How to Cook Fish Paksiw

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Start to Finish: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Difficulty: Beginner

The majority of time spent preparing fish paksiw (PAK-seww) goes to prep -- the chopping, peeling and seeding of ingredients. Cooking time averages about 15 minutes, or just long enough to cook the fish -- unless you want to go the traditional Filipino route and let the paksiw marinate for a couple days after it cooks. While marinating, the flavors and aromas mature and meld, resulting in deeper, more complex taste sensations than those found in the freshly made dish.

(Recipe adapted from Reynaldo G. Alejandro's "The Philippine Cookbook," Penguin, 1985)

Ingredients

  • 1 2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and smashed
  • 1 small bitter melon, seeded and chopped (optional)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 head of garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 elongated Asian eggplant, chopped into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes
  • 3 siling mahaba, a long green pepper, sliced lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • Fish sauce or kosher salt to taste
  • 4 milkfish steaks or 4 Dover sole fillets

Directions

Add all the ingredients except the fish sauce and fish to the saucepan. Stir the ingredients and season the cooking liquid to taste with fish sauce or kosher salt.

Add the fish to the pan. Bring the paksiw to a gentle simmer.

Simmer the paksiw until the fish is cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes. The flesh will flake easily and have an internal temperature of 145 F when ready.

Serve the paksiw over white rice. To marinate the paksiw, let it cool to room temperature and transfer it to an airtight storage container. Store the paksiw in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours and heat it to a simmer before serving.

Tip

    • You can find the regional ingredients for this dish in Filipino and Asian markets, but substitutions are easy if needed. You can use jalapenos for siling mahaba, globe eggplant for Asian eggplant and any variety of whitefish. 
    • Bitter melon, also known as ampalaya, has a very astringent flavor, making it optional in even the most traditional versions of fish paksiw. 

Warning

  • Only cook paksiw in a nonreactive pan: stainless-steel, glass or enameled cast-iron. Aluminum and copper pots react with the vinegar in piksaw and impart a metallic taste to the dish.

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