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[Recipe] Pinaksiwan or Paksiw na Banak (Mullet cooked with ginger and vinegar)

Pinaksiwan na isda (paksiw na banak)

Paksiw or pinaksiwan as it is called in Ilonggo is a generic term for cooking in vinegar. When cooking paksiw na isda (fish) the recipe usually calls for ginger and banana chili peppers as additional ingredients to minimize the lansa of the dish (fishy smell). In my version of this traditional Filipino dish, I have also added ground dried oregano to similarly help in controlling the fishy smell, as well as batuan and dried kamias (bilimbi) to introduce 2 other souring agents into the dish so that the sourness doesn't just come from the vinegar. I also like using either coconut-sap vinegar or red cane vinegar when cooking paksiw. The star anise is added primarily for the aroma it imparts.

The dish is intentionally strong flavored so it is best eaten with plain steamed rice. I personally like to spoon the reduced broth on top of the rice to impart that intense salty and sour flavor. If you want the fish to have an even more intense flavor, you can reduce the liquid until it almost dried out. This method of cooking usually uses banana leaves to wrap the fish (usually small fishes inside pouches made of banana leaf) and it is called pinamalhan in Ilonggo (which directly translates "to dry out").

Paksiw na banak

1 Kg Banak fish (mullet), cleaned
1 cup red cane vinegar or coconut-sap vinegar
1 medium-sized ginger (2 matchbox size will be sufficient), peeled and sliced thinly
1 medium sized onion, roughly chopped
1 eggplant, cut into 2-inch lengths and sliced into quarters lengthwise
1 pc. banana chili pepper, keep it whole
6 pcs batuan
100 grams of dried kamias
1/3 cup sea salt
2 teaspoons ground dried oregano
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
2 fish broth cubes (or equivalent fish stock)
3 pcs star anise
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

Salt the fish thoroughly and set aside. In a pot, arrange the fish neatly in the bottom of the pan. Add the vinegar, oil, and enough fish stock to just barely cover the fish. Add the rest of the ingredients on top of the fish. Gently simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes with the pot covered. Remove the cover and let the liquid reduce. Crush the batuan in the pot to extract the most flavor. 

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