One Saturday morning, I requested my ever diligent and energetic Manang Nita – if we call it bibong bata (active kid), she must be the adult counterpart – to help me prepare a dish for the day. She would be away the entire afternoon to do some laundry job at my brother’s house so the pot must have enough quantity to last until the evening. I was craving for some sour and saucy fish viand but do not have to be too soupy like sinigang (sour soup) nor too tart like pinaksiw (stewed in vinegar). She was suggesting sinanglay (cooked in coconut and some tomatoes) but I was quite reluctant because my stomach and coconut milk were not in good terms lately. After a few moments of contemplation and deliberation, we settled to gather our ingredients for pinangat. Fish Pinangat, indeed. It was just exactly what I needed to satisfy my yearnings for some sour fish without the excess of broth and acidity, and saving my tummy from more chaos.
Cooking fish pinangat is quite straightforward. Just some basic cooking skills, say chopping and boiling, are required and almost everything we needed for the dish could already be found in the kitchen except, of course, for the fish which must be freshly bought from the market. We initially agreed to use sapsap (pony fish) or hasa-hasa (short mackerel) but the wet market must be in scarcity for some fresh catch that day as we could hardly find any suitable sea creatures for our pangat, not even bisugo (threadfin brim). But with all the good intentions to satisfy my powerful desire for the dish of the day, Manang Nita did not hold off and smartly suggested, in her fairest judgment, the best substitute – galunggong (mackerel scad). I gave her all the go since I fully trust her gastronomic instinct and I admire her resourcefulness. So after wandering like a nomad on the muddy lanes of the market, she luckily spotted a single stall selling our much needed. Good job, manang! (Have I spelled “diligent” correctly?)
|Fish Pinangat (other variations call it sinaing) is basically a dish consist of any soft and meaty fish cooked with any kind of souring ingredient.|
Fish Pinangat (other variations call it sinaing) is basically a dish consist of any soft and meaty fish soured in tomatoes and calamansi juice or substitute. It has a broth and piquancy that is somewhere between pinaksiw and sinigang. Other sour ingredients that can also be used are kamias (bilimbi fruit), tamarind and even hilaw na manggang kalabaw (green Philippine carabao mangoes). With some spices, like onions and long green chilies, off you can go. You have to estimate not to put too much water as less is more flavorful. It is different from the Bicolano’s version which is meat or seafood wrapped in natong or gabi (taro leaves) and cooked in coconut milk. As I mentioned, no great cooking skills is required for this one as you only have to layer everything in a pot then simmer over medium to low heat until the fish is done. It is a very simple dish, yet very comforting. It is believed that it is one of Filipino's way of preserving a fish, a practice that could be dated back during the pre-Hispanic era. I am not quite sure though how the preservation works since we used tomatoes, a fruit that could easily be perished. But then, it does not matter since it would only last until dinner.
Pinangat na Isda (Fish Soured in Calamansi and Tomato)
Number of Servings: 3 to 4
- 1 lb. galunggong (mackerel scad), cleaned and gutted
- 3 pcs. medium-sized tomatoes,
- ½ cup squeezed juice from calamansi (calamondin)
- 1 pc. small onion, finely slice
- 1 thumb-sized ginger, peeled and chopped
- 2 cups water
- 1 tsp. salt
- Line the bottom of a medium pot with some slices of tomatoes, onion and ginger. Set aside the remaining tomatoes. Arrange the galunggong over and then lay the remaining tomatoes on top of the fish.
- Pour in the calamansi juice and water. Season with salt.
- Bring to a boil and then drizzle with some vegetable oil. Simmer over medium to low heat for 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked.
- Remove from heat and transfer on a serving plate. Serve with steamed rice. Enjoy!
- Adjust your salt and calamansi until you get the desired taste.
- After arranging all the ingredients in the pot, let it sit for a few minutes to let the fish marinate. It will allow the ingredients to be absorbed by the meat of the fish.
- You may have patis (fish sauce) on the side for dipping.
- Do not overcook the fish or it will become too flaky.
- You can use vinegar and kamias (bilimbi fruit) or tamarind fruit as substitute for calamansi and tomatoes. Other unique variations use different ingredients such as strawberries and green mangoes. You may also add siling haba (long green chilies). They will produce the same sour and tangy flavor but very distinct in their own ways.
- If you are using other types of fishes, I recommend that you go for tastier and meatier but less bony like sapsap (ponyfish), pompano, hasa-hasa (short mackerel), bisugo (threadfin brim), tambakol (yellowfin tuna) or matambaka (bigeye scad). If you got extra pennies, try the quite expensive lapu-lapu (grouper).