Monday, April 30, 2012

Philippines-Style Fish Feast in the Desert

My friend Leslie spent some time in the Philippines with the Peace Corps when she was younger and while there she learned a lot about the area’s cuisine. Luckily, she has shared many of these dishes with me over the last few years, many of which involve fresh fish and other gems from the sea. One dish in particular, kinilaw, is made with raw ahi like a ceviche, and has become a special craving of mine. So this past weekend while staying at her house, we cooked a fabulous meal around this particular dish, perfect and fresh for a dinner with loved ones under the beautiful desert sky at sundown.

We had four cooks in the kitchen including myself, Leslie, the Cute Gardener and little Elle- all of us fervent foodies. It was extra endearing to cook a meal with those I love that involved glasses of white wine and bottles of Asahi, great music on the iPod, sharp knives, mess-making and laughter. These are the moments I look forward to most in life – the creation and sharing of food amongst friends.

We produced a fabulous pairing of kinilaw, sticky rice, squid adobo, sashimi and grilled milk fish to eat under the burgeoning moon.

Kinilaw na Tuna

1 kilo fresh ahi tuna, cut into cubes
1 cup vinegar
½ cup calamansi juice
I head of garlic, minced
1 big red onion minced
2 tablespoons ginger 
3 small chili peppers, minced
Pinch of salt and pepper
½ cup chicharon, ground (optional)

Wash the tuna and drain well.

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients except for the chicaron. (We used two bowls for this as some people wanted the addition of the chili peppers and others didn’t.)

The acids in the marinade will cook the ahi slightly and it will turn white.
Transfer to a serving container and top with chicharon.
Chill and serve.

Squid Adobo (Adobong Pusit)

1 kilo squid
½ cup water
1 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon peppercorn
1 pinch of salt
1 head of garlic roughly chopped
1 medium red onion
3 small tomatoes roughly chopped
½ tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons oil

Wash and clean squid well, making sure the black tint does not burst as it will give a bitter taste.

In a deep pan, bring water to a boil along with the squid, vinegar, pepper and salt until squid is cooked.
Take out the squid and set aside.
Strain the sauce and set aside.
In another pan, sauté garlic, onion and tomatoes.
Add the squid and pour in the rest of the sauce.
Add sugar if desired and allow it to thicken.
Serve hot.


Freshly cut slices of albacore and chill till serving.

Milk Fish

Buy a whole milk fish from an Asian market and cover and stuff with chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic, lemon juice.

Grill over a fire 15-20 minutes until flakes easily.

Sticky rice should be made as a side. The whole meal is then served together. Kinilaw can be put in small serving bowls and the rice can be picked up with the fingers and used as a sponge for the kinilaw sauce and also to scoop up the kinilaw. The adobo is put on the plates as well. The milk fish is served whole and guests can pick at it all together with their chopsticks!

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