Oven-steamed Tilapia Fish

IMG_4676.PNGWhen one thinks Tilapia, it’s most likely about fillets or fried whole fish. It’s not only a favorite fish choice in the Philippines and elsewhere;  it’s also fairly inexpensive.  Fresh, whole tilapia from the public market can be purchased for just P25 apiece ($0.50).

Since, I purchased an electric oven for my kitchen, I’ve been experimenting on a lot  of recipes for meat, seafood, vegetables, pasta and many more.

So for this recipe, I’m moving away from my favorite fried whole Tilapia and going for oven-steamed.


2 pcs., whole Tilapia, cleaned with head and tails cut off

1 medium red onion, peeled and chopped

1 thumb ginger, peeled and julienned

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup chopped green onions

5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

Salt and pepper to taste


Pre-heat oven to to 375 degrees F. Fill an oven-safe pan with water and place at the bottom rack of the oven. Score Tilapia fish and season with salt and pepper. Fill the inside of the fish with garlic, onions, ginger and green onions. Wrap the fish with aluminum foil. Place the wrapped fish on an oven grill atop the water-filled pan.  Cook for 45  minutes.  Remove from heat and serve, warm, garnishing the fish with the remaining garlic, onions and tomatoes.



Tinolang Tahong (Ginger-based Mussel Soup)

IMG_2288For the rare times that I’d prepare mussel soup while I was in California, my limited options would include buying pre-packaged mussels from the frozen section of Costco and the supermarkets.  Even those I bought directly from the “fresh food section” could have been — in all likelihood — previously frozen.

So it always delights me to be able to prepare this popular Filipino dish using fresh mussels from Baguio City’s (Phlippines) public market.  Sure, they may have been brought up from the coastal waters of nearby La Union, but still I know that they’re fresher than the ones I buy in California.

Tinola is basically an onion and ginger-based soup and is often prepared with chicken (Tinolang manok).


1 lb. mussels (tahong), thoroughly cleaned

2cups spinach (or kangkong)

2 thumbs ginger, peeled and julienned

1 medium yellow onion, sliced

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

3 cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsps, Olive oil


Heat Olive oil in a large pot.  Add garlic and saute until golden brown.  Add onions and cook for one minute. Add ginger and mussels and saute for another minute.  Pour in water and let boil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and add the spinach or kangkong. (The remaining heat will cook the spinach).  Serve warm.


Pinangat Na Pompano (Boiled Pompano)

IMG_1204.JPGPompano is a marine fish with a compressed body and short snout,typically silver and toothless with a forked tail and narrow base. It is found around the Philippines often close to shore near reefs, lagoons, and along sandy beaches. In the U.S., the most popular variety is the Florida pompano. A city near the Florida coast is named after this premium fish.

“Pinangat” is a Filipino term that means “boiled in water and salt.” And that describes the process in preparing this dish.


2 pompano fish (whole)
3 medium tomatoes sliced into thin rounds
1 small onion cut into rings
1/4 cup calamansi or lime juice
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 green onions, sliced


Clean the fish and cut two diagonal slices on either side. Place half of the onions and tomatoes on the bottom of a deep pan. Add fish, the remaining onion and tomatoes, calamansi or lime juice, water, olive oil, green onions. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let boil on medium-high heat, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the fish is done.

Dinengdeng With Fried Bangus


You can’t claim to be an Ilocano (someone from the Ilocos Region in Northern Philippines) if you haven’t had dinengdeng.  It’s basically a vegetable stew akin to pinakbet or the French ratatouille.

But dinengdeng is unique in many ways because the dish can be as simple or as “elaborate” as you want it to be.  But you have to have some basic vegetables which many Ilocanos grow in their backyard.  Of course, it can’t be called dinengdeng without the fermented fish sauce (bagoong) for flavoring.

The dish can totally be cooked with vegetables or mixed with grilled or fried fish, usually, bangus (milk fish).

For this recipe, I used bitter melon, eggplant, long beans, alukon (birch flower), malunggay leaves, moringa fruit, sigarilyas (winged beans) and monamon (salt fermented anchovies). I couldn’t find squash flower at that time so I skipped it.


1 bangus (milkfish), cleaned and sliced into four pieces

1 eggplant, sliced into bite-sized pieces

1 bitter melon, seeded and sliced into rounds or crescents

1/2 cup, cut long beans (2-inches)

1/2 cup, sliced moringa fruit

1/2 cup, malunggay (moringa leaves)

1/2 cup, alukon ( birch flower)

3 pcs, sigarilyas (winged beans), cut into thirds (diagonally)

1 small onion, sliced

1 small tomato, sliced

1 thumb ginger, peeled and cut into ribbons

4 tbsps, monamon or bagoong (fish sauce)

4 cups water

Salt and pepper to taste


Season fish with salt and pepper to taste and either grill or pan-fry them.  Let aside.

Boil water in  a large pan before adding onion, tomatoe and ginger. Add the fish sauce and continue cooking for about 2 minutes. Add the vegetables, starting with the long beans, bitter melon, alukon, moringa fruit and winged beans. Cook for about two minutes before adding the malunggay.  Add salt and pepper as needed. During the last 2 minutes of cooking add the fried or grilled fish to add flavor to the stew.  Remove from heat and serve warm with steamed rice.



Fish Steak Sarciado

IMG_1071There are several ways to cook fish with sauce.  One way to cook it is the escabeche way, with sweet and sour sauce.  Another is the sarciado way.

‘Sarciado’ is a Tagalog term which means “cooked in thick sauce.”

The sauce for this recipe is a combination of tomatoes, onions and eggs, flavored with some spices. Bell pepper may be added to the mixture.

Tilapia is always a good fish to cook in sarciado, and here we use Tilapia fish steaks instead of whole fish.


2 pcs. Tilapia steaks, cleaned

2 medium tomatoes, diced

2 small onions, diced

1cup water

1/2cup green onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 eggs, beaten

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 small green or red bell pepper, sliced (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil for frying


Season fish steaks with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a frying pan then fry the fish steaks.
Remove from heat and place in a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil. Set aside. (Option: you can also use breaded fish steaks, dipping the Tilapia in flour, beaten egg and bread crumbs before frying.)

In a clean frying pan,  heat about 2 teaspoons of Olive oil and sauté the garlic, onions, and tomatoes. Add fish sauce, along with green onions and bell pepper.  Add water. Bring to a quick boil.

Reduce heat and add in the fried fish. Let simmer for about 5 minutes.
Pour the beaten eggs over the fish and sauce and stir until the eggs start to set.

Add salt and pepper as needed.

Turn off heat and let stand for a few minutes before serving.

Oven-Baked And Pan-Grilled Whole Catfish (Hito)


In the U.S., the only way I enjoyed catfish was through fillets.  But whole catfish is a favorite item in the Philippines, be it at home or at restaurants. Inihaw na hito (grilled catfish) is a delicacy that’s to die for.

I’ve always enjoyed  inihaw na hito at restaurants and didn’t think I’d ever venture into preparing this fresh water fish in my kitchen.

Well, there’s a first time for everything.

So I finally had the courage to buy live catfish from the Baguio City public market. I had the unfortunate decision to ask the vendor to kill the catfish before I slipped it into my bayong (Filipino dried leaf woven market bag). Better than doing it myself, I guess.

Inihaw na hito is usually cooked using an outdoor grill with fired up charcoal.  But that was a lot more work for me.  So Instead, I chose to bake the fish in the oven, then finished up by cooking it on a grill pan over stovetop with some light butter.

Preparing whole catfish for cooking or grilling is quite laborious.  Cleaning the slimy fish could be a big challenge for the uninitiated.  But believe you me, all the work is well worth it!


One fresh whole catfish

Course salt for prepping

Salt and pepper to taste for seasoning

1 cup soy sauce

4-5 pieces calamansi juice (or lime)

5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 tbsps butter


Prepare the catfish by cutting off its “moustache” and fins and discarding all of its innards. Rub the fish with course salt to rid it of its slimy surface. Using a sharp knife, make a few horizontal slits on either side of the fish.

Marinate the fish for a few hours in soy sauce, calamansi juice, garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

Wrap the fish in aluminum foil.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees then place the fish on the top rack of the oven.  Bake for 20-30 minutes.

Remove from heat and discard aluminum foil.

Heat butter in a grill pan over medium heat.  Place baked catfish in the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, flipping it over a couple of times.

Remove from heat and transfer to a serving plate.

Serve warm with your favorite greens or salad.

For this recipe, we used blanched chayote (sayote) leaves with fresh onions, tomatoes, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Tinapa (Smoked Fish) Spaghetti In White Sauce

IMG_8053.JPGTinapa is the Filipino term that usually refers to fish cooked or preserved through the process of smoking. It is a native delicacy in the Philippines and is often made from blackfin scad (galunggong) or from milkfish, which is locally known as bangus.

I first encountered tinapa spaghetti at a potluck in Manila.  A friend brought tinapa spaghetti.  At first I hesitated to even try it because it was a type of spaghetti I’ve never seen or tried before.

But as soon as I had my first spoonful, I fell in love with it. It is in direct contrast to the popular sweet Filipino spaghetti usually made with ground beef, sausage and tomato sauce.


2 pcs, dried and salted fish (tinapa), deboned and flaked

4 cups, cooked spaghetti pasta

6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 small onion, minced

1 cup evaporated milk

1/3 cup cream

2 tbsps butter

2 tbsps flour

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

2 tbsps Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup chopped green onions


Prepare the white sauce: In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour and stir until the butter and flour are well combined. Pour in milk and cream, stirring constantly as it thickens. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat Olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook until golden brown.  Add onions and cook until tender and fragrant.  Add tinapa and sauté for three minutes. Sprinkle half of the parmesan cheese.

In a mixing bowl, add cooked pasta. Add the tinapa mixture and mix well. Pour in the white sauce and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle remaining cheese and garnish with green onions.