Coconut Vegetable Stew with Smoked Fish (ginataang tinapa)

Forget the supermarket. In the Philippines, everything needed to make this dish can be found at the local palengke, including a wide variety of tinapa and the coconut vendor, who will squeeze fresh coconut milk on the spot. It’s the subtle sweetness of coconut milk that enhances the delightfully smoky flavor of tinapa.

[Adapted from a recipe by Richard and Liza Lancion]

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup yardlong beans (snake beans) or green beans, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 small bell pepper, cored and julienned
  • Ground black pepper
  • 4 to 6 small tinapa, such as mackerel or round scad, or 2 large tinapa, such as milkfish or tilapia
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon patis (fish sauce)
  • 2 cups cubed (1-inch) hard, low-moisture winter squash, such as kabocha or Red Kuri 
  • 3 plum tomatoes, deseeded and julienned
  • 2 cups full-fat, unsweetened coconut milk
  • Sea salt, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan or wok over medium-high heat, and sauté the onion slices, garlic, and ginger until the onion is slightly softened. Toss in the yardlong beans, bell pepper, and a generous pinch of ground black pepper, and sauté for a minute or two. Nestle the tinapa in the vegetables, and then add the water and patis before lowering the heat to a slow simmer. Cook until the beans are tender but still a bit firm—about 5 minutes. Scatter the squash cubes and tomatoes on top and pour in the coconut milk, gently lifting the fish to allow the milk to seep underneath. Cover the pan and let it simmer until the squash cubes are tender and the fish are heated through, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and more black pepper. Serve with steamed rice.

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