January 7, 2008

paksiw na isda (fish in sour ginger broth)

Rich holiday food usually brings out a craving for something light and easy like this fish dish, a Filipino favorite. Aside from its popularity as a basic dish to cook for everyday meals, vinegar or lemon flavored fish dishes are extremely in demand as a post holiday treat. The clear sour broth helps cleanse the palate of all the rich tasting holiday food. So it's not surprising that after major holidays like Christmas and New Year, Filipinos would cook something sour like this. Coming home from our holiday traveling, I was ready for some of this paksiw. Fresh fish is always better, but frozen fish will also work. Traditionally, we use fresh water fish varieties like "bangus" or milkfish and "bisugo" but other saltwater fish varieties may also be used. I had a whole red snapper in the freezer, which I have already cleaned prior to freezing, ready to thaw out and cook. The fish was sliced and seasoned with salt and pepper. In a small stainless pot, combine 1 tablespoon of oil, a few fresh ginger slices, sliced onions, pounded garlic cloves, some water, white vinegar, peppercorns, salt, long hot or banana peppers and simmer gently. Add the prepared fish chunks or slices and continue simmering for a few minutes until fish is cooked. If available, "ampalaya" or bitter gourd strips along with sliced eggplant may be used for additional vegetables but these are optional. Enjoy with some steamed white rice but always watch out for fish scales and pin bones which are sometimes hard to see.

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