Sinigang na Baka / Beef and Tamarind Soup


A really sour sinigang is perhaps my favorite Filipino dish. Beef Bulalo is probably in my top 10 list as well. So having a Sinigang na Baka covers two favorite flavors in one dish, and it surprises me no end that this is the first time I am featuring a Sinigang na Baka on this blog, despite having featured nearly a dozen different sinigangs over the years. Whether the key souring agent for a sinigang is unripe sampaloc (tamarind), kamias (belimbi), green mangoes, batuan, guavas, santol, green sineguelas, unripe pineapple, etc., the sharpness or subtleties of “sour” in the hot broth screams “comfort food” for me. As for the main ingredients in the sinigang, I love prawns, pork and beef, but there are several fantastic types of fish for sinigang, shellfish such as ulang, and even chicken that make fantastic versions of this national soup of sorts. And the veggies? The more the merrier and the fresher the better!


Despite having made this dish dozens of times, I still have trouble getting all of my meat nice and tender, without using a pressure cooker. I haven’t used a pressure cooker for several years (ours blew up, figuratively) so perhaps I am just being thick and should go buy a new one. At any rate, I cut up some nice beef brisket and put it in a large pot with cool water and set it over a high flame. As soon as it reaches a boil, I lower the flame a bit and watch the scum form. After a few minutes, I throw out the water and scum and re-fill the pot with cool water with the meat and bring this back up to a boil and gently simmer this for 2+ hours until the meat is tender. All the cookbooks say 1-2 hours until very tender… baloney… I rarely get it all very tender. Maybe I am not using the right cut of meat or I am doing something wrong, but my meat is usually somewhat tender with a few hard pieces… Reader tips here are welcome. :) After about 2 hours of simmering the meat, I add several cups of sampaloc broth made from scratch, I sometimes add a couple of cups of concentrated beef broth for added flavor, then salt and pepper and let this simmer for a few minutes. Taste the broth at this point and make any adjustments you like, some add patis or fish sauce at this point, but we prefer to serve the soup with a dipping sauce of patis and kalamansi. Then add veggies from the longest cooking to the leafy greens last. In this version, I added chopped gabi (taro root), labanos (radish), sitaw (yard-long beans), siling pangsigang (finger chillies), talong (eggplants), and mini pechay (bok choy). Serve very hot, or as my mother-in-law would say, the soup “will go to sleep” and all those solidifying bits of sebo or fat will float on the surface… Now isn’t that just so true?

Haven’t had your fill of sinigang yet? Here are some other recipes:
Sampalok / Tamarind Broth from Scratch
Sinigang na Sugpo / Prawns in Tamarind Broth
Sinigang na Bangus at Bayabas
Sinigang na Hipon at Kamias
Sinampalukang Manok / Chicken & Tamarind Soup
Sinigang na Baboy
Sinigang na Bangus at Santol
Sinigang na Manggang Hilaw at Ulo ng Salmon
Sinigang na Lechon
Sinigang na Batwan at Bangus

Another Sinigang na Bangus at Bayabas
Sinigang for Lunch
Pork Rib Sinigang
Sinigang na Dalag with Miso


40 Responses

  1. Yum! Sinigang na baka! My mother in law also uses a pressure cooker for this, since “sayang sa gas” when she doesn’t.

    I don’t have much patience for it though. I use ribs and the part near the spine (vertebral body removed) instead. *lol*

  2. Sinigang our bicentennial and immortal soup and its versatility are endless! Some families I know they overstretched – it drowning in soup with miniscule meat or fish and bowl of rice some pretty leafy green veggies, the miraculous sinigang broth made their day! As soon the expat settled down to their new find home, unpacked, got rid of jet lag and reported to work, the next course of business they have is to scout the market for sinigang ingredients to fill in their day. Knorr and Mama Sita’s made it easy now just unpacked their miraculous pouches and stir it in the ready pot of meat or fish and voila in 10 minutes lunch or dinner is called out. There is no set guide or level for its sourness or tartness. It is the individual’s taste bud that rules. Even siblings, husband and wife and those involved in relationships playing with fire could not agree on the sourness but comes up to a compromise. Some like it spicy with a siling haba or labuyo mashed into the soup to give it that fiery bite.

  3. After throwing up the water with the scum, i refill the pot with boiling or hot water and simmer in low to medium heat. I was taught that this wouldnt ‘shock’ the meat.

    My abuela’s cook leave a stainless fork in the pot while boiling it, she says it makes the meat more tender. Never tried it though, sounded unbelievable to me.

  4. I prefer my sinigang, “spicy and sour”, i always have an extra serving of broth on the side, i drink it just like coffee, oh so yummy, and let me not forget, patis with sili on the side as well! Although i rarely cook beef sinigang, just because i find it that the falvour of the beef sometimes overpowers the “sampaloc flavour”, so i’d cook belly and ribs instead or buto-buto! I actually made sinigang just the other day, and my jamaican co-worker ask me why do i have my rice and “ulam” in two separate container? I said to her it’s because that the broth gets soaked up in the rice if i don’t separate them! :)

  5. We just love this so much at home! Sinigang na baka or sinigang na bulalo… If time and LPG are already running short, we use pressure cooker, otherwise, we slowcook the beef for 3.5hrs. We would also slightly thicken the broth with mashed gabi.

  6. Comfort food! Isn’t this dish only with the Tagalogs? Not sure if this is a Cebuano dish too. My parents are both Tagalog so despite having lived in Mindanao till grade school, I learned to love this dish. I came back to Iligan right after college to teach, living with my cousin and his Boholano wife. I found nothing was amiss, as his wife knew a lot of Tagalog dishes. When I lived on my own, I didn’t cook then. And just one, I had this sudden craving for the spicy-sour sinigang and went crazily calling restaurants if they serve it. Fortunately, there was a restaurant owned by a Tagalog and they had sinigang! I ate one BIG serving by myself.

  7. have you tried using a cartouche to prevent pieces floating on top becoming dry or hard? that may help.

    i’ve never been able to get beef brisket tender in 2 hours, 3-4 is more my usual. i find that the texture and flavour of slow-cooked meat is so much better than those ‘pressurised’. slow food vs fast food :)

  8. Marketman, my Mom makes sinigang with beef neckbones. Low flame for 2 hours, and it has never been tough.

    I have been reading your blog since last summer, but this is my first comment- appropriately on my favorite Filipino dish!

  9. we all love sinigang inmy family.every time we go back home they’d ask what we want and it would always be sinigang kahhit ano. i love it spicy and sour also.i always make sure i put more than one sili when i make it so dh and i would each have one. even my kids who were born here loves this dish especially sinigang na catfish.yummm. i guess we’ll have that for dinner tomorrow.

  10. I agree with MM. It takes me more than 2 hrs to boil the beef to my desired tenderness! (And I am scared to use the pressure cooker)

    At our home, I add onions and tomatoes to the boiling broth after I have removed the scum. And we add kangkong, okra and sigarillas aside from the requisite siling haba and gabi. Patis and for me, guinamos, on the side and lots of steaming hot rice! Beats burjers anytime!!!!

  11. I have a client who once had a restaurant business, who swore by her technique of putting ice on the water once it starts to boil. According to her, it hastens the process of making the beef tender. Havent tried it though.

  12. Your beef is probably very lean and has not been aged. You might try using a Le Creuset pot and never bring the water to a full boil, just a very gentle simmer. Do not salt until you cook veggies. Cover the pot and put into a 250 F oven for 3 hours. Return to stove top, remove the meat, salt the broth and cook the veggies in the broth. Return the meat to warm up and serve.

  13. sister, I do use a Le Creuset and don’t salt and only at a simmer. But I like the oven idea instead of stove top… will try that. For all I know I am having carabao sinigang :)

  14. Sinigang! My ultimate comfort food. One time after traveling in Europe where we hardly ate rice, least of all pinoy food, it was the first thing hubby and I looked for once we got home. Since we’ve been away, the fridge was empty but buti na lang, we have a pinoy resto nearby that serves a good pork sinigang. We took it to go and with our fresh sinaing, we almost finished a whole pot of rice, just the two of us! Sinigang is also my best anti-jetlag food. I am just absolutely crazy for sinigang anything–beef, pork, fish, shellfish; sampalok, kamias, miso. Name it, I’d love it!

  15. Marketman, try cooking the meat unthawed, still frozen cook it all up. My mom does that and it never happens she simmered beef for more than 3 hours. Also about the dropping a fork, there is a scientific explanation which I forgot(sorry) but my professor way back in college mentioned about it.

  16. MM my lola’s style according to my auntie is to boil the water first before adding the meat and lowering the flame. Apparently it will tenderize the meat faster. She also adds onions to the broth while simmering, and removing any scum that floats. She does the same thing to Bulalo.

  17. MM, the shortest way to tenderize beef is to simmer it on a charcoal stove in the “dirty kitchen”. It will take 2 hours but the meat will be so tender. We do this all the time in the province — cook humba, kaldereta on a charcoal stove. You might want to cook your sinigang in a dutch oven instead, not your Le Creuset, as the soot from the embers will leave charcoal smudges at the bottom of the pot. Do you have a charcoal stove?

  18. About the ‘fork’, I think it’s just that it’s metal, a conductor of heat. I guess it rises the temperature inside faster. However, haven’t tried it as well since I don’t want to clean up a sebo-d down fork/spoon.

    MM, right on money. This is my ultimate fave.
    That’s what’s missing on that last poll about best soups–
    a sinigang bulalo na beef, with some meat kenchi or whatever…

  19. A few years ago some relatives taught me to eat bagoong as a side dish to sinigang. At first I thought it was a weird combination, but when I tried it, it was actually pretty good!

  20. Hi Mr. MM!! Beef Sinigang is one of our all-time favorite dishes. We use spareribs instead of brisket. We find it more “malinamnam” with a little “taba”. Also, I season with patis and like you serve it with some more patis on the side. Have you tried using sigarilyas? Masarap din :)

  21. We cook our sinigang in the pressure cooker, 25 minutes for beef, 10 minutes for pork or chicken. The meat is always tender. MM, what do you mean that your pressure cooker blew up, figuratively? :)

  22. MM,

    That looks good but pardon my ignorance, what is “batuan?” If I try to find them in California, what is their english name? While we’re at it, what are “sigarilyas” in english? Thanks!

  23. I love sinigang na baka especially if unripe mangoes are used as souring agent. I usually use ribs for sinigang because other parts do not give the same flavor as the ribs. I cooked it in a very low flame and add salt when the meat is already tender.

  24. MM our version of Sinigang na baka does not have pepper. It has lots of tomatoes and garlic with the skin on, to develop a flavorful broth with a tinge of orange from the tomatoes. The soup develops body from the gabi, some of which are mashed then incorporated back. Yum yum yum. Pass the rice please.

    Another souring agent that lends a distinct taste is sundried kamias. It gives a subtle flavor to be enjoyed by the uninitiated to the spike of sour sinigang soup. Yes, its best to add salt when the meat is tender.

  25. Beef shank + cut up stewing beef works well. Since we’re trying to cut down on cholesterol, I defat the broth. After simmering for 2 hours or so (I use a dutch oven for this), the broth is on the concentrated side. Then, take the dutch oven off the burner, let cool a little bit, dump a couple or more of ice to get all the fat solidified. Scoop off the fat, and then return to heat. Adjust seasonings afterwards (the broth might get too watery, but a little more reduction can help).

    Lety, sigarilyas (sigadillas) = winged bean in English.

  26. Beef sinigang is my all-time favorite food! Paired with any fried fish plus steaming white rice: gustatory heaven! I mash the gabi with my rice and the sili in my sawsawan (patis siempre!) Burp!

    I come from Rizal and we never use pechay in sinigang- it’s always mustasa or kangkong. Pechay is what we use in bulalo or nilaga. As for the meat cut, I’m partial to short ribs…

  27. sinigang is one of my faves too! we used to do pork sinigang always, until we tried Sentro’s sinigang na corned beef. after nun, alternate na kami na sinigang na pork or beef! of course, love ko rin shrimp sinigang! yung maasim talaga..yummmm!

  28. I first boil water with quartered onions and ripe tomatoes thrown in (it does make the broth orangey and tomatoes add to the sourness of the broth), then add some beef ribs with flank. The meat will be tender in 2 hours or less. Hold the sampaloc, you won’t need much after the broth is soured by the tomatoes. I add siling haba, labanos, kangkong and sitaw. Do you know beef is also very good cooked as sinigang sa bayabas? Patola, sitaw and talbos ng sayote are the veggies used for this. There also has to be a balance of sweet and sour.

  29. MM,

    I just discovered your blog yesterday through my sis. Thank you so much for all the recipes and other information. I am in Virginia but originally from Cebu.

    I’ve never tried chicken nor beef sinigang but have tried corned beef. My sis tried it at Sentro so she cooked it when she came back. I used to make it with pork neckbones then liempo (but too fatty) so I switched to pork ribs.

    Beef sinigang will be the ulam this weekend then! Again, thanks so much.

  30. I habe been reading this blog for some time now as I am likewise a food lover. I love preparing beef sinigang since it is so easy to cook and it is one of the favorites of my one year old son. I boil water together with tomatoes and chopped onions. When the water comes to a boil I add beef short ribs -this is more tender and malinamnam than other cuts because of the fat) and remove the scum after it boils again. It will be tender after 3 to 3.5 hours. I don’t use a pressure cooker because in my opinion, the soup would not be as flavorful. When beef is almost tender I add sampaloc broth and patis to taste. I then add gabi, labanos, sili pansigang, and kangkong in succession. I let it cool to remove the sebo and reheat again. The beef would be so tender that a baby can bite into it.

  31. If you are not sure of the meat in your soup then the name “Sinigang na Baka” is appropriate.

    Baka = maybe

  32. I love beef sinigang. I use a combination of beef shortribs (they have the yummiest fat), neck, and beef bulalo. You should rethink the pressure cooker… it does wonders for anythign requiring melt in your mouth tenderness!

  33. My grandmother includes a stainless steel spoon whenever she’s cooking beef to make it tender fast.. It has a scientific explanation about that actually, so no, it’s not a myth..

  34. I always tenderize my meats in a pressure cooker.I dont have the patience to wait for slow cooking and besides LPG is rather expensive nowadays.Before using your pressure cooker check on the lid.See if the rubber ring is not loose.Make sure the holes where the steam comes off are not blocked by congealed food bits or fats- insert a toothpick to clean and loosen it up.Make sure the liquid you put inside the pressure cooker does not go over 2/3full or it will over flow…. not less than a half or it will dry up!And in closing the lid make sure you hear the CLICK that tells you it’s safely lock!I set my stove top at MEDIUM HIGH until I hear the hissing sound and then I turn the heat at LOW setting for 10-15-20 mins depending on the kind of meat you’re cooking then turn it off.DO NOT OPEN at this point or cool it by pouring cold water!Let the remaining steam cook the meat some more and when you dont hear the hissing sound anymore as you carefully lift the weight on top then it’s safe to open the lid and voila!tender meat in no time at all!Word of Caution:Dont leave while pressure cooking.Guard it with eagle eyes especially in the first part of cooking while you’re waiting for the hissing sound.This is the time most accidents happen because you forgot to turn the flame to low!Happy Safe pressure cooking!And MM,Sinigang is also my favorite.The more sour the better!Yummy!

  35. my husband is korean and loves beef sinigang though he finds it funny that i have my soup in a bowl and my rice in a plate. he eats his sinigang and rice together in a big bowl.
    i put the beef ribs, onions, tomatoes, korean pepper or jalapeno and gabi in the slow cooker and leave it on low for 6-8 hours. the meat becomes so tender and falls off the bone. i move everything to a big pot, add a little more water and knorr sinigang mix. when the soup comes to a boil, i add spinach which is good substitute for kangkong. of course, can’t eat sinigang without the patis. yummy! i think we’re having sinigang this weekend….

  36. Diva same thing with my chinese husband. He just gets weirded out that I HAVE to eat in a plate.
    Beef/ fish sinigang is just so good. It totally is comfort food. I can eat this everyday especially with some fried eggplant and tomatoe/ green onion salad.
    My husband has learned to eat it even though at first he was shocked that the soup was so sour. His face was priceless.

  37. hi im only 19 y/o but im avid fan of filipino dish!!! il try to cook ur sinigang na baka… kinda yummy!



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