01 Mar2008

Sinigang for Lunch…

by Marketman


A family friend called yesterday morning to say hello. An American from upstate New York, he was in town for just a few days and was already heading back to the States the following day. He has ties to the Philippines and lived here for several years until he and his family relocated to the U.S. a couple of years ago. This was his first time back in over a year, and we quickly agreed to do lunch at Milky Way on Pasay Road a few hours later. I asked him if there was anything in particular he wanted to eat and he immediately said “sinigang.” After I put the phone down, I realized it might be better to do lunch at home, and after a quick call, plans were set. I now had about 3 hours to pull together a filipino meal anchored on a fish sinigang. I sent someone off to the market to buy some fish and prawns, and I went to S&R to buy a few other ingredients. On the menu a couple of hours later?


Sinigang na Sugpo and Sinigang na Isda (Tanguigue), both done in palayoks over an open fire. Some Inihaw na Liempo (for those who weren’t abstaining), a fried bangus, a bicol express “relish” and a tomato and red egg salad. We also had a selection of “pickles” including our homemade papaya acharra and brined paho and a superb acharang ubod that we received as a gift. For dessert we had frozen langka pieces with brandy and a frozen mango torte, from a nearby gas station… The place setting was a simple woven mat, with light brown ceramics from the kilns of Lanelle Abueva, white linen napkins, silver and a simple glass.


It’s always nice when a foreigner or a balikbayan asks, without hesitation, for a sinigang or other classic Pinoy dish when they are here for a visit. And I was more than happy to oblige with the works, as best we could manage, in a brief period of time. We made the tamarind broth from scratch, using roughly 1/2 kilo of unripe tamarind boiled in water and strained to achieve that naturally sour but flavorful taste. I am biased but making it from scratch isn’t much work and it tastes a lot better than the packaged mixes, in my opinion. The use of palayoks and a wood fire brought the soups up a couple of notches! It is always unusual to present the palayoks as is on the dining table… so rustic and so uncommon a site in this modern day and age…


The selection of pickles was serendipitous. I had just made the brined paho a week or so ago and it was in perfect eating condition. The papaya acharra is almost always in our pantry and a whole bottle’s worth was put out on the table. And the ubod acharra arrived as a gift just the other day, and was patiently sitting in the fridge waiting for the right moment. These all paired particularly well with the grilled liempo and the fried bangus…


I always like to offer something with heat or spice when we are having a “local” lunch like this so I made a very quick bicol express inspired relish, the shortcut version. A can of thai coconut cream into a small saucepan and boiled for a minute or two. Add some chopped onion and garlic, a couple of teaspoons of bottle bagoong and lots of chopped siling pangsigang and stir occasionally until soft, say 15 minutes or so… Serve hot or at a lukewarm temperature. Yum. I also made a simple salad of chopped tomatoes and red egg, a dash of local vinegar and lots of cracked black pepper.


For dessert I extracted some frozen langka (jackfruit) from the freezer and let it thaw for about 15 minutes before serving as is (de-seeded) with a splash of good brandy or cognac. Yes, you read that right… freeze the langka, splash it with brandy and enjoy… so easy and yet so delicious.


Finally, for the sweet tooth, a Cuerva’s frozen mango torte… the perfect fruity and creamy finish to an impromptu lunch. Our guests had several servings of everything on the table, so I suspect it was a reasonable success… :)



  1. aggy says:

    everything looks lovely and delicious! kudos to you and your crew!love the simple place settings…i miss real home cooked sinigang at our home in quezon city, with kangkong, kamias, miso or guavas, whatever’s in season…here in illinois, i make do with thai tamarind paste or sometimes a tom yum paste and spinach leaves and salmon for seafood…i miss Philippine sugpo…sinigang will be the first foods i will sample when we visit(after 6 long years)hopefully, in may

    Mar 1, 2008 | 10:12 pm


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  3. elaine says:

    MM, I love the table setting. I love ceramics and, off topic, a good sink bowl from lanelle abueva…hmmm, I wonder if she’s related to ‘the’ Nat’l Artist…my next mission is to get a very good cognac/brandy to splash on frozen langka as we always have this in the house.:))

    Mar 1, 2008 | 10:30 pm

  4. Roseanne says:

    Hi, I tried cooking sinigang from scratch once but for some reasons the only way I could get it to taste like sinigang was to put several tablespoons of salt – which defeated my purpose of cooking healthy. Would appreciate it if you can provide your recipe for the tamarind broth. Thanks!

    Mar 1, 2008 | 11:10 pm

  5. Lety says:

    MM, when I go back home, can I visit you? hahaha…everything looks good. mmmm..YUMMY!

    Mar 2, 2008 | 12:09 am

  6. 4btiddy says:

    Omigod, I am drooling. I think this is one of my favorite posts (obvious ba how homesick I am?). I love the menu and the place settings. MM, this post will serve as inspiration for the next time my American in-laws visit.

    Elaine…Lanelle Abueva is the National Artist’s niece.

    Mar 2, 2008 | 2:04 am

  7. nina says:

    MM, that was quick! I’m sure you had help but to set-up a lunch with several dishes can is quite a task!

    Mar 2, 2008 | 2:16 am

  8. Maria Clara says:

    With your golden touch and experience in the kitchen everything turns out well. Your frozen langka – you freeze the langka raw without caramelizing them in sugar and wakes them up with cognac, is that what you did?

    Mar 2, 2008 | 3:27 am

  9. Jasmine says:

    I would always add kangkong and radish to “assam kunyit”, the Bruneian tamarind-based dish to make it taste more like sinigang and I get raised eyebrows from my guests. But they do love it at the end.

    Mar 2, 2008 | 6:43 am

  10. britelite says:

    MM-where did you get that very small paho–its called pangi in our place–I have been hunting for that fruit since my lola always makes that for us–I so miss that!

    Mar 2, 2008 | 8:10 am

  11. dee bee says:

    Both food and setting are impressive… and on such short notice, too. The setting complements the food quite well. And I have no doubt the food would have been quite good. I’m biased :))

    The half-calamansi on the Abueva sauce plate is a beautiful still life, a piece of art. I read somewhere that Lanelle Abueva has an outlet in Greenhills. Would you know where it is? Thanks.

    Mar 2, 2008 | 9:34 am

  12. Marketman says:

    dee bee, Lanelle used to have an outlet in Greenhills, but it has since closed. She sells out of her restaurant/pottery/kiln complex up in Antipolo, the restaurant is called Crescent Moon Cafe. She has overruns on offer at that location… and that is where I bought many of these plates… others were a gift from her, she is a relative. :) britelite, the markets have paho at the moment, and only for a few weeks, I did a post on paho a few days ago. Jasmine, assam kunyit sounds interesting… particularly if adjusted to your pinoy taste! MC, just freeze ripe de-seeded langka, then thaw slightly and sprinkle with brandy… delicious! nina, I find that if your pantry and fridge is well stocked and you write a blog with recipes at easy reach, it is relatively simple to pull a lunch like this together. Roseanne I have a post on making tamarind broth in the archives, just google” tamarind sinigang broth marketmanila” elaine, Lanelle is a niece of Napoleon Abueva… she apprenticed for several years with a master potter on some tiny island in Japan. aggy, it’s about time you return for a visit and some authentic sinigang! :)

    Mar 2, 2008 | 9:47 am

  13. corrrine says:

    Wow, MM. I would be very honored and ecstatic if I were your guest. I think as a traveller, the best experience is to be invited in a local’s home. I am pleasantly surprised that foreigners love sinigang. I have a good Chinese friend and her family loves sinigang. I served it recently and they ate so heartily! Yes, I share your opinion, for some reason, the unripe sampaloc nowadays are not so sour.I think it was different when I was young. Anyway, it was because of your blog that I was inspired to make sinigang out of unripe mangoes. It is extremely good and better than sampaloc! I just ask from my neighbor who has mango tree.

    I think that was a superb menu and table setting that you prepared.

    Mar 2, 2008 | 11:08 am

  14. Traci says:

    this menu sounds great, MM! i always have trouble thinking up a menu.. so much so that i don’t, and just let the cook have her way. what kind of bagoong did you use for the quick Bicol Express, bottled or “homemade-from-the-market-and-adjusted”? is there any particular bottled one you’d recommend?

    Mar 2, 2008 | 12:00 pm

  15. Marketman says:

    Traci, I just used bottled store bought bagoong, Barrio Fiesta or something like that… Not great, but it will do for flavoring a coconut based dish…

    Mar 2, 2008 | 12:28 pm

  16. juls says:

    great post mm, love the set up of the pickled relishes….

    Mar 2, 2008 | 2:41 pm

  17. xiao li says:

    wow sarap! home cooked food, especially sinigang, really suits the bouts of cool weather we have now :). MM, can we know where you got the mango torte?

    Mar 2, 2008 | 9:49 pm

  18. Chi says:

    Hey MM!

    Being a Korean Pinoy-phile, you have inspired me to prepare a Filipino meal for Daniella when she comes back to Korea for spring break tomorrow. She loves sinigang (as do the rest of my family!)but unfortunately, we don’t have kangkong here. I guess spinach will have to suffice. Next time I’m in Manila, can I go over for this exact lunch? Yum, yum! I’ll bring the kimchi for spice~^^

    Mar 2, 2008 | 9:55 pm

  19. kasseopeia says:

    WOW! Atchara and paho with grilled ANYTHING will have to be part of my “Last Supper”! *drools*

    Sinigang is my all-time favorite food and I can eat it everday without getting tired of it. Yum yum.

    Jasmine, how do you make your assam kunyit? I am very curious about it. Thanks in advanced!

    Beautiful table setting, Marketman! Your guests are very lucky to have such a creative host.

    Mar 2, 2008 | 10:09 pm

  20. Jojo says:

    Ahh, sinigang, my wife, a Puerto Rican learned how to make this dish from me. She loves it, whether it be neckbones, liempo or prawns. She loves it even more w/ lots of gabi. Too bad we don’t have kang kong or a palayok here in Chicago. Now, I just have to convince her to try patis and bagoong!

    Mar 2, 2008 | 10:19 pm

  21. shane says:

    I agree with with 4btiddy-this is one of my favorite posts. The menu is simple and unpretentious. I can appreciate that you did not have to substitute any of the ingredients or revise the preparations to suit the American palate in general. I feel like I have just sat down to lunch at your home, made to feel welcomed with my guard down the whole time. Of course there is that certain degree of formality even amongst friends, but to be served this comfort food- it is akin to being (subliminaly) told I have better savor every morsel with gusto!

    off topic- what kind of wood is your table made of? We have a 250 year old four square mahogany table from England that we use everyday. i am glad you don’t have your table under a cover for everyone to enjoy.

    Mar 2, 2008 | 10:24 pm

  22. dhayL says:

    Your serving bowl from the second photo up top caught my eye, it was beautiful, and it went well with your over all setting! The food, as always, they look (and for sure taste) amazing! I’m sure your family friend walked out the door, happy and with full belly! :) Well done!

    Mar 3, 2008 | 2:42 am

  23. desie the maybahay says:

    this menu is inspiring. we do love to entertain at home but hardly ever serve up an all-filipino menu. i love the balance/variety of your dishes. everything sounds delicious.

    Mar 3, 2008 | 7:31 am

  24. kittyM says:

    Hi MM! Thanks for another great post! I love everything you did and it has inspired me to have friends over for dinner ;) By the way is is blue moon cafe same as crescent moon cafe?

    Mar 3, 2008 | 10:13 am

  25. tinsywinsy says:

    Hi MM,

    In what gasoline station can I get the Mango Torte? It is more convenient to get it outside Lorenzo Village especially because I do not have a car sticker.:)

    Mar 3, 2008 | 10:21 am

  26. Marketman says:

    tinsywinsy, its the Petron Station outside Dasmarinas village, I think on the second floor you will find the Cuerva shop. KittyM, THANK YOU for catching that, it IS CRESCENT MOON and not BLUE MOON, I will change my comment above. dhayL, the bowl is from Lanelle Abueva as well. Shane, the table has a center piece of tindalo wood, with an edge in kamagong. The legs are made of tindalo. Chi, next time you are in Manila, you are of course welcome to a Pinoy lunch, just let me know what you are hankering for… for other readers, Chi is a classmate from 25+ years ago… :) xiao li, Cuerva’s mango torte, Petron station outside Dasmarinas Village Makati.

    Mar 3, 2008 | 11:05 am

  27. MarketFan says:

    MM, that’s one great impromptu meal. Beats any restaurant or hotel offering. Lucky guests.

    Mar 3, 2008 | 12:54 pm

  28. Kim says:

    So, Marketman, I’m going to start off by saying, What a SUPERB lunch you and your staff made. My personal favorite among all Pinoy dishes is sinigang, but I don’t believe I’ve ever had it from scratch; my family has always made it with the packaged mix, and most restaurants, I believe, here in San Diego use the mix as well. I would LOVE to try a homemade version one of these days. I think I would have to attempt it myself…but where to find raw tamarind in San Diego?? Ah, research, research…

    As for my other reason for writing, I am absolutely MORTIFIED that the passion fruit jam made it’s way to you. Long story short, other blogger didn’t read my emailed explanation in time and gave the other jar to her mom, who promptly opened it up and enjoyed it. Meanwhile, my mom and my brother scrambled to send you another jar, but the only other one they had had already been opened, and I told them not to send it. Anyway, I AM TERRIBLY SORRY! After all this mess…I forget that in Manila you have drivers to run your errands for you. Here in the States you have to do it all yourself! Anyway, had I known I would have just had my brother’s driver send it to you directly. OY VEY. Well…the next crop of passion fruit will happen this summer…will you settle for a jar then??? (Again, so sorry!)

    Thanks for understanding,

    Mar 4, 2008 | 4:44 am

  29. Marketman says:

    Kim, no problem at all… As for raw tamarind in Sand Diego…hmmm, a mexican store perhaps?

    Mar 4, 2008 | 8:50 am

  30. dee bee says:

    thanks for info, marketman. does that mean you are related to former UP pres jose abueva? i was there during his term.

    Mar 4, 2008 | 9:47 am

  31. Marketman says:

    dee bee, Lanelle is the eldest daughter of Jose, the former U.P President, so the answer to your question is yes. :) But I don’t think Lanelle or Napoleon or Jose know I have this blog, so they couldn’t identify me either. :)

    Mar 4, 2008 | 9:50 am

  32. dee bee says:

    Cool! great genes run in your family. :))

    Mar 5, 2008 | 9:28 am

  33. linda says:

    a perfect and delicious pinoy dinner with a perfect host,what more could one ask for? MM,as always you’ve done it again!

    Mar 6, 2008 | 1:31 pm

  34. linda says:

    lunch pala:)

    Mar 6, 2008 | 3:39 pm

  35. Rose says:

    Hi MM,

    I love reading your blog. Its interesting and informative w/o being snobbish.I noticed u mentioned Cuerva’s mango torte. I’ve tried it but like the one made by Rita Villacorta much better. She only makes cakes to order and her no.is 7247309 ,if your interested. Anyway looking forward to more of your interesting blogs.


    Mar 25, 2008 | 5:10 pm


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