Friday, June 14, 2013

#142 Philippines' Fish Paksiw

The last one of the three Bear Valley Springs trouts given to me by the Mckays, succumbed to my Paksiw craving. I badly wanted something sour or tangy, which I frequently do; I cannot live without lemons, limes, or vinegar, it's an acquired taste after over 30+ years of consuming many many sour young mangoes, sour grapefruit, and back home, dark green balimbing (starfruit) and the peeled meat of santol or faux mangoustanier in French, I don't know how to say that, but that sounds so much nicer than "santol" :) .. and you know what I use to  dip these sour fruits in?  vinegar and salt, yes more sourness until my lips turned pale! Paksiw is deliciously tangy,  so it more than satisfied my craving.  It is a Filipino way to boil and spice up fish,  with much emphasis on tanginess, so vinegar is generously poured in the mixture, olive oil and spices for flavor, and of course, not without salt. It is an easy and a really healthy way to cook fish, one of my favorites, for it's tangy and delicious flavor, it excellently pairs with rice and white wine too, and it is dangerous for the weight watchers because it is very appetizing- I tend to eat lots of rice with it. The vinegar pickles the fish, and the spices give it a nice balance; now I understand what my Tita (Auntie) Jasmin told me years ago that she loves paksiw that is flavored with spices and herbs rather than  MSG. I was an Ajinomoto MSG monster back then so I did not understand how a good flavor is achieved without monosodium glutamate, but for 7 years, I have not used it in my cooking, and we very rarely eat processed foods too,  I know it is found in many foods and some restaurants use it too so I cannot say that my body is 100% MSG free. But we do try to steer clear from it. I am not going to start a debate here whether MSG is good or bad, but I realized 7 years ago that it would be better and fun to cook the food and achieve a good flavor naturally by proper blending of herbs and spices, rather than from a sprinkle of (what I was told, which scared me, but correct me if I am wrong, please): a brain stimulant which tricks you that the food tastes so much better than it really is. For years, I have been making good Paksiw sans MSG, and only use peppercorns, garlic, onions, a good balsamic vinegar, bay leaf, vegetable base and pickled pepper. I get you now, Tita, it definitely tastes so much better. This dish is inexpensive, especially when the main ingredient is lovingly given :) and quick cooking too, great for a busy weekday schedule.
Yield: 2-3 servings

1 medium sized fish, like milkfish, trout, golden pompano
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lime juice 
1 teaspoon peppercorn, ground
3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon vegetable base
3 inches long ginger, sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/4 cup sliced jarred pickled jalapenos or pepperoncini
vegetables: eggplant, bittermelon, or okra (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients except salt and pepper, boil and simmer covered until fish and vegetables are cooked. Salt and pepper to taste, discard bay leaves. Serve immediately.

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