Sour and spicy soup dish is a perfect culinary treat in these times where rain intermittently occurs in tropical Cebu. Cold weather also permits craving for something hot, stewy and balanced spiciness that not only tickles the palate but also provides gastronomic satisfaction. At the first sip of the hot soup, a spoonful would go a long way from the first intake to the temporary relief in the digestive tract, compelling my appetite to overdrive where the cause of which is the craving for “linarang”. Linarang tagontongan, that is.
In a close encounter I experienced during the making of the video, the linarang tagontongan proved to be something more than the exotic dish highlighted in this type of cooking method where ingredients that emitted a mix of sourness and spicy attributes were extensively yet methodically cooked to create a balanced flavor. It is a rare dish that I was fortunate to taste and was satisfactorily imbued with gratitude for it was cooked and served by a well-known chef whose name I have to withhold… for now.
The cook-out was not just a culinary display. It was more educational for me for there had been things that made me more appreciative of the Visayan cooking.
Firstly, linarang is a cooking method in the Visayas where a soup dish with a particular seafood– like in this case, tagontongan– is cooked with a souring agent. Kamias or iba or in English called bilimbi, is the souring agent used. Ginger is also a vital ingredient, making this kind of fish stew, distinct from the typical, tinolang isda.
Tagontogan, a type of fish popular in the Visayas, is used in this Cebuano culinary favorite due to its nice crab-like meat consistency. Even the innards can be eaten. The liver of this particular type of fish is regarded as the foie gras of the sea. This was added together with the fish to create that flavorful element that would entice the adventurous palate.
To gain you insights of the ingredients in the event you desire to create your own linarang, the following should be acquired and be prepared.
Onions, sliced in thin cuts
10 cloves of garlics, crushed
5 pieces of bilimbi or iba, sliced in thin cuts
Use another 5 pieces to mince it in a blender or to attain 1/4 cup of blended bilimbi.
1 medium size ginger, sliced in thin cuts
5 pieces of cayenne pepper, slightly slice one side of each pepper.
5 pieces of tomatoes, sliced according to the image as seen below
2 medium-sized spring onions, chopped
Also include pepper and salt
Blended bilimbi, at least 1/4 cup
4 pieces of tagontongan fish, properly peeled and cleaned
To cook, add cooking oil, at least 3 tablespoon, on a medium-sized wok.
Then add onions, garlic and ginger to the heated oil.
Add the fish. Stir slowly with the spices.
And then, add the pepper and iba. Do not stir after adding the tomatoes.
Cover the wok for 5 minutes. It’s better to let the ingredients be cooked throughly for the fish to absorb the mixed flavor of the spices and souring agents.
After 5 minutes, add 1 liter of rice water.
Use rice water on the second time the rice is washed.
Then add 500 mL of plain water.
Add blended bilimbi
Add black beans, at least 1/4 cup
More tomatoes to add
Mix in the spring onions
Then add salt to taste
Do not attempt to stir the linarang. Let the ingredients flow together with the liquid over an an above average heat.
Remove scum or impurities until they are all gone. The scum brings unusual strong taste to the linarang so it is advisable to take it out thoroughly from the soup.
Cook the linarang for 20 minutes.
After cooking for 20 minutes, add the tamarind leaves to also add sourness to the taste.
Let it simmer for at least 3 minutes.
To serve the cooked linarang, it is advisable to take the fish out with the ingredients to the bowl.
You may have the option to transfer the soup into a pot if you fancy it.
But regardless of the way to serve the linarang, it is better you do it in such a way that the fish is still in palatable condition for presentation purpose.
But if you ever want to take the soup and the ingredients to satisfy the craving, do whatever you wish.
These are the notes I would gladly share in cooking linarang tagotongan.
- Tagontongan is a kind of fish related to pufferfish. But this one is not the poisonous type. However, preparation and proper cleaning of tagontogan is still vital during preparation prior to adding it to the linarang ingredients during cooking.
- Adding rice water is another technique in this kind of dish. It is an option aside from adding the plain water.
- No stirring after the tomatoes have been added even if you pour the plain water. In this way, the fish meat would still be intact and the ingredients would not create strong flavor.
- Scum or impurities should be removed. By removing the scum, you can attain a more balanced flavor.
Linarang tagotongan may be deemed popular for those who are fond in going to Pasil market after a night of drinking or just wanting to try out exotic dish. Those who simply crave for linarang, you can follow the cooking method regardless of the fish you want to highlight in the dish.
I am more fond of this one after eating it. But I also prefer trevally or kingfish, known locally in Cebu as mamsa. But still, linarang tagotongan holds close to the top of the popular fish stew to try out and, perhaps, attempt to cook, DIY.
One advise in cooking linarang:
From the preparation of the ingredients to serving the dish, do it with love to achieve that so-called hearty meal that people often describe about great-tasting, sour and spicy fish stew.
More videos of favorite Filipino dishes to watch out on Escooped Food.