Thursday, September 30, 2010

Abraw o Inabraw (Vegetables Stewed in Fish Paste)

Another popular regional dish from the northern Luzon area in the Philippines is “abraw” or “inabraw”. I believe the other Ilocano term “dinengdeng” also refers to the same dish. “Abraw” is a simple vegetable dish where several types of vegetables are stewed in a small amount of water and seasoned with “bagoong” or fish paste. Sometime during the cooking process, a flavoring meat usually fried or grilled fish or dried shrimp fry or krill are added to further improve the taste of both the broth and the cooked veggies.

For me, this dish is not really something we can brag about. After all, from its original and humble inception, it is prepared in a simple, easy and straightforward procedure utilizing simple ordinary vegetables and inexpensive local seasoning. That’s all. It is basically intended to be a simple meal of a rather simple, and probably frugal, family. But out of its simplicity, the dish is tasty and satisfying…… not to mention very healthy. That it has become popular not only in the Ilocos region (Philippines) but also in other neighboring regions and even in the Manila Capital area.

Being a vegetable dish using fresh local harvests, it is best eaten with some fried or grilled fish along with lots of steamed rice. But it also goes well with other seafood dishes like the “halabos na hipon o sugpo” (steamed shrimp or prawn) which we ate alongside "abraw” and posted here before. If you like grilled or boiled or steamed veggies dipped in “bagoong” in your meal (like me), then you will appreciate this dish and probably love it later on.

Like the more elaborate and more famous cousin “pinakbet” (whoa…I don’t have a post of that yet), “abraw” is made of several types of vegetables. To make a more authentic version of the dish, a colleague with an Ilocano blood, prefers veggies such as “bulaklak ng kababasa” or squash flowers or blossom, “saluyot” or jute leaves, “patola” or luffa and “dahon ng malungay” or moringa leaves. I could have added “kamote” or sweet potato for a hint of sweetness, “sitaw” or long string beans for the crunch and “patani or lima beans for depth of the taste.

To cook my colleague’s version we need the following vegetable ingredients: 2 bundles of “bulaklak ng kalabasa”, trimmed and stigma removed, 2 bundles of “saluyot”, young leaves selected, 2 bundles of “dahon ng malungay”, young leaves selected and 1 medium “patola”, peeled and cut to 2 inches sticks.

The other ingredients are 2 tbsp fresh “bagoong” or fish paste, about 2 pcs grilled (or fried) small fish of your choice and about 2 to 3 cups water.

In a medium casserole, heat the water until briskly boiling. Add in “bagoong” and simmer for a minute. Stain the broth and discard solid particles. Bring the casserole back in the heat and continue simmering. Scoop out scum that will form on the surface. Add in grilled fish and simmer for 2 minutes.

Add in vegetables; “saluyot” leaves first, followed by “patola”, then by “bulaklak ng kalabasa” and finally the “malungay” leaves. Put the lid back on and continue simmering for a couple of minutes more.

Uncover, smell the aroma and be ready to be transformed. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. :-)

Transfer in deep bowls and serve immediately. As I said above, this dish goes very well with fried or grilled fish. As for me, I like it with “pritong daing na bangus” or “inihaw na dalag”. Whew….I could only dream that here in Sri Lanka. Don’t forget to be ready with cups and cups of piping hot steamed rice. Enjoy! c”,)

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