Shrimp in Hot Tamarind Soup (Sinigang na Hipon)

Sinigang is a Philippine dish that sends me to excitement from the time I was a kid.  This dish means sour broth given by tamarinds, guavas, calamondin (calamansi), mangoes or bilimbi (kamias).  Whatever souring agent you use, you will definitely pucker up your lips especially if you eat my version.  Ok, I exaggerate when I am cooking for myself.  Because I am the only one eating, I augment the sourness to my taste.  I think that's the beauty of this dish, the flexibility of going from mild to medium to strong and to extra strong that will make you holler.  That's my dish!  

Sinigang is the soup base and you can put pork belly, shrimp, fish or beef.  Chicken is cooked in a similar way but with slightly different ingredients.  It's called sinampalukang manok (chicken in tamarind soup)Then there are the different kinds of vegetables that go well with sinigang like Japanese eggplants, water spinach, long string beans, long green pepper, daikon, taro tubers and spinach. 

In the Philippines, these vegetables are readily available, whereas in Italy I just use spinach, which is not really an original ingredient but is a popular substitute for water spinach when not available.  However lacking the vegetables are, the taste of the dish doesn't change.

Tamarind-based sinigang is the traditional one and in the old days, without the availabilty of the instant mixes that can be bought everywhere (even in all Asian shops in Rome!), the women would do it the hard way using fresh tamarinds and rice water (the water used in rinsing the rice, specifically the second rinsing).  I'm not traditional and I go for the easier method which is using the instant mix. 

Shrimp in hot tamarind soup is best eaten with hot steamed white rice and a dipping sauce mixture of fish sauce and calamondin or lemon. 

Shrimp in Hot Tamarind Soup (Sinigang na Hipon)

Serves 2 - 3
  • 10 - 12 pieces big shrimp
  • 1 onion, sliced to rings
  • 2 big tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 - 2 long green pepper
  • 250 g. spinach 
  • other vegetables you can use: 1/2 daikon; bunch of water spinach; 1 Japanese eggplant, a couple of taro tubers
  • 1 packet (of 40 g. / 1.4 oz.)  tamarind soup base mix (add more if you want the soup to be more sour)
  • 2 liters water
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (more or less, depending on your taste)
  1. In a pot, boil water with onions and tomatoes.
  2. When water boils, add tamarind soup mix and the vegetables that cook long like the eggplant, taro tubers and daikon. Cook for about 8 - 10 minutes.
  3. Add shrimp.  Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the spinach / water spinach.  Cook for another couple of minutes.
  5. Adjust taste with fish sauce.
  6. Serve hot with steamed white rice and a sauce mixture of fish sauce and calamansi or lemon.