The Pesang Isda Recipe is an adapted Chinese-influenced dish of fish, rice wash and ginger. A history of the dish as discussed by known food historian Doreen Hernandez, our Filipino term “pesa” have come from the Chinese term “peq-sa-hi” with “peq” and “sa” standing for the broth and “hi” for fish. Literally then, the term would mean “plain boiled fish” and that exactly is how we Filipinos have done pesang isda as well; a stewed fish-based dish. Another version of this dish substitutes the fish for chicken (Pesang Manok).
This Pesang Isda recipe is simple and easy to follow, as this is mainly a ginger stew. The fish commonly used for this recipe is Dalag (Murrel) or Hito (Catfish); however, you can actually use any type of fish for this recipe. One of the perfect substitutes is Tilapia. Aside from the fish, the recipe also includes heaps of sliced ginger to counter the strong fishy smell of the fish and also to act as the main driver of the taste in this dish. Also included are peppercorns, (very important since this will give another layer of pungency for the dish), napa cabbage or cabbage and pechay.
Pesang Isda Recipe and Preparation Tip
For the broth itself, the pesang isda recipe would tell you that you have to use rice wash so that the broth will be white and more on the textured side, if however, you do not want the rice wash, plain water will do. For more flavor, you can add a fish broth cube or seasoning.
Once the dish is served you can either have fish sauce (patis) or fish paste (bagoong) as a side dip for added flavor. You can also have siling labuyo for an even stronger kick on your tastebuds. This dish serves as a viand for both lunch and dinner and with its broth favored when temperatures are low.
- 2 lbs tilapia (or other white fish of your choice), cleaned and cut into serving pieces
- 2 thumb-sized ginger, peeled and sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 3 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1/2 tsp peppercorns
- 2 pcs sayote (pear squash), peeled, seeds removed and cut into wedges
- 1 small Napa cabbage, washed, trimmed and quartered
- 4 stalks green onions, washed, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch length
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 5 cups water (or rice water)
- salt to taste
- Sprinkle tilapia with salt. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute garlic, onion and ginger in vegetable oil until onion is almost translucent.
- Add water. Bring to a boil. Add fish sauce and peppercorns. Let simmer for 5 minutes to blend the flavors in the soup.
- Add fish and sayote. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until the sayote is almost cooked.
- Add Napa cabbage and green onions. Simmer for about 3 minutes or just until wilted but still crisp.
- Remove from heat. Serve hot with rice.