|By pinoyfarmer | March 4, 2011|
MANILA, Philippines – Balmy night breezes and long hot days can mean only one thing: summer is almost here. It’s the season to fly kites, swim, and snorkel, BBQ at the farm, visit relatives and travel to places far and near. But most of all, it’s the season for inexpensive vine-ripened tomatoes and fish, which go together better than the proverbial love and marriage. Warm waters also mean more plentiful harvests in the deep blue sea and at fish farms. Whether it’s the five-star Dorado (Mahi-Mahi) and Tanigue (Spanish Mackerel) or the middle class favorites Galunggong (Mackerel Scad or Round Scad) and Tilapia, they all become very affordable and available in the summer months.
KEEPING THEM FRESH – Buying fresh fish is one thing; keeping the fish fresh between the market and the dinner table is another. Large fish is often bought in fillets or cross-section slices we call “pusta” that’s often calculated to be good for one serving each. Small and medium fish are bought whole, just like fish intended to be stuffed, roasted or broiled. Cleaning and storing fish should be the priority as soon as the purchases reach the kitchen. Cold water should be used to rinse the fish, which should then be dried with kitchen towels (for steaks) and newspapers (for medium whole fish).
SAFE AND EFFICIENT STORAGE – Fish should not be packed tightly together in plastic bags and dumped in the freezer. There ought to be air space between steaks, which if possible should be frozen in single layers on a tray before packing together in plastic bags. This way, they are not frozen together in blocks that are difficult to thaw. Medium fish, such as Bangus and Talakitok, can be frozen whole after a rinse or soak in very cold water, to hasten freezing. If you have time, it is worth the effort to remove the guts and rinse the stomach cavity well in very cold water before packing in heavy plastic bags in the freezer. Plastic film or bags could be used between the fish so they do not freeze together like blocks of ice. Small fish, such as Galunggong and Tawilis (sardines) or Tamban (herring) may or may not need to get their guts cut out. After gutting, they could be flavored with vinegar-garlic-salt marinade, then stored in the freezer in small packets.
FRY TO KEEP – I clean, salt and fry fish by the kilo during the summer, to save money, take advantage of the season and to allow the storage of more fish in our small upright ref/freezer. Fried fish do not stick together and can be frozen in bulk; one only has to shake a few pieces loose from the bunch as needed.
A HUNDRED RECIPES — Fried fish is one of the most versatile and popular “leftovers” in the world. Dozens of popular recipes start with fried fish: Here are a few for starters Sarciado, Cardillo, Escabeche, Sweet and Sour Fish, Fish with Tofu, Black Beans and Kinchay, Sinigang sa Miso, Ilocano Dinengdeng and Inabraw, Chinese Fish Foo Yong.
Sarciado – Sautee garlic, onions (with green tops when available) and chopped tomatoes in medium heat until tomatoes really wilt and caramelize. Add water, season with salt and pepper and a boullion cube, if needed. Crush the tomatoes with the back of the spatula to loosen the pulp and thicken the sauce. Taste for seasonings, add the fried fish, cover and simmer for 5 minutes before serving.
Cardillo – Increase the amount of water and salt. Shortly before serving, increase the heat and slowly add a beaten egg into the sauce while stirring continuously. The egg will thicken the sauce and add another depth of flavor.
Escabeche – Saute garlic, onions and chopped ginger until aromatic. Add a cup of water, ¼ cup of vinegar, 2 heaping tbsps brown sugar and a dash of Tabasco. Add the fried fish and simmer, covered for at least 15 minutes.
Fish with Tausi and Tofu – Fry tofu in cubes until light golden brown, set aside. Saute garlic, onions, 3 tbsp Tausi (salted black beans) and ginger till aromatic; add oyster sauce and light soy sauce with 1 cup water or stock. Add lightly fried Tofu or Tokwa cubes. Cover and simmer 15 minutes, taste to adjust seasonings.
Sinigang sa Miso – Saute garlic, onions and ginger, add sliced very ripe tomatoes and stir until caramelized. Add miso and stir-fry until evenly cooked. Add enough water to create a thick gravy, and stir in vegetables of choice, along with a packet of Sinigang Mix or 1/4 cup of squeezed Tamarind juice. Lastly, drop in the fried fish pieces, cover and turn off the stove. The residual heat will allow the fish to absorb Sinigang flavors from the gravy. Serve with Ginisang Bagoong.
Inabraw or Dinengdeng – In simmering rice wash water (hugas-bigas), add ginger, a lot of ripe tomatoes and newly harvested onions with leaves. Layer native vegetables of choice according to length of time needed to cook them. The leaves should be the last layer, at the very top. Cover tightly until the veggies are crisp-tender. Arrange the fried fish on top, cover again and turn off the heat.
Fish Foo Yong – Shred and bone the leftover fried fish, add to sautéed garlic, onions and bean sprouts, fold into beaten eggs and fry lightly in small batches. Layer the fried mini omelets in a shallow serving plate and pour over it a brown sauce made of soy sauce, sugar, salt, sesame oil and thickened with starch. Garnish with minced Kinchay or spring onions. For feedback and comments, email to: email@example.com