Sinaing na Isda – tradition with a twist

March 10, 2018
Sinaing na Isda - mymotherskitchens
Sinaing na Isda – mymotherskitchens

Sinaing na isda is as general as we can get.  Translated to Tagalog, it means braised fish.  But, such a phrase is enough to elicit good conversation.  “Which fish?” you might ask.  There you have it!  I am titling this post sinaing na isda because this dish is very versatile; any fish would go well with this recipe.  The only suggestion I can make is choosing “meaty”fish – like tuna.  It is actually the most common, followed by galunggong (scand) which is a tuna variety.

Sinaing na tulingan is associated with Batangas – a province south of Manila and a little less than 2 hours by land or around 100 kms away.  Want to do the math? No need, for we could easily conclude that traffic has something to do with why it should take 2 hours for 100km distance!  Having said that, visiting Batangas is always worth the traffic, err the trip.  Just imagine sampling their local rendition of “sinaing na tulingan,” their beautiful beaches, amiable people, good food and you will not go wrong.

Sinaing na galunggong, on the other hand, has gained popularity during the last couple of years.  You will easily find them packed, either in plastic or glass containers, and sold commercially.  One of my favorites is from Lott’s Kitchen.  I had tried her sinaing na galunggong more than once and had asked for more.  Well, I have that privilege of asking because Lott is a personal friend, though not the reason I so loved her sinaing na galunggong.  It really is delish!

Sinaing na isda is done with kamias (balimbi or sorrel tree) as its main accompaniment, and versions of this dish is wide, ranging from whether the kamias is used fresh or sundried, to cooking them rather quickly or for close to an hour, if not more. The results will then expectedly vary.  My friend, Lott, uses fresh kamias, however her sinaing turns out dry, almost crispy.  It must be magic, I thought.  Yep, I do not have her recipe.  Trade secret!  She cooks them longer, that is all I can conclude.  Some versions would turn out soft, some simply wet, while others leave an amount of broth. 

Dried kamias are available in grocery stores and local/wet markets in the Philippines.  I take them to Saudi Arabia, keep them in covered containers till use.  At times when I ran out of sundried kamias, I gently ask a friend who hails from Batangas to donate some for me.    Hi, Victor Martinez!  Thanks, as always.  Victor is always happy to share his stock of sundried kamias.  He has, as another friend intimated, taken a piece of Batangas to his apartment in Saudi Arabia where has been working for more than 20 years.  Not only does he have an all-year stock of dried kamias, he also uses clay pot from his Batangas.  Clay pot, by the way is one secret of a successfully delicious sinaing na isda, because although you can use any pot or casserole, a clay pot would produce the most eye-rolling sinaing that would keep you coming back for more.  From where Victor hails in Batangas, the fish are also wrapped in fresh banana leaves before cooking the sinaing and the result is softer and more aromatic. 

What I would share with you here is sinaing na salmon.  It is tender than galunggong when done because of the cooking time.  Well, galunggong is tastier when overdone anyway, so it is preferably cooked differently than salmon.  I am sure this is why Lott does hers that way.  As you try different kinds of fish in sinaing, your preference in doneness will be your guide in determining your cooking time.  While you would not want salmon to dry, you would love the well-done, wooden-like outcome of galunggong.  This recipe is easy, delicious and one you would do more than once, I am sure.

Deviation from mymotherskitchens:  Tomatoes are traditionally not used in sinaing na isda recipe.  I used tomato here for an added juiciness and a mild sweet tease.

Sinaing na Isda
Sinaing na salmon, a recipe specific from mymotherskitchens
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  1. 1 k. fresh boneless salmon, cut into 3" pieces
  2. 1/4 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
  3. 3-inch size ginger, julienned
  4. 1 medium size onion, cut into slices
  5. 15 pcs. dried kamias
  6. 2 medium-sized tomatoes
  7. 3 whole green sili
  8. Salt to taste\
  9. Patis (optional)
  1. Scatter 1/3 of the ginger, onions and tomatoes onto the pot and top them with half the salmon pieces. Repeat once again and top them with the last 1/3 of the ginger, onions and tomatoes.
  2. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with oil.
  3. Cook covered over medium heat for at least 20 minutes. Add patis, if using, halfway.
  1. Serve over steamed white rice.
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