Last week, we featured Batanes' Guinataang Alimasag, one of the sought-after delicacies enjoyed by the natives and tourists of Cagayan Valley or Region II. This time, Isla Kulinarya presents another recipe that highlights Cagayan's rare lobed river mullet, locally known as the banak or ludong as the main ingredient.
Highly regarded not only as the country's most expensive food fish, the banak was also dubbed as the "president's fish," as it was believed to be one of former president Ferdinand Marcos' favorite dish. Marcos, being a native of the northern Philippines himself, was known to always have a year-long supply of the fish stocked away.
The banak, which dwells in the headwaters of the Cagayan river, and Bantay-Santa of the Abra river system in the provinces of Ilocos Sur and Abra, only eats the filamentous algae that live on rocks and boulder and near river rapids. It can grow up to 32.5 centimetres (12.8 inches).
On days when banak can be consumed, however, a lot of people still wish to eat the fish (despite the high price) because of the good aroma it releases when cooked; more important, because of its exceptionally delicious taste. One of the most popular way to serve the banak is cooking it as sinigang (a Filipino soup characterized by its sour flavor and is usually associated with tamarind).
Other version of the sinigang dish derive its sourness from guava, calamansi, raw mango, among others. Powdered soup base or bouillon cubes are also used as replacements of the natural fruits. The Sinigang na banak is usually eaten with rice similar to a main dish.
(Lobed River Mullet in Sour Tamarind Soup)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20minutes
-4 pieces tamarind
-6 cups rice washing
-1 small onion, sliced
-1/2 cup sliced tomatoes
-6 pieces fresh banak, cleaned
-1 cup sliced stringbeans
-1 tablespoon salt
-3 cups kamote cops
1. Boil tamarind in 1 cup rice washing. When soft, mash fruit.
2. Strain and add juice to the remaining rice washing.
3. Cover and bring to a boil.
4. Add onion, tomatoes and fish.
5.Cover and let it simmer for 3 minutes
6. Add eggplant, stringbeans, and cook for another 3 minutes
7. Season with salt
8. Add kamote tops and cook for 4 minutes longer.
Serve hot with rice.
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