Filipino fish

Ginataang Tambakol sa Kamias (Yellowfin Tuna Stewed in Coconut Milk with Bilimbi Fruit/ Belimbing)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015Enz F

In observance of the Lenten Season, Catholics abstain from eating meat coming from land animals and birds, including the eggs and dairy products derived from them. Abstinence is a discipline being practiced by the Catholic Church dating back to the Second Century as a form of sacrifice and acknowledgment of Jesus Christ who sacrificed his “flesh” and own life on the cross. It is being observed on Good Friday and each Fridays of the Lent as well as on Ash Wednesday. As an alternative, fish is the only allowed protein-based food that can be consumed during the mentioned days of obedience.

During Lenten Season, one of the most salable fish in the Philippines is tambakol or yellowfin tuna.
Being a country whose nearly 90% of the population is Roman Catholic, the Philippines is in one with the fellow followers around the world practicing the same church tradition. My grandma was a devout believer of Catholic teachings. During Lent, especially on Fridays, she would only serve us fish and vegetables. She would never serve us beef and eggs as she would always reckon that violating the church is tantamount to committing sins. But more than the old customs and traditions, she also wanted us to learn sacrifice and self-discipline and live a life as simple and humble as Christ’s.

Tambakol is one of the few varieties of fish that could make a suitable substitute for chicken or beef.
One of the most salable type fish during this time of the year is tambakol or yellowfin tuna. Aside from being almost abundant all year round, it is also cheaper compared to other variety of tuna in the Philippines and the big chunk of this fish could very well make the most suitable substitute for animal meat, in terms of flavor and texture. Grandma used to have a loyal vendor who would frequently give her a discount especially if she would intend to buy the fish in bulk and freeze them to be consumed until the eve of Easter Sunday. She could make a number of recipe out of the fish such as charcoal grilled tuna and sinaing na tambakol (stewed in vinegar) but one of our favorite dish is Ginataang Tambakol sa Kamias. Here, the fish is simply stewed in coconut milk along with bilimbi and some spices until cooked. The bilimbi, known as a souring ingredient, is tamed by the slight sweetness of pure coconut milk. In most ginataan (coconut stew) dishes that I have tasted by far, I must say that this one is just a perfect combination – enjoying the meaty flavor with less guilt in a platter of creaminess with a sharpness that is not biting, just mild and eksakto lang! (accurately good!)
Ginataang Tambakol sa Kamias (Yellowfin Tuna Stewed in Coconut Milk with Bilimbi Fruit/ Belimbing)
Number of Servings: 6 to 8

  • 8 slices (¾-inch thick) tambakol (yellowfin tuna) 
  • 3 cups kakang gata (pure coconut milk) 
  • 10 – 12 pcs. kamias (bilimbi or belimbing), finely chopped 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 medium-sized red onion, finely chopped 
  • 1 thumb-sized ginger, sliced 
  • 3 pcs. siling pang-sigang (green chili or chili picante) 
  • salt and pepper to taste 

  1. Thoroughly wash the tambakol under running water, gently rubbing with fingers until no more trace of blood is visible. Season the fish with salt and pepper. 
  2. Arrange the slices of tambakol at the bottom of a large saucepan. On top of the fish, place the kamias, onion, ginger and garlic. Gradually pour in two cups of coconut milk. Cover the pan and bring to simmer. Cook over low to medium heat for about 15 minutes. 
  3. Pour in the remaining coconut milk and then add green chili. Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the sauce is reduced to the desired thickness. Adjust the seasonings. Serve with plenty of rice. Enjoy! 

  1. You may want to boost the dish with you favorite greens like pechay (napa cabbage), mustasa (mustard greens) or malunggay (moringa leaves). 
  2. Spice up the dish by adding red chilies. 
  3. Some home cooks would prefer a drier dish that is almost rendering fat by simmering for a longer time until most of the liquid has evaporated. It allows the flavors to intensify and penetrate in the fish meat.

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  1. Wow, a whole new cuisine to try and this looks like a wonderful tuna dish. I will be looking around your site for more.

    The Old Fat Guy

    1. I am glad you found my blog! You can also share my site to your friends who might be interested to try other cuisine like the Filipino cuisine. :)

  2. Hello po! ask ko lang po kong may subtitute po kayo sa kamias? wala po kasing kamias dito sa ibang bansa. thank you po!

    1. Hi! Pwede po i-substitute kahit anong prutas o gulay na pampaasim like tomato or green mangoes. Pwede rin po vinegar or lemon juice. :)

  3. Thank you sir for your help! God Bless you!


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