We are in the mood for another “paksiw na isda” or fish stewed in vinegar and ginger dish. But what we have in the freezer are just some small “lapu-lapu” or groupers and a medium “talakitok” or trevally. While these fish are considered special or prized and not commonly prepared into ordinary “paksiw”, we decided to give it a go for a change. Admittedly, with the high status of the two fishes in the Philippine market, we also thought that there will be some sort of pride in cooking “paksiw na lapu-lapu at talakitok”. :-)
Besides, due to financial and economic constraints, this might be difficult to do back home in the Philippines where the fish, particularly the grouper, are highly priced, scarce and are thus better reserved for extraordinary dishes, such as the fancy “steamed na lapu-lapu” or if you like sourly and soupy Filipino dish, the “sinigang na lapu-lapu”.
Being an avid angler and sportsman, I know the dish would be much better if the fish are personally caught by me using my rod and line. For some reasons, the fish are sweeter and tastier when acquire that way. Okay, okay …… I’m just dreaming and wishing that I could revisit the “playground” or my favorite fishing hole over the weekend. It has been quite a while since I last checked the coastline and wetted my line and the reel badly needs actual spinning for its operational reconditioning. :-)
However, it is just wishful thinking right now. It is still monsoon season here and the rain is heavily pouring at night and during early morning. The wind is blowing extremely strong and big waves are pummeling the rocky coastline and it not so fun to stay there at the moment. Not even with the passionate angler that I am. :-)
So for the moment let us concentrate on cooking this seemingly delightful “paksiw” dish. With fish that are naturally tasty, I am again one step sure, without really doing anything at all, that I have a delicious dish in the making.
To prepare the dish, we need about 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) combined weight of really fresh groupers and trevally. The fish were thoroughly cleaned, scaled and gutted
Drain the fish and cut it up to serving sizes. Season it with about a teaspoon of salt.
The other basic ingredients which you probably already have in your kitchen are: 1 pc thumb-sized ginger, peeled and sliced, 1 large onion, chopped, 4 gloves garlic, crushed and chopped, 1 tsp whole peppercorn, 1 tsp iodized salt or to taste, 2-3 pcs cubanelle chilies (or finger chilies), about ¾ cup white vinegar, adjust it depending on the acidity of your vinegar, 2 tbsp vegetable oil and about 1-2 cups water.
In a stainless casserole or pot, spread the chopped ginger and onion on the bottom. Add in garlic and whole peppercorn. Properly arrange the cut-up fish on top. Add in salt and pour in vinegar, 1 cup water and finally vegetable oil.
Over medium heat, cook the fish uncover. When the liquid has started boiling lower the heat and let it simmer while still uncover for several minutes more, for the acid of the vinegar to escape. Place the chilies on top and continue simmering with the lid on.
Continue cooking until the fish and chilies are fully cooked through. During the process, add in additional hot water as necessary to avoid the liquid from drying, ½ cup at a time. Adjust the seasoning level according to your preference.
After a couple of minutes more simmering, turn the heat off and dish is ready.
Transfer the dish to a shallow bowl and serve immediately with a heaping serving of steamed rice. Crumbled the chilies in a fish sauce + “calamansi” or lemon dip and be ready with a simply wonderful Filipino meal. :-)
As expected, grouper and trevally are excellent as “paksiw”. The dish is definitely much better than the recently featured “paksiw na galunggong”. This is really awesome and something we will surely repeat very soon …… while we are still in Sri Lanka and can still purchase “lapu-lapu” at a very reasonable price. Enjoy! c“,)