Continuous or repeated indulging in a particular kind of food over a rather long period of time oftentimes causes us to experience a condition called taste fatigue. A temporary taste-driven situation when we tend to lose our desire to ingest a specific type of food. This occurs when our taste buds and its receptors received too much stimulation and in the process get overwhelmed by the same or similar flavor to the point it can no longer accurately sense or detect its true and natural taste. In the Philippines, we call this “suya” or “umay”. Sort of getting fed-up or tired of or bored of a kind of food that sometimes even its smell becomes annoying.
This happens to everyone. Especially after a long, or as the usual case, prolonged holiday, weekends or family occasions where cooking and eating (and drinking) are so important (they always are) that they comprised about 50% (sometimes more) of all the activities. :-)
Even the tastiest stew or braise dishes such as “adobo”, “mechado”, “menudo”, “asado”, “estopado” and “caldereta”, or the somewhat oily but heavenly fried dishes such “crispy pata”, “lechon sa hurno”, “litsong kawali”, etc. will no longer appeal to us once we get afflicted by such a syndrome of “suya” or “umay”. But there is a trick on how to go about it. First, give your taste buds a rest (not very easy though). Then, select different but simple foods and return to a normal eating pattern. This will eventually allow your taste buds and receptors to restore their normal sensitivity and once again get pleasure and satisfaction from eating your favorite foods.
In such a case, my father who is from Batangas would always ask my mom to cook a “sinaing na isda” either, “tambakol” or yellow fin tuna or “tulingan” or frigate tuna (oh I miss this) or even the easy fried or grilled “tuyo” or dried fish with “kamatis” or fresh tomato, or even simpler, serve him with “ginisang bagoong” or sautéed fish paste as side dish in a meal. Our friends in Cebu and Leyte always resort to “tola or tinowa” and “kinilaw na isda”. I have lots of friends in Pampanga and Tarlac who always ask their spouses or mothers to cook them either a “sinigang” or a “paksiw na isda”.
If you will notice there is an obvious commonality to the above neutralizing dishes ……… the presence of the souring agent like bilimbi or “kamias”, vinegar, tamarind and tomatoes. Yes, like most Filipinos, I always find sourly-salty food as an effective “umay” buster.
Since our group, with its many chicken dishes in the regular weekly menu, is highly susceptible to this “suya” syndrome, we intermittently cook “paksiw na isda” in between meat dishes. Besides being simple, easy to prepare, relatively inexpensive and actually delicious, the dish efficiently provides us with the needed taste buds repair, overhauling and reconditioning after sustaining heavy bombardment from the chicken flavor. :-)
As “paksiw”, a simple cooking technique that involves stewing meat or seafood in vinegar is considered an icon of the highly varied Philippine cuisine and so is the relatively lowly yet staple food commodity called “galunggong”, an abundant and widely eaten saltwater fish popular in the Philippines. As such, the cheap but chief dish called “paksiw na galunggong”, though really modest, is among the most popular fish stewed in vinegar dishes you can find inside most Filipino homes, particularly in the Luzon Island which includes the Manila Capital.
To cook the dish, we need about 1.2 kilograms (2.6 lbs) of really fresh mackerel scad or “galunggong”. The fish were thoroughly cleaned, scaled, gutted, drained and then halves.
Although I am using a mackerel scad variety here, please understand that there are many other varieties which also fall within the big group of economical fish called “galunggong” or colloquially, “GG” in the Philippines. Among the common kinds are roughear scad, Indian scad, shortfin scad, Japanese scad and the top favorite, the redtail scad. Generally, the fish which is considered both a gamefish and bait have elongated bodies that look somewhat circular when viewed head on.
The other ingredients are just basic things most Filipino families always have in their kitchen: 2 pcs thumb-sized ginger, peeled and sliced, 1 large (or 2 medium) onion, chopped, 5 gloves garlic, crushed and chopped, 1 tsp whole peppercorn, 2 tsp iodized salt or to taste, 2-3 pcs cubanelle chilies (or finger chilies), 2 medium eggplants (or 1 medium bitter gourd), cut up, 1 cup white vinegar, 2 cups water and 2 tbsp vegetable oil.
In a stainless casserole or pot, spread the chopped ginger and onion on the bottom. Add in garlic, whole peppercorn and eggplants. Properly arrange the fish on top of them.
Add in salt on top of the fish and slowly pour the vinegar, water and finally the vegetable oil. Over medium heat, cooked the fish uncover. When the liquid has started boiling lower the heat and let it boil (still uncover) for some more time for the acid of the vinegar to escape. Place the chilies on top.
Put the lid back on and continue cooking on low heat until the fish and chilies are fully cooked through. Add hot water as necessary, to avoid it from drying, ½ cup at a time. Adjust the salt level according to your preference.
Transfer the dish to a shallow bowl and serve immediately with lots of steamed rice. Crumbled the chilies in a fish sauce + “calamansi” or lemon dip and you’re in for a good tasting buds-rejuvenating meal. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, it really doesn’t matter. :-)
Beat that “suya” or “umay” easily ……… cook “paksiw na galunggong”. It’s tasty and definitely budget-friendly. Enjoy! c“,)