• Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Recipe note from host Francis Lam:

When we were dreaming up our show on the food of the Philippines, we decided early on that we’d better learn to cook some Filipino home food.  In stepped Chef King Phojanakong and his mother Emma. They invited us into their family home in New York City and taught us this recipe for the classic soup sinigang. Rampant with heady notes of citrus and a backbone of tart, yet earthy tamarind, this is one Mother soup.  While any large fish head or even fish filets will do, the version they made for us that day used a salmon head, which is apparently the fashion today in the Philippines. The oily rich flesh of the salmon was amazing in that sour broth. We could not stop slurping. You can see a quick version of the dish in the video below, and hear the full-length conversation here.


  • 6 ounces tamarind paste

  • 2 cups long-grain white rice

  • 2 1/2 quarts vegetable stock or water

  • 1 cup thinly-sliced onions

  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly-sliced

  • 1/4 cup fish sauce, or to taste

  • 1/2 pound fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste      

  • Calamansi juice, to taste (see note)

  • 1/2 pound peeled daikon radish, cut into ½-inch thick half-moons

  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, with or without shells

  • 1 salmon head, or other large fish head, or 1 pound fish filets

  • 1/2 pound water spinach, or any other tender fresh green, roughly chopped

Note: In addition to tamarind, other sour fruits like calamansi, guava, batuan (similar to mangosteen) and unripe watermelon can be used as a souring agent. Calamansi is a lime-like citrus; you can find it, or its frozen juice, in some Asian markets. If you can’t get calamansi, feel free to use more tamarind or even vinegar; just make sure the soup has a distinct, pleasant sour note throughout.


In a medium sized bowl cover the tamarind with hot water and soak until pliable. Remove any seeds and fiber strands and set aside. (This is easiest if you push the soaked pulp through a strainer.)

Cover the rice with cool water and swish around with your fingers for about 1 minute. Drain the rice, reserving the rice-soaking water and add it to a soup pot.

Cook the soaked rice in fresh water according to the package directions or however you like to cook rice. (You will serve it with the sinigang.)

Add the vegetable stock, the onion and garlic to the soup pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Add the tamarind pulp, fish sauce and tomatoes.  Return the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes more. Add salt (or more fish sauce) and black pepper to taste. Add calamansi juice to taste, enough to make the soup bright and pleasantly tart.

Add the shrimp, salmon and greens.  Simmer until shrimp and salmon are just cooked through, a few minutes.

Serve in bowls with white rice alongside.