Sinampalukang Manok is a savory Filipino chicken tamarind soup in a sour broth with young tamarind (sampalok) leaves and vegetables. The ingredients when cooking sinampalukang manok are ginger, onion, garlic, chicken, tamarind mix, vegetables and young tamarind leaves. It is a simple chicken soup recipe but definitely scrumptious especially if fresh tamarind leaves are used.
Sinampalukang Manok is the 3rd recipe I learned to prepare while living in the Philippines. My dad was insistent that I learn to cook, but with my mom’s catering business there’s always food in the house and I never had the interest to learn. When I left for the US, I can cook about six dishes.
In my twenties, I was going to school and always out with friends. Again, I had no reason to cook until I got my own apartment. Bought some cookware and I started experimenting on making the recipes my mom send me over the years. Also, I have collected many magazine cut-outs that stayed in my filing cabinet for years. Having my own space, I finally had the urge to cook.
Although I love this chicken tamarind soup, it took many years before I had it again. Ingredients are hard to come by when you leave abroad. In the Philippines, sampalok leaves are easy to acquire or if a neighbor has a tree, just ask and they are gracious to share it.
After I moved to the US, it took 20 years before I had this soup again. We vacationed and rented an apartment with a kitchen in Florida. We bumped in to a Filipino one day and asked where we can buy tropical fruits. She happened to mention a park with a Sampalok tree. The poor tree looked so uneven after we were done jumping up and down grabbing its leaves. There were 8 of us and we end up with 2 bags full of leaves. My mom made it and it was delicious. My cousins were born here and it was their first time to have it and they loved it. Again, years passed before I had it again.
Now, brined tamarind leaves are available in Asian stores imported from Thailand. Fresh leaves are still better, but I am grateful that I can finally buy brined leaves. They are young leaves but some stems are hardy. Depending on your preference, pick the hard stems before cooking or remove it while eating. I am not complaining, we can finally make Sinampalukang Manok whenever we feel like it.
Tips in Cooking Sinampalukang Manok
- If you can avail of fresh tamarind leaves, use young leaves and stems. Remove all the hardy stems.
- If using brined sampalok leaves, they work too. They are of premium quality but I have noticed some hardy stems. It’s your choice, pick all the hardy stems before cooking or just add it in the soup and remove it while eating. It doesn’t bother me, in fact, I am happy that it is now available in Asian stores.
- Once you add the tamarind leaves, press it with a kitchen utensil against the side of pot to squeeze out some juice from it. It makes soup more flavorful and savory.
- Use bone-in chicken or a combination of bone-in and breast for a more tastier soup.
- Brown chicken before pouring broth or water.
- Add whatever vegetable you like. This soup is very versatile that any vegetable will work with it.
- Chili peppers definitely add flavor to this soup. Add 1 to 2 pieces to add flavor, but if you like some heat, add more.
How to Cook Sinampalukang Manok
- 1 pound chicken sliced
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 thumb ginger julienned
- 2 tomatoes cut in cubes
- 3 Thai chili pepper
- ½ bottle brined tamarind leaves (net weight 12 oz)
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 to 2 teaspoons sampalok mix (tamarind mix)
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil
- 3 cups water
- 3 cups cabbage sliced
- 1 cup pepper leaves
- Salt or fish sauce to taste
- Heat oil in skillet or pot.
- Saute onion until translucent.
- Add garlic and cook until golden.
- Stir-in ginger and cook until aromatic.
- Add tomatoes and cook until soft. When soft, use kitchen utensil to smash it.
- While tomatoes are cooking, move all the ingredients to the side. Add chicken in the center and cook until golden brown.
- Stir-in fish sauce.
- Toss-in Thai chili peppers.
- Pour water or broth and let it boil.
- Lower heat and simmer chicken until tender.
- Stir-in tamarind mix. If you prefer a more sour soup, add more tamarind mix.
- Toss-in cabbage and tamarind leaves. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Press leaves against pot using kitchen utensil to release some juice.
- Add pepper leaves. Cook for a minute.
- Season with fish sauce or salt.
- Serve hot. Enjoy!