paksiw na banak
introducing...banak (silver mullet)
my favorite vinegar stew of fish is the tiny "talimusak" from the Philippines. my ma would serve me this at every homecoming, along with finely chopped green mango salad. banak is my next favorite. to me it is more flavorful than milkfish (bangus) and its size is also more agreeable to serving. i've seen Italian recipes using silver mullet which has white tasty flesh when cooked. just make sure you buy them at their freshest: otherwise, it has a disagreeable muddy taste which my ma calls "gilik". "lasang gilik."
put 2 whole cleaned banak, salted at least 15 minutes, and rinsed well, "silver mullet", about 1 & 1/2 pounds (very economical at $1.85 a pound) in a pot with a lid. add about 1/2 cup coconut vinegar ("Datu Puti" brand, available at well-stocked Asian groceries), 6 well smashed garlic cloves, a 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled, 1-2 long green peppers, salt and peppercorns, a bay leaf, and a splash of soy sauce or fish sauce, or both... mix well. (optional, did not have any today: salted and rinsed slices of bitter melon, ampalaya.)
set over medium heat and let stew for about 15 minutes without stirring. turn off heat and let stew sit until it cools. serve with a squeeze of lemon or calamansi juice. and more fish sauce. if you like.