Piyalam Istah

If you are not from Mindanao, it will be highly unlikely you would know about this delicious fish dish. Piyalam or Piyalam Istah is a Filipino dish from the Tausug ethnic group prepared with stewed fish cooked with turmeric, ginger and lemongrass.

Another dish that I discovered recently, Piyalam or Piyalam Istah, a popular rural dish in Mindanao specifically in Jolo, Sulu and even Sabah that is usually eaten during breakfast either with rice, grated cassava (siyanglag) or steamed mashed cassava (piyutu). It is quite filling specially with the accompanied starchy food plus it is simple to prepare and easy to cook, basically you just dump everything in the pot and cook for less than 15 minutes, hence it is a perfect breakfast item that will give you energy for the whole day.

Traditionally this dish like I said those types of dishes where you dump everything on the pot then let it cook, but here at Ang Sarap we are preparing this Piyalam Istah in a tastier way but sacrificing the quick cooking time so don’t expect the recipe below a good thing to have during breakfast, instead it will be best suited for dinner. So, what we did, to give it a boost in flavour we first fried the fish giving it crispy edges, we then sauteed the aromatics to release its natural oils before we quickly simmering it with a small amount of liquid to give it moisture.

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Piyalam Istah

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  • Author: Raymund
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 25 mins
  • Total Time: 40 mins
  • Yield: 3 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Cuisine: Filipino


Piyalam or Piyalam Istah is a Filipino dish from the Tausug ethnic group prepared with stewed fish cooked with turmeric, ginger and lemongrass.


Units Scale
  • 2 pcs medium sized pompano, scored (or any fish you want)
  • 1 tbsp turmeric powder
  • 1 thumb sized turmeric, peeled and pounded
  • 1 thumb sized ginger, peeled and pounded
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pcs lemongrass, white part pounded
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 pcs red chillies
  • fish sauce, to taste
  • 1 cup water
  • salt
  • oil


  1. Prepare your fish by seasoning it with turmeric powder, outside and inside the cavities. Set it aside for 5 minutes then rinse it in running tap water. Drain well then season with salt.
  2. In a wok heat oil for shallow frying then pan fry pompano on medium heat for 7 minutes on each side or until golden brown and edges are crispy.
  3. Using the same wok, remove all but 3 tbsp of oil, sauté garlic, red onion, ginger and turmeric.
  4. Add the tomatoes then cook until tomatoes are soft.
  5. Add the lemongrass, chillies and the fish, pour water then bring it to a boil. Cover the wok, then simmer in low heat for 5 minutes.
  6. Season with fish sauce then serve.


4 Responses

  1. Fish with starchy food for the breakfast…sounds really fun 🙂

  2. suituapui says:

    Fish? Bet I’d like that!
    Pompano? What fish is that? Looks like a white pomfret to me. That is very popular here for steamed fish, very expensive!

  3. I would definitely have this for dinner. Thanks! (Did you know that it is very hard to find whole fish in the U.S.? It’s really annoying… I have to drive all over town to get some and it’s outrageously expensive!

  4. I’m not sure I’d be willing to have a fish dish for breakfast (Unless it’s smoked salmon haha), but I would undoubtedly have this dish for lunch or dinner. It looks utterly delicious and flavourful!

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