Sunday, July 29, 2018

Linabog nga tilapia

LINABOG is an old-time Visayan seafood delicacy mostly prepared by the Boholanos and Cebuanos.  Originally, it uses meat from cartilaginous fish, such as pagi (ray) or iho (shark). The meat of dugong (manatee), butanding (whale shark), and balyena (whale) are also favored when available. If not available, slimy freshwater fish is used, like the hito (catfish) or the haluan (mudfish). Later on, tilapia was considered as an alternative fish.

Linabog is a Cebuano word, which means “thrown out” or “discarded away,” and that is what you will do when the food you cooked would smell and taste nasty, as when you badly cooked pagi or iho as inun-onan (boiled in vinegar) without any condiment. But somebody else tried to salvage the food. A remedy was done to fix the nastiness. The inun-onan na pagi or iho was reprocessed by adding some condiments.  Thick coconut cream was used as desirable ingredient and thought to be as a natural protection from food poisoning. Hot spice is also added to mask any nasty taste. What used to be thrown away, eventually became a delectable delicacy. From "nasty" to "tasty."

In this recipe, I used tilapia for the fish. The fish was cooked twice. First, it was boiled in vinegar with garlic, a cooking process called inun-on in Cebuano. Second, I deep fried it. Banana leaf was used to wrap the fish to keep the fishes from sticking to each other. It also adds aroma. The aesthetic value of fried banana leaf is a plus factor in food styling. 

For cooking the fish:

·  tilapia                1 kilo, preferably small sizes (scaled, gills removed, and gutted)
·  vinegar              ½ cup
·  water                 ½ cup
·  garlic                 4 cloves Taiwan garlic, or 1 head native garlic (pressed and 
·  salt                     1 teaspoon refined iodized salt (or 2 teaspoons raw sea salt)
·  sugar                  1 spoon white sugar (or 2 spoons brown sugar)
·  banana leaves   enough to wrap each fish
·  cooking oil        1 liter

For the coconut cream sauce: 

·  ginger                100 grams ginger (the size of big toe)
·  garlic                 4 cloves Taiwan garlic, or 1 head native garlic (pressed 
                               and chopped)
·  sibuyas pula     1 regular size, sliced
·  water                 ½ cup
·  kakang gata      from 2 matured coconut fruits (about 2 cups)
·  curry powder    2 tablespoons
·  red chilies         4 pieces Cayenne pepper (Taiwan), or 2 red siling labuyo
·  salt                      1 tablespoon (iodized salt), or 1 and ½ tablespoon if using raw 
                                 sea salt    
·  pechay or mustasa - 2 clusters (about 10 leaves)
·  sibuyas dahon  10 pcs leaves, chopped.
·  bell pepper        1 red and 1 green, sliced into sticks

you also need these:

·  sauce pan or deep pot
·  thong
·  skillet or frying pan
·  deep serving platter

cooking procedure:

Cooking the fish:

Wrap each fish in banana leaf.

In the sauce pan, combine the vinegar, water, garlic, salt, and sugar. 
Add the banana-wrapped fish.
Cover and boil in high heat for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes.

Turn off heat.

Drain all remaining liquids.

Pour in cooking oil, enough to submerge the fish.
Fry on high heat. When oil starts to smoke, reduce heat to medium and continue frying for 10 minutes. 

Turn off heat and drain oil.
Remove fish and set aside.

Cooking the sauce:

Preheat the pan in high heat, pour 5 tablespoons cooking oil then sauté the garlic, sibuyas bombay (red or purple onion), and luy-a (ginger) until aromatic and start to caramelize.

Add water, stir briefly and let boil

Add kakang gata (coconut cream) and stir to mix.

When boiling  restarts, reduce heat and add curry powder...

... and add chilies. Stir briefly to mix, then simmer for a minute.

Add salt enough to suit taste.

Add pechay, cover the pan to trap steaming heat. When pechay leaves has wilted, remove the cover and bury pechay in the sauce.
Turn off heat then add right away half of the sliced bell peppers (the other half for use later)...

 ... add the sibuyas dahon (onion spring), then stir briefly to mix.

Transfer the coconut cream sauce in deep serving platter.

Arrange the previously prepared fried tilapias on top the sauce. Keep banana leaves intact on each fish.
Garnish with the remaining sliced bell peppers and sibuyas dahon.
Garnish with fresh whole red chilies on top.

  • For a not-so-hot chili hotness, use 2 or 3 pieces of green finger chili (siling pangsigang) instead of Cayenne or siling labuyo.
  • Use thong that is all metal to have a good grip when picking the fried tilapia fish from the pan. The fish would stick at the bottom making them hard to remove if you cannot grip them well.
  • Banana leaves keep the fish from sticking from each other and on the pan. You may substitute banana leaves with mango leaves for variation of texture. The leaves also add flavor. It also add design to the presentation.
  • The length of time in frying may vary depending on the sizes and thickness of the fish. Smaller and thinner tilapias would require shorter frying time. The bigger and thicker ones would require more time.  The determining factor is the total crispiness of the fish. Make it very crisp, but not burnt.
  • Garnishing with fresh whole red chilies on top the dish will serve as notice that this dish is spicy hot. A must to warn the uninitiated or those who are not used to the taste of chilies. This will also signal the chili lovers to approach the dish.
  • To eat, flake the fish and dip it in or daub it with the coconut cream sauce.
  • Double the amount of water used in making the sauce to make it a bit soupy, and add little more salt to suit the taste.

kakang gata – (ka-káng ga-tâ; Tagalog extract) (a.k.a. unang piga in Tagalog; espesong tuno, unang puga, puro nga tuno, or purong tuno in Cebuano; purong tuno in Boholano; siyahan na hatok, hatok na puro, or purong tuno in Waray; puro nga gata in Ilonggo) [n.] coconut cream \coco cream; The first milky white juice extracted from grated matured coconut meat. It is pure (undiluted), thickier and creamier in consistency than the pangalawang piga (coconut milk).


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