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The Theoretical Cook

A FOODY IN THE THIRD WORLD

Monday, July 03, 2006

Attack of the Monster Tilapia:Ginataang Tilapia


I try to avoid cooking fish using water or other liquids. When it comes to fish, I prefer grilling and frying. A recent fish dish at a local resto convinced me to try wet methods though, with less than impressive results. This is one case where my culinary theories really failed me: my 'experimental' method of infusing the fish with herbs through steaming fell flat on its face.
Mangan, the sister restaurant of Ebun, serves Kapampangan fare in the malls. It's a little too pricey for a frugal foodie so I don't usually eat there, preferring the more authentic ethnic cuisine available in the small streets of Manila (outside of the mall). Last Sunday I did not have much of a choice, it was either Mangan or the mall fast food. I went for Mangan. I wasn't expecting anything special, I was there to order my favorite: mongo soup. Since the soup was only P19, I thought I might as well order another dish. They would certainly throw me out if I ordered nothing but mongo soup and rice. Having tried most of their other dishes already, I decided to go for ginataang tilapia. I was pleasantly surprised. I almost finished the tilapia!

Being the copycat that I am, I wanted to make my own (better!) version of the ginataang tilapia. I was determined to enhance the flavor with an assortment of herbs: steam it in water filled with ginger, green chili, spring onion! Poach it in coconut milk! Well, as I later found out, there are other more important considerations than flavor, doneness for instance. Oh, I made the saddest fish dish ever.

The others in the house seemed to take well to the finished product. But it is difficult not to like anything with GATA right? Gata transforms the most ordinary dish. What would happen to laing if there was no gata? I ask very stupid questions.

Ginataang Tilapia

1 pc tilapia ( I used a large tilapia but its not advisable)
2 cups gata ( 1 mature coconut, dessicated)
a bundle of mustard leaves
green chili (chopped)
3 pcs green chili (whole)
ginger (slivered)
garlic (chopped and sauteed)
patis

Procedure:

1) Clean the fish thoroughly.
2) Stuff the fish with chopped green chili and ginger for flavor.
3) Boil 5 cups of water. Throw in some pieces of ginger and chili and other herbs. Steam the fish (this is where I went dismally wrong). Leave the fish to steam for 15 minutes or so.
4) Lift the fish.
5) In another medium sized sauce pan, pour the gata. Flavor with patis, ginger slivers, and whole chilis. Transfer the steamed fish when the gata is boiling.
6) Add the sauteed chopped garlic.
7) Add the mustard leaves.
8) When leaves are tender, serve.

The disgusting thing here, which shows that I was dismally wrong somewhere, is that when I was about to eat some of the fish flesh, there were parts which were a little pink. Yuck. I failed to turn the fish over. I was so concerned that the fish might break apart that I didnt turn it over. SO the side that was face up the whole time wasnt really cooked. I threw the entire thing back into the sauce pan and didnt touch it again. Well, it was gone the following day, devoured by the housemates. But pink fish flesh is something so revolting I resolve never to steam fish again. Poaching is the way to go, when dealing with fish and gata. So much for flavor-enhancing experimental cooking methods.


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