Tasty Tagalog Treat

My far flung family ties reach all the way to the Philippines…. and beyond. Today, I am inspired to talk about an AMAZING soup I just cooked, using spice packets sent by a cousin in California.

Sinigang soup is a dish with Malaysian origins that is rooted in Tagalog culture but popular as a traditional dish enjoyed throughout the 7,107 islands that constitute the Republic of the Philippines. It can be cooked with different meats (or fish), but, being a dedicated carnivore, I prefer beef.

NICHOLSON - Louis, Melba & Ivan

I first ate this dish during a visit to my cousin Louis, who was living in Vancouver, Washington at the time. His wife, Melba, who is a native of the Philippines (and speaks Tagalog), had left a BIG pot of it on the stove when she departed for work that day. Louis heated the pot and dished up two large bowls. We dug in with gusto as we reminisced about our family history. I had not seen him in many years so there was a lot to catch up on.


The soup we shared was so incredibly delicious, I asked for directions so I could incorporate it into my repertoire. Louis responded by giving me a couple of packets of  “Sinigang soup mix,” along with basic instruction on how to to replicate the meal we enjoyed together.

I long ago used up those two packets and could never find them again in the world market store where I shopped. Although Chicago has a large Filipino population, I am not connected to that community and was at a loss for where to find their groceries.

Long story short… Louis’s son, IvanLouis, recently sent me a 12 packet supply of “Sinigang soup mix.” I couldn’t wait to revisit the wonderful memory of sharing a meal with my first cousin who is now departed and reconnecting in that spirit with his one son, whom I have never met in person.

It is possible to make this dish from scratch without the commercial soup mix, but why bother? (says the woman who believes in deconstructing recipes down to their traditional basics 🙂 I should also add that the yam — NOT the red version Americans know but the white yam that is nyamed throughout the world, gives an added punch to the yumminess of the savory stock. I have modified things slightly in the following recipe to incorporate ingredients commonly found in groceries everywhere. The challenge is finding the “Sinigang soup mix.”


8 cups water
2# beef short ribs + 1# beef stew cubes
1 large red onion (chopped large)
2 cups yam (taro root; chopped large)
1 bunch bok choy (chopped large w/stems)
4x plum tomatoes (chopped large)



1 ½ packages sinigang soup mix
1 tsp pepper (crushed red)


BOIL seasonings in water
ADD  meat and COOK until done
ADD other ingredients & MIX well
COOK until yam is soft (not mushy)


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