Labahita a la Bacalao, paired with Ginataang Sigarilyas, is an ideal family meal for the meatless Holy Week.
“Holy Week is such an opportune time to cook healthy but appetizing dishes for the family,” says homemaker Me-anne Aristorenas.
Bacalao is dried salted codfish that can be prepared in many ways.
Aristorenas whips up a local version of bacalao using equally fatty labahita (surgeonfish). Codfish costs a bit more than labahita, which is only P280 per kilo in the market.
“Labahita has been a staple in our family lunch and dinner during Holy Week since I was a kid,” says Aristorenas, who learned the recipe from her 83-year-old mom, Tony Francisco. The recipe was passed on to Aristorenas, who’s taken it upon herself to cook the dish every year for the family.
Aristorenas gets her smoked labahita at Farmer’s Market in Cubao, Quezon City. She soaks the fish in water overnight to remove excess salt, then flakes and fries it before combining the fish with other ingredients.
She usually serves the bacalao with vegetables, like sigarilyas (winged bean) cooked in rich and thick coconut cream. A bundle of sigarilyas in the market costs P10.
Just before serving, the vegetable is topped with dried fish (dilis, dulong or biya) for added crunch and saltiness.
Labahita a la Bacalao
1 k smoked labahita
3 pcs medium-size potatoes, diced
1 can chickpeas
2 pcs red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 pc onion, sliced thinly
100 g olives, sliced
150 g tomato paste
3/4 c water
4 bundles sigarilyas, sliced
¼ c sautéed bagoong alamang
2 c coconut cream
2 pcs siling labuyo, chopped
Dried fish (fried and flaked)
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SOAK labahita overnight (changing the water thrice). Boil fish for two minutes. Set aside to cool and drain. Flake the fish, removing all small bones. Heat olive oil in deep pan and fry fish for two minutes. Remove and set aside.
USING the same oil, sauté onion, garlic and bell pepper. Add potatoes and chickpeas. Stir well.
ADD fish flakes and olives. Pour tomato paste and water. Cover and simmer until thoroughly cooked. Add olive oil if the mixture gets dry. Season with pepper and paprika to taste.
TO MAKE Gatang Sigarilyas, heat vegetable oil in a pan. Add bagoong and labuyo. Add sigarilyas.
POUR in coconut cream.
STIR mixture for two minutes. Simmer until sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
TOP with dried fish before serving.
PHOTOS BY KIMBERLY DELA CRUZ
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