To cook sinampalukang manok, a traditional Filipino soup, bone-in chicken pieces are simmered with sauteed aromatics and tender tamarind leaves stripped from their stalks. The tamarind leaves make a sour broth balanced by the saltiness of patis (fish sauce).
My mother has a cousin who cooked delicious sinampalukang manok. She would make a huge pot each time and it always amazed me how she could strip the leaves from the tiny branches so fast.
I cooked a pot of sinampalukang manok a few days ago and I found out that stripping the leaves from the branches is a combination of practice and patience.
See, my little tamarind tree isn’t so little anymore.
It has grown sufficiently to allow me to pick some newly sprouted leaves for Thursday’s night’s sinampalukang manok. Similar in taste to sinigang, this soup dish is simpler as it has one vegetable ingredient only aside from those used for sautéing.
The tiny leaves are stripped from the stems and the stems are discarded. How? Hold the upper tip of a branch between the thumb and forefinger of one hand. Then slide the forefinger and thumb of the other hand down the branch and the leaves fall off. Sounds easy enough but I didn’t get quite the hang of it until I was halfway through the pile of leaves I took from the tree in the garden.
The leaves are then rinsed (if you wash them prior to stripping, they’ll be more difficult to handle) and, as an added step, I like to bruise them a little using a mortar and pestle to help them release their sour notes better.
Sinampalukang manok (sour soup with chicken and tamarind leaves)
- Peel and thinly slice the shallots.
- Dice the tomatoes.
- Peel and mince the garlic.
- Heat the cooking oil in a thick-bottomed pot.
- Saute the shallot, garlic and tomatoes.
- Pour in four to five cups of chicken broth. Yes, it is quite alright to simply use water IF you're using bone-in chicken. If you're substituting fillets because they are more convenient to serve and easier to eat, water just won't coax enough flavor from them to make a tasty broth.
- Add the tamarind leaves.
- Bring to the boil (watch the tamarind leaves change color). Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add the chicken to the broth, bring to the boil once more, season with patis (fish sauce) and simmer for about 40 minutes.
- Serve the sinampalukang manok hot.
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