LP 20: Ginataang Tilapia

This is the first of a series for the Lasang Pinoy Edition 20: Binalot, All Wrapped Up! I’m hosting this month’s event and while I thought it might be interesting, I had no clue what I was in for! This was actually the easiest dish I made so I’m posting it first.
The dishes I had in mind were all rather complicated and required dexterity, which I unfortunately lack….big-time. Then there was the scrounging around for ingredients and recipes. Then there’s the fact that these are recipes I’ve never tried to do on my own before. I even attempted a recipe I’d only heard of, but never tasted or saw before. Despite all the hassles, I enjoyed myself but am glad I’m done with the cooking.

Here’s a photo of the Ginataang Tilapia. It’s a whole tilapia unwrapped from its white bok choy encasement after stewing in coconut cream, onion, garlic and ginger:

This was one of my old favorites which my mother made quite often in the past. Our version doesn’t have the tomato stuffing that our neighbor from Bicol says the original version has. I’ve tried that and still prefer my mother’s version but this recipe here has both.

If you look at the photo closely, it looks like the sauce didn’t thicken. This is because the photo was taken right after I turned off the heat and transferred this fish to a plate. A few minutes later, the sauce thickened further and it looked gorgeous sitting on a large serving plate. I regret not taking a photo of all three fishes laid out that way…with the coconut cream all thick and yummy.

For those living in the US, this can be an easy recipe to make since all the ingredients are readily available in supermarkets with an Asian community. You can serve this to anyone who is not afraid to see a whole fish – as it should be served I personally believe.
There are a just a couple tricks to the wrapping. I have a photo here of how I wrapped the first one. The other two in the pot were wrapped differently though. Instead of having the leaves in a mirrored position with the white stems fanning out, I laid them on top of each other, with the white ends about an inch apart. This was easier to handle. You also have to smack the white stems of the bok choy with the back of your knife to flatten it out. Don’t use the whole stem, just leave about half an inch to an inch.

Here’s the complete recipe, with the tomato stuffing and the chilis:

3 whole tilapia, gutted and scales removed

6 large white bok choy leaves with an inch of the stems still on and hit with the back of a knife to take out the stiffness

3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced (optional)
3 scallions, minced (optional)
1 minced garlic (optional)
1/4-inch ginger root, peeled and minced

about a cup of pure coconut cream (from 1-2 coconuts)

about 2 cups of the second extraction of 1-2 coconuts

half a head of garlic, peeled and minced

1 large white onion, diced

about 1/2-inch ginger root, peeled and sliced thin

3 siling haba chilis or any chili you prefer (optional)

2 tbsps. fish sauce

Make sure your fish is clean. I always gently rub fresh tilapia with rock salt just because it makes me feel good. Rinse well. Cut a slit in the belly. Dry and keep in your refrigerator if it’s a hot day (it always is where I am!).

Mix the tomatoes, scallions and ginger root in a small bowl. Add about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Take out the fish and stuff the bellies with this mix.

Lay out a couple of bok choy leaves on a small tray one on top of each other is best. Place one fish on one end and start wrapping it. Don’t worry about the ends sticking out. That’s perfectly fine. Repeat for the rest of the fish. Set aside.

In a kawali or wok, place the rest of the ingredients except for the coconut cream. Place the fishes over this and then pour out the coconut’s second extraction. Place your pot over medium heat and allow to simmer till most of the water is gone. This should take about 20 minutes with the lid half on.

At this stage, pour the pure coconut cream and allow to boil once before turning off the heat. Check for taste. Serve immediately.

12 Replies to “LP 20: Ginataang Tilapia”

  1. Wow! That looks delicious, Mita! I remember my mom’s ginataang tulingan na binalot naman sa… naku I forgot! Petchay o mustasa? But it was really great! I’m still outstation but my HD is with me so I’m trying to find out what I’ve cooked for the past few months good for LP20 🙂

  2. iska…tulingan is a fish i’ve never attempted to cook before nor will i probably try – isn’t there some special way to handle it or it gets poisonous>? i didn’t know there was such a recipe for that fish…mustasa sounds good for gata too.

    ladybug, easy enough to try and yes, it is good…you might have to double the amount of rice you cook to go with this though…

  3. why is it that the ingredients does not include vinegar? coz usually my mom cooks it with vinegar… wouldn’t it get spoiled easily? i am at work but i am searching for a great recipe for ginataang tilapia. need to impress my partner. =)

  4. hi rosalie, thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment.

    i didn’t put vinegar in this because I didn’t feel like it for some reason. guess it’s just a matter of what your mood is on a particular day. i like guinataan with vinegar too. the acid goes well with the richness of the gata but really…there’s no reason I didn’t add vinegar to this one. maybe next time…

  5. wow, nice recipe, i’m cooking my version right now, i hope it turns out as good as yours.

  6. Grabe ang sarap! I cooked this recipe twice. First, without vinegar. Then with vinegar. Bad move. The vinegar tended to overpower the natural flavour of the fish. Maybe I will try half a Knorr cube tamarind next time or a small dollop of Thai tamarind paste.

    Do you have a recipe for tiliapia in soy sauce with black beans and ginger?

    Thanks and more power. I hope this nice blog lives on and on 🙂

  7. hi again, tulingan/tambakol ( all tuna family in fact) can be used here. only in tilapia can you put stuffing of tomatoes, ginger, garlic. onion, salt, siling haba ( pansigang, the hotter variety for bicolanos) inside the belly. to have more stuffing, cut the tilapia from the back part of the head and open the fish along this side making sure not to cut all the way to the belly side. you cut it like you would a ‘daing’. then wrap the fish with layers of pechay. just layer the several pieces of fish snugly so the leaves and fish won’t open while cooking. and yes, the original dish has vinegar. it is really paksiw with coconut cream/milk

  8. Wow, ginataang tilapia is one of my favorite. It’s heavenly, gata plus the great taste of tilapia is heavenly. I love this with lots of sili since I am also a chili lover.

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