Aug 26, 2014

Fish Sinigang or Filipino Sour Fish Stew

fish sinigang of Filipino sour fish stew
I’m not really sure what the English translation of sinigang is -- there are those who use the term “tamarind soup” for example, which is really more of a descriptive term anchored on its main souring ingredient, tamarind.
I asked Google and her (or his?) first answer is that sinigang is a sour and savory Filipino soup. Hmmm, that’s more like it as really, “tamarind soup” misses the point as many recipes of sinigang do not use tamarind as the souring ingredient. In this fish sinigang recipe, for example, I use kamias or iba which says is ginger lily.
Lest you get confused, here’s my description and definition of what sinigang is to me. Sinigang is a savory and sour stew which can be broken down into the following main ingredients:
1. Sour element -- usually tamarind or kamias (ginger lily), though others use santol rind or plain tomatoes
2. Meat -- could be fish, pork, chicken, beef or shrimp
3. Herbs -- mainly red onions, ripe tomatoes and fresh ginger but could also include lemongrass, scallions or green onions, red bell pepper
4. Vegetables -- Filipinos usually use radish and the yellowish Imelda-variety kangkong -- though you could probably use bok choy and spinach

kamias or iba or ginger lily
Souring Ingredient
Tamarind really is the best souring element you can use as its sourness is bitingly rich. Unfortunately, fresh tamarind is a rare find in the market in my city and what I can find mostly is kamias or ginger lily which is not as sour as tamarind but has a mildly fruity savor. I avoid using commercial tamarind powder mixes (or sinigang cubes) as they abound in MSG.

ingredients for fish sinigang of Filipino sour fish stew
Pork and shrimp are two of the most flavorful meats you can use for sinigang. However, as I am avoiding pork nowadays, and shrimp is a no-no for my allergy-prone daughter, I have a bias for fish sinigang.

If, like me, you want to stay clear from tamarind broth mixes, you would do well to go almost overboard in the use of herbs. Wickedly red tomatoes add to the sourness while red onions and ginger give spicy undertones.

For some reason, white radish has a way of complementing the sourness of sinigang and so this veggie has to be in your pot. I find this strange as raw, fresh radish is pungent and spicy and yet, when dropped into a pot of sinigang, they turn mild and mellow and delightfully mushy. The leafy vegetable -- Imelda-variety kangkong -- is the best leafy vegetable to use as the hollow core of the stems holds some of the soup, oozing juices with each bite.

fish sinigang of Filipino sour fish stew

I personally love sinigang which is sour enough as to make my lips pucker despite my valiant efforts not to, and also one in which the meaty, savory element strives to shine through despite the sourness.
Now on to the recipe:

Fish Sinigang or Filipino Sour Fish Stew

  • 1 kilo fish (fatty, bony fish is good, such as the head or jawbone part)
  • about 20-25 pieces of kamias, sliced longitudinally into halves (use more if you like it really more sour)
  • 3 large, ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • fresh lemongrass blades tied into a knot
  • thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, crushed
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 large white radish, cut into circles
  • a bunch of kangkong or water spinach
  • salt to taste

  1. Pour about 10 cups of water into a stainless-steel (or non-aluminum) pot and drop in the kamias. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes to bring out the sourness.
  2. Add in the tomatoes, red onion, lemongrass and ginger and boil for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add in the fish and bring to a rolling boil, after which simmer the stew for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the radish rounds and cook for 3 minutes. Add salt to taste.
  5. Add in the leafy vegetables and simmer for just about 30 seconds.
  6. Serve immediately.

Happy slurping and sipping this most savory stew!

Jul 29, 2014

I Stand With Israel

I am veering off, temporarily from my normal health-related blog posts, to voice out my support for Israel. Read on for the reasons.

Genesis 12: 1-3
Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

1.The descendants of Abraham were given a land by God Himself, the borders of which, as outlined in the Bible, are twice what modern-day Israel has.
Due to international pressure, Israel has had to trade their Biblically-mandated borders many times for the sake of peace and sadly were not given the peace her enemies promised.

2. The descendants of Abraham are a blessing, not a bane, to society.

The Jews have excelled in virtually all aspects of learning, producing more Nobel laureates per capita than any other nation. They made the desert bloom, has the cleanest technology in the world, has planted the most number of trees and has maintained an elite medical unit to help relieve disaster-hit areas. Israeli technology is responsible for Google, Intel, Facebook, Pillcam and the Iron Dome. They do not instigate terror.

3. The descendants of Abraham will form a great nation.

Israel has achieved incredible feats despite her tiny size, few numbers, constant persecution and grave threats of annihilation. She has miraculously defeated her surrounding Arab countries just barely a day after its statehood in May of 1948.

4. God curses those who curse the descendants of Abraham.

Countries which curse Israel have likewise been cursed by carnage, oppression and repression.

5. God blesses those who bless the descendants of Abraham.

Israel’s allies have been, like her, vanguards of democracy and freedom. Interestingly, they have vibrant civilizations which honor women and fiercely defend their citizens.

6.The descendants of Abraham lived strictly according to the Old Testament.

All the Jews worldwide -- even during the Diaspora -- read their Torah (first 5 books of the Old Testament), maintained their Passover, Sabbaths and other Judaistic rites and have miraculously revived their indigenous Hebrew language even after their long exile. What other nation can lay claim to this?

So if some “intellectual” wants to rewrite history and told you that Israel -- as it is now -- does not represent the descendants of Abraham, kindly ask them what other country fits the glove.

Jul 22, 2014

Health Benefits of Unripe or Green Papaya

Lusciously orange papaya may seem to be the most familiar sight but green papaya or unripe or raw papaya is probably more beneficial to health than its ripe version.
You will know if a papaya is unripe if its skin is green, firm to the touch and smells grassy and pungent. In contrast, ripe papaya has a skin which is orange, soft to the touch and smells of typical papaya aroma.
When you break open an unripe or green papaya, you will see that the flesh is light green in color and firm, with the seeds still white. As it ripens, the flesh becomes increasingly soft and the color intensifies in orange-ness.
The taste of green papaya is so unlike the ripened one. Raw or unripe papaya is bland and crunchy. Here in the Philippines, the only uses for unripe papaya are as an ingredient for chicken broth as well as green papaya pickle, the recipe of which I have elaborately detailed in this post.
Kalabanghan papaya -- or papaya that is midway between very unripe and ripe -- is being sold by sidewalk vendors raw. Slices of greenish to orange-y papaya are drizzled in coconut vinegar and a wee bit of salt and then packaged into 5-peso plastic pouches along sidewalk stalls. I don’t really recommend these streetfood items for obvious sanitary reasons but you can make it yourself at home.

Nutritional profile of green or unripe papaya

Green papaya packs vitamins, minerals, nutrients, antioxidants, enzymes and fiber. 
Vitamins -- The vitamins it abounds in are the beauty vitamins A, C and E as well as the B vitamins. We know that the ACE vitamins also serve as antioxidants.
Minerals -- The minerals it packs are the important ones -- potassium, calcium and magnesium. Potassium is needed for maintaining normal blood pressure levels. Other minerals it contains are choline, iron and phosphorous.
Antioxidants -- Cancer-fighting antioxidants also abound in green papaya. The long array of antioxidants include beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthin. Antioxidants donate their extra electron to free radicals, thereby stopping the cascade of harmful reactions brought about by unstable free radicals. Without antioxidants, free radicals that are inevitably produced as by-products of normal metabolism could lead to inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and cancer.
Proteolytic Enzymes -- Green papaya also contains the protein-digesting enzymes papain, chymopapain and carpaine which turn proteins into amino acids and break down fats and carbohydrates as well. Here are some of the important roles these enzymes play:
  • Exfoliation -- The abundance of protein-digesting enzymes in green papaya explains why unripe papaya is being sneaked into exfoliative skin products such as facial soaps, scrubs, masks and creams. Enzymes work hard to break down dead skin cells to reveal the fairer, new skin underneath.
  • Digestion -- The amazing thing about papain is that it can break down 200 times its own weight in protein. It is a more efficient proteolytic (or protein-digesting) enzyme than our own stomach enzyme, pepsin. Papain is so powerful that it is even used commercially as a meat-tenderizer. As we age, our stomach enzymes inevitably get depleted so that intake of proteolytic enzymes such as those found in green papaya is of great help in breaking down food.
  • Antiseptic -- Another very important enzyme in green papaya is carpaine which has antiseptic activity against harmful bacteria in the colon while not harming the good bacteria. Carpaine is also able to dissolve pus and mucus in cases of colon ailments. Most important of all, carpaine can dissolve the hardened plaques along blood vessel walls -- a fact which could alleviate atherosclerosis. 

With all the amazing health benefits green papaya could give you, you may now be wondering how you could take in this little-known food. If so, you may want to check out a popular Filipino recipe I cooked which makes use of green papaya -- green papaya pickle.


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