Sinanglay is a Filipino dish made up of green leafy vegetable wrapped fish cooked in coconut milk and chillies. Usually it is prepared with tilapia while the leaf used is a taro or a large pechay. A dish that originated in Bicol and a staple in our house when I was growing up.
My grandmother loves cooking anything with coconut and chillies, I guess that holds true to most Bicolanos, I can still remember she buys the fresh ingredient day to day without using any processed food, truly in traditional style. When she makes this or any dish with coconut milk on it she uses fresh coconuts and she always ask me to grate it for her using a device called “kabayo”, a wooden thing where you sit on with a metal grater on the end. I also still remember I eagerly await when she cracks it open with a “bolo” and see what’s inside the coconut because sometimes there is this white sponge like ball protruding in the middle, I like munching on this. From here she then collects the grated coconut meat and pour boiling water on it, once it slightly cools down she then uses her hands to extract the milk out of the grated meat. This method gives the most natural flavour you can get without any preservatives making it creamier and greasier I suppose. From here she separates the first extract called “kakang gata” to the succeeding ones. She then starts cooking.
I am not sure if all Bicolanos do it this way but she pours the coconut milk not the “kakang gata” into a large wok together with the spices, she then boils it until to a point that it becomes oily, main ingredients are then placed and cooked in this oily creamy liquid then once its cooked the “kakang gata” is then poured finishing it up with one more gentle boil. This is the same method I tried on this dish but I did not use fresh coconuts, I cheated and used the canned ones anyways even if I have a fresh coconut I don’t have that “kabayo” to grate the meat. The result was amazing but definitely can be better if fresh coconuts were used, tons of rice was consumed because of the tasty spicy sauce that it comes with.
- 1 large or 2 medium sized fish like tilapia or snapper
- large pechay leaves, stems removed
- 8 pcs cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 2 x 400 ml cans coconut milk
- 200 ml coconut cream
- 4 pcs green finger chillies
- 4 shallots, chopped
- 1 thumb-sized ginger, minced
- 2 stalks lemongrass, white part only
- 6 cloves garlic, pounded
- fish sauce
- freshly ground black pepper
- In a wok add coconut milk, shallots, ginger, lemongrass and garlic. Bring to a boil then simmer for 30 minutes in high heat until liquid is reduced half its amount. At this stage it would be thicker and some oils from the coconut milk is released.
- Season fish with salt and freshly ground black pepper, wrap it with pechay leaves, gently place fish into the wok then cover wok. Continue to cook for 10 minutes.
- Remove the lemongrass then add the cherry tomatoes, finger chillies and coconut cream, bring to gentle boil then simmer for 10 more minutes. Season with fish sauce and freshly ground black pepper. Serve while hot.