A soothing elixir made of that universally loved combination of chicken, chicken broth and an added flavoring agent, in this case young sampalok or tamarind leaves. In its simplest form, this was probably just chicken, broth and tamarind leaves and seasoning in the form of salt or fish sauce with perhaps some onions and/or tomatoes — but the version we make at home makes it a bit closer to a chicken sinigang with several more greens added to ensure a complete meal in a bowl. The last time I featured a recipe for sinampalukang manok was almost six years ago, and I didn’t even have the key ingredient (young leaves of tamarind) then, so I figured I should post another recipe here.
I was always under the impression that tamarind trees send out a lot of new shoots or leaves during the rainy season, and it’s easiest to purchase the young leaves then. But I found these wonderful leaves at the market over the weekend so I bought them and decided to make sinampalukang manok to enjoy during the uncharacteristically wet and rainy day on Sunday. To make, I started off by adding a little oil to a soup pot, sauteed some sliced onions and large thin slices of ginger and then several pieces of chicken parts until slightly browned. Add a bit of patis or fish sauce at this stage. Next add several cups of rice washing and some good homemade chicken stock to the pot. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the chicken is quite cooked. I then added about a cup of homemade tamarind broth (made from scratch) or you can opt for a bit of instant tamarind mix if you wish to take a shortcut. Add the young tamarind leaves (no stems, just leaves) and stir to mix. Taste the broth and you will probably need to season with salt, fish sauce or both.
I then added some sliced eggplants, sitaw or yard long beans, cut into two inch long pieces, some ampalaya tendrils and kangkong for added greens factor. Add some whole and or sliced finger chilies (siling labuyo) if you like. I know several folks like this dish with tomatoes, so go ahead and add those if you like, right up at the start of the recipe. I sometimes crave a bit of bitterness, hence the ampalaya tendrils, but in this particular case, the ampalaya was downright evil bitter! So if I were you, axe the ampalaya tendrils unless you are a huge fan of them. Serve hot with some steamed rice. Incredibly comforting and restorative food. You can adjust the degree of sourness to your liking, but keep in mind the sourness is meant to be more subtle, not so in your face like some of the tartest sinigangs you have tasted.