July 15, 2018

linabog nga tilapia

linabog nga tilapia - (li-na-bóg nga ti-láp-ya; Cebuano and Boholano dish; dw Ceb. labog [throw away]) [n.] cartilaginous sea fish or freshwater fish in thick  and spicy hot coconut milk.

Fresh tilapias are gutted and scaled  

LINABOG is an old-time Visayan seafood delicacy mostly prepared by the Boholanos and Cebuanos.  Originally, it uses meat from cartilaginous fish, such as pagi (ray) or iho (shark). The meat of dugong (manatee), butanding (whale shark), and balyena (whale) are also favored when available. If not available, slimy freshwater fish is used, like the hito (catfish) or the haluan (mudfish). 

The ingredients

When Cebuanos and Boholanos migrated to Mindanao at the height of the “Land of Promise” campaign in 1970’s, they brought along with them the traditional Visayan seafood dishes that included linabog. This explains why linabog is also found in Mindanao.

The ingredients are prepared and ready. 

Linabog is a Cebuano word which means “thrown out” or “discarded away,” and that is what you will do when the food you cooked would smell and taste nasty, such as when you badly cooked pagi or iho as inun-onan (boiled in vinegar) without any condiment. But somebody else tried to salvage the food by putting a remedy to the nastiness. The inun-onan na pagi or iho was reprocessed by adding some condiments, such as thick coconut cream as desirable ingredients and thought to be as a protection from possible food poisoning. Hot spice is also added to mask the taste. What used to be thrown away, eventually became a delectable delicacy.

The fish are cooked in vinegar with garlic and salt to taste. Just the way you cook paksiw na isda. Banana leaves are used to wrap each fish to keep the fishes from sticking to each other. The leaves also add aroma to the dish.
When boiled and cooked, excess vinegar is drained. 

Now that the Philippine and International Laws on Marine Wildlife Protection prohibits the capture and consumption of the aforementioned sea fishes, the tradition of cooking the original linabog shunned away the locals from savoring their old-time favorite linabog. But the taste of linabog lingers making the locals to keep on longing for it. When pagi and iho are not available, they resorted to hito or haluan. Later on, tilapia is also used.

Cooking oil is added and brought to boil. The fish  are fried well until crisp with those bones and fins on the edges would easily brittle. 
Excess oil is drained right away after frying, or the  fishes are removed from the oil.

Braising the fish first in vinegar with salt and spices transforms “nasty” to “tasty.” It removes the nasty fishy odor of the fish. Cooking is exactly the same way as you cook paksiw na isda. In my recipe, I made the twist of frying the fish after braising them in vinegar with condiments to attain crispiness of the skin and edges of the fish, which is a favorite of mine when it comes to tilapia. Chewing the crisp-fried bones is nice and tasty. It also eliminates the hassle of picking those tiny bones around the edges, that I often feared they might prick my throat if I accidentally swallowed them.

All the spices are sauteed until they caramelize then added with some water, simmered for awhile, then coconut cream is added.

Visayans are known to be fond of using creamy coconut milk in their seafood delicacies. Almost all Visayan seafood cooked with coconut cream or coconut milk are my favorites, among them is the tinunoang kinilaw (fish ceviche in coconut cream), the tinunoang kinhason (shellfish in coconut milk), and linabog.  

Curry powder
Hot chili pepper
Sibuyas dahon

I was inspired by the sinugno of Quezon province that I added pechay leaves (in place of mustasa) in my recipe. Chilies is not strange to Visayans. They use it to spice in many of their dishes. They even have a dish called halang-halang for that. The also squeeze chilies in kinilaw.

Bell pepper  (green and red)
Pechay leaves buried in thick coconut sauce, simmered, then transferred onto deep serving dish.

Here’s my version of linabog and enjoy cooking and dining my fellow Visayan’s comfort food. This will make linabog continue to live on - in new form

The crisp fried tilapias are arranged on top the savory spicy coconut sauce. To eat, flake the fish, dip or combine it in the sauce, and savor every bite. 

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