How They Cook Fish

It has been known that Bicolano cooks everything with coconut milk, also known as “gata” as the main ingredient.  Red hot chili peppers only follows on the list.  I’m currently living with a Bicolano and the whole time since, I’ve been eating so much rice that I’m literally bursting in my seams.

He always goes home for lunch.  First reason was I didn’t know how to cook real food and he wanted me to eat the nutritious kinds. Second, I need someone to eat with to eat a lot.  He calls me from work and asked if I wanted tuna for lunch.  I said yes thinking that he was to bring a can of tuna for us to reheat in a pan and eat.  But then, when he came home, he had fresh fish, spices and vegetables and coconut milk at hand. 

He finds happiness in the kitchen, he once told me before.  For some people, cooking makes them loose their appetite because of the countless of times they have to taste the food they’re cooking or they have already been saturated by the smell of what they are cooking.  But not for this Bicolano.  The more he cooks, the more he anticipates the meal itself. 

He finds more happiness when I get up from my chair during a meal and try to scrape off the remaining rice in the rice pot.  I found that out once when I turned to go back to my place in the dining table finding him laughing.  I thought there was something funny on TV but he confessed that he was finding it amusing when he hears me scraping the remaining rice. 

My mother grew up in Bicol but I don’t remember her cooking something that is uniquely Bicol.  Even whenever I visit her hometown, I didn’t get to appreciate their food – except, probably, patatim.  My relatives on her side practically grew in Manila and they seldom visit their hometown.  Hence, my generation in our family tree probably don’t really know how “hot” and appetizing Bicol meals are. 

Now that I’m practically married to someone who has the appetite for the real Bicol food, I have been introduced to meals that make you drool more with every serving you placed inside your mouth.  He knows how to kick a meal up another notch – as if his cooking wasn’t good enough.  He is also fond of making a variety of “sawsawan” or dipping sauces which are to complement different casseroles he cooks. 

It is always about the taste of the main ingredient.  Both the vegetables and the spices must contribute to the taste of either the fish, chicken, beef or pork.  Once, I thought that he didn’t like tomatoes much because he left it behind.  I was the one trying to eat all the slices of tomatoes in the soup before I was done.  And then he explained to me that for that particular dish, the tomatoes has already done its purpose by adding the taste in the soup and in the meat. He also said the same thing about the Pechay in another meal. 

The taste was the most important factor for him.  For someone like me who doesn’t know how to cook but loves to eat, the come-hither factor was the presentation. But ever since we have come to live together, steaming rice was the initial clue it was ready to eat, and the taste of his cooking was the signal to eat more. 

Freshness comes along with the taste.  He has this particular obsession with freshness.  For the untrained tongue like mine, I wouldn’t be able to identify if what I am eating is fresh or frozen for a long time already.  I probably would be able to note anything rotten, though.  He gushes about his market purchase when he knows the meat – may it be that of fish, chicken, beef or pork – is less than 24 hours old.  He already knows it will taste good no matter how he cooks it.  It goes the same even with the vegetables, especially the leafy greens.

So, back to the yellow fin tuna he proudly brought home.  While he cut, sliced and diced the ingredients, I noted that he was making it looked good while everything was still raw.  I took out my camera as soon as I saw all the colors he was putting in the casserole.  He made it look good unintentionally.  It’s could pass up as the main presentation already or the final product like in cooking shows on TV. 

I was afraid he might find it weird that I’m taking pictures of what he was doing but I took pictures of it anyway.

yellow fin and coconut milk topped with tomatoes and more... to come

Yellow fin and coconut milk topped with tomatoes and more... to come

Don't forget the green chili

Don't forget the green chili

All spices seeps in the fish while it boils

All spices seeps in the fish while it boils

Ready To Eat

Ready To Eat


2 Responses to “How They Cook Fish”

  1. I love eating fish. Tuna cooked in coco milk is also one of my favorites. Perfect for the rainy day. Nom nom nom!

    • hangingbridge Says:

      I have come to appreciate coco milk more for the past few weeks. Very tasty. And to think that it makes our Sorbetero ice cream so creamy. I didn’t know coco milk was what they use in it.

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