Whilst surfing the net for interesting fruit-based meat dishes, I came upon several articles about sinigang (sour, fruit-based soup) using Pakwan (watermelon). Bloggers and food enthusisasts wrote about it as a native dish of Pampanga and Laguna. I think the area of San Miguel Bulacan and Candaba, where watermelons abound is a logical area of origin for this dish. That theory is unfounded of course.
Another interesting bit of cooking technique adapted for this sinigang was to pre-cook the pork so the watermelon will not disintegrate. Interesting, 'no?
Although the recipe calls for the use of unripe watermelon, using a slightly ripe one will do, just make sure to include the pale green flesh of the fruit. I also use the seedless watermelon variety you can buy from the supermarket.
And instead of using a tamarind cube, you can use stock made from fresh unripe tamarind boiled and strained to remove the solids. I think you can even make the dish prettier if you add in the rarely available tamarind flower (which has a subtler sour taste).
SINIGANG SA PAKWAN
3/4 Kg seedless watermelon (pakwan mura- hilaw), peeled, cut into chunks
1 Cup sliced tomatoes
1/2 Kg pork spareribs, cut into chunks
1 pc large taro roots (gabi), peeled, sliced into small bits
1 large onion, quartered
2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
2 pcs finger chillies (siling haba)
1/2 bundle string beans (sitaw), cut into 2" long
1 bundle water spinach (Kangkong), trimmed, washed
1 small bundle okra, sliced into diagonal 1inch pieces
1 small labanos, sliced into 1 cm-thick pieces
Salt or fish sauce (patis) to taste
1 tamarind cube, softened in 1 Cup water
1. Blanch the pork spareribs in a pot of boiling water. Skim top to remove impurities.
2. Dilute the tamarind cube in 1 cup of the water used for blanching the pork spare ribs.
3. In another clean pot, place the watermelon at the bottom. Then add in the onions, tomatoes, taro roots, then the blanched spareribs. Add in the tamarind mixture and around 5 cups of water. Cook over high heat until boiling, then simmer until meat is cooked and the watermelon are soft and mushy. This will take around 1 hour. Add water if you want to adjust the sourness of the soup.
4. Start adding the vegetables starting with the finger chillies and the string beans. Cook until the vegetables have changed color (brighter) but remain crisp.
5. Add in the water spinach. Cover the pan. After about 1 minute, add in the leaves of the water spinach.