We needed a good, wholesome easy home cooked meal quickly. So this Sinigang na Pompano with Lemongrass was perfect for dinner.
We had a medical emergency in our family the past week so I was offline for a few days. But the reality is no matter what happens in your life, you still must eat.
My family loves the freshness of fish and sea foods when I cook what was purchased the same day. The pompano fish is popular in Filipino cooking. So I am always glad when I can find it in the markets here in America. The pompano I bought was between 1.5 to 2 pounds which was the right size for our meal. A pompano is a flat-bodied fish, roundish in shape and usually fits a regular pan for cooking. The fish has a silvery skin and when cooked has a sweet, mild flavor.
Here in America, the pompano is harvested in many states from Virginia to Texas and primarily in Florida according to internet sources like seafoodsource.com. We personally enjoyed a couple of hefty, tasty pompanos at last year’s Food Wine Conference in Orlando, Florida, thanks to generous sponsors Ocean US Foods who supplied this wonderful fish.
I cooked the pompano with vegetables Sinigang-style. Sinigang (say “see-kneeh-gang”) is a Filipino tamarind clear-broth stew. The beauty of this all-in-one meal soup is that you can put everything together in a stockpot and leave it alone to cook for a few quick minutes.
A good sinigang has a very tart, sour, tangy flavor to it. I’ve mentioned before if your face puckers up and you wince at the first sip of the sour soup, then it is good sinigang. Since I don’t have fresh tamarinds in my backyard here in my suburban American home, I use tamarind concentrate as a souring agent. This time, my sister in the Philippines suggested I add lemongrass as an additional souring ingredient.
Lemongrass is also known as “tanglad” to Filipinos. It is a tropical plant that grows in Asia, Africa and Australia and used in many culinary dishes. Nowadays fresh lemongrass can be found in large markets here in America. This herb which looks like a long, stiff scallion stalk has the scent of lemons with hints of ginger. I use it a lot for teas, soups, curries in meats and seafood dishes.
As I swirled the bubbling broth with my ladle in the deep stockpot, the varying vegetables of tomatoes, eggplants, kangkong (water spinach), radish, onions and sitaw (long green beans) nestled snugly next to the plump pompano. I knew this was going to be a meaty, heavy, filling meal which we would enjoy with a bowl of steaming jasmine rice.
Sometimes good food just lingers on your palate for a long time.
I am still reeling from the fresh, divine flavor and citrusy aromas of the fish and vegetables I used for this Sinigang na Pompano with Lemongrass. Pompano is a popular fish used in many Filipino dishes. I knew the sweet,mild flavors of the fish would go well with the sour, tart, savory tamarind and lemongrass broth of this Sinigang. You can use a whole fish or fish fillets for this dish. This is an Asian in America recipe. Serves 2 up to 4 if paired with rice.
- fresh pompano (or use snapper) - one piece, 1.5 to 2 pounds, cleaned, scales and intestines removed, scored diagonally
- juice of lemon or calamansi - 1 Tablespoon
- sea salt - 1 teaspoon, for marinade
- freshly ground black pepper powder - 1 teaspoon, for marinade
- vegetable oil - 2 Tablespoons
- onion - 1 large, chopped
- garlic - 2 cloves, minced
- lemongrass - 2 to 3 stalks, middle white part, pounded and sliced
- patis (fish sauce) - 2 Tablespoons
- tomatoes - 2 large, sliced
- vegetable broth or rice wash - 8 to 10 cups
- tamarind concentrate - 3 Tablespoons (from Asian markets)
- daikon radish - 1 piece, peeled, sliced, about 1 cup
- long green beans (sitaw) - 2 cups sliced in 2-inch pieces
- fresh water spinach (kangkong) - 1 bundle or 2 cups, edges trimmed, coarsely sliced in 2-inch pieces
- Asian eggplants - 2 pieces, sliced
- sea salt - 1 teaspoon
- freshly ground black pepper powder - 1 teaspoon
- boiled rice - for serving
- Filipino fish sauce or 'patis' - 1/4 cup, for serving on the side
- Prepare cleaned fish by scoring diagonally on top about 2 to 3 times on both sides. Marinate fish with the lemon or calamansi juice, salt and black pepper powder for 30 minutes.
- In a large, deep stockpot, over medium high heat add the vegetable oil. Saute the onions and garlic for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the lemongrass, tomatoes and fish sauce.
- Pour the broth or rice wash and tamarind concentrate into the stockpot. Stir to combine the ingredients. Add the pompano fish. Cover and let the broth boil. Then lower heat to a medium simmer and continue cooking for about 10 minutes.
- Add the rest of the vegetables: radish, eggplants, long green beans. Continue cooking the fish and vegetables for 8 more minutes. Then add the water spinach and cook five minutes more. Season with salt and black pepper.
- Serve piping hot with boiled rice and a dipping side sauce of patis or fish sauce.
- INGREDIENT INFO: My good friend Pat Tanumihardja describes in her cookbook "The Asian Grandmothers' Cookbook" how to prepare lemongrass properly -- trim about an inch from the hard root end of the stalk and chop off the woody top where it starts to turn from green to pale yellow. Peel off the loose, tough outer layers which will expose the white core. Pound this part with a large knife or mallet to release the aroma and oils. Then slice or mince accordingly for use in the recipe.
- COOK'S COMMMENTS: I used a whole pompano fish for this recipe. You can use fish fillets for this recipe if preferred. If pompano is not available, substitute with flounder or snapper. Most fishmongers offer for free to clean the fish, remove scales and intestines, cut off the tail or transform the whole fish into fillets. Be sure to avail of these complimentary services which saves you a lot of time and effort.
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