattered islands into one dining table. 'Yan ang tunay na asim!

Sinampalukang Manok (Chicken Stewed in Tamarind Broth)
Number of Servings: 4 to 5

  • 2 lbs. chicken, cleaned and cut into serving pieces 
  • 2 cups murang dahon ng sampalok (young tamarind leaves) 
  • 10-12 pcs. bunga ng sampalok (tamarind fruits) 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped 
  • 1 thumb-sized ginger, julienned 
  • 3 small tomatoes, quartered 
  • 2 cups dahon ng kangkong (water spinach leaves) 
  • 4 cups plain water or rice wash water 
  • 2 tbsps. patis (fish sauce) 
  • ¼ tsp. salt 
  • 2 tbsps. cooking oil 

  1. Wash the tamarind fruits. In a small pot, boil the tamarind fruits with two cups of water until tender and the skin begin to break. On a strainer, mash and extract the tamarind juice, returning some liquid on the strainer while continuously mashing to completely extract all the juice. Discard the used pulp, seeds and skin. Set aside the tamarind juice. This will be the base for the soup dish. 
  2. Heat the oil in a large sauce pan and sauté the garlic, onions, ginger and tomatoes. 
  3. When the tomatoes are slightly limped, add the chicken pieces and pour in the fish sauce. Stir continuously until the color of the chicken turns light brown. 
  4. Pour in two cups of water and the tamarind extract. Bring to a boil. Add more water if necessary. 
  5. Add the young tamarind leaves and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is fork tender. Season with salt. 
  6. Toss the water spinach and cook for a few seconds. Remove from heat 
  7. Transfer into a serving bowl and serve while the soup is warm. Enjoy! 

  1. You may use the commercialized chicken if you want it meatier. If you want it tastier, use the native chicken. But it will take longer cooking for the native chicken to tenderize as it has tougher meat compared to the one usually sold in the market. 
  2. This dish is best eaten with patis (fish sauce) with crushed siling labuyo (bird's eye chili) as a side dip. 
  3. You may get rid of boiling and juicing tamarind fruits by using commercialized tamarind powder mix and bouillons for convenience. The only downside is, the pre-mix ingredients are loaded with more sodium and MSG. I believe some groceries also sell preserved tamarind fruits in a bottle. But then, if you opt for more natural and healthier ingredients, go for some fresh tamarind fruits. Just boil your fruits ahead of time and it will only take you a few muscles to flex for the mashing. 
  4. Boost your vegetables by adding talong (eggplants), sitaw (string beans) and okra. Mine, I kept it minimal with just kangkong (water spinach) as I want to enjoy the soup. 
  5. You may also put long green chili to add some spice.

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