Since I first sampled sinigang na tiyan ng salmon at Gerry’s Grill over a decade ago, I dreamed of cooking my own version at home. In 2004, I posted my recipe for the fish soup. And, gee, it was a very satisfying dinner we just had that night. Actually, I have a weakness for fish belly and it doesn’t matter what kind of fish—tuna, bangus (milkfish), blue marlin, tangigue, maya-maya and, of course, salmon. I especially love grilled tuna belly.
According to some friends, there are countries where the fish belly is thrown away. In some of my cookbooks, part of the tips in cleaning, cutting and preparing slices of fish is cutting off the belly, especially the section that contains the most amount of fat. In the Philippines, fish belly is a delicacy. In fact, when buying bangus in the supermarket, the belly fillets cost much much more than whole bangus. In wet markets, bangus belly is not sold separately. You have to buy the whole fish. But with bigger fish like salmon, tuna, blue marlin and tangigue, the belly is sold by the kilo.
Almost thirteen years since I published my first sinigang na tiyan ng salmon recipe, here is an updated version. The salmon belly I used for my sinigang was bought from the local market. Most fish mongers sell salmon belly already pre-cut into 1 to 2-inch wide strips. Too narrow for my taste. I found one seller who was willing to sell unsliced salmon belly. I asked for half a kilo with a request to please scrape off the scales. When I got home, I cut the salmon belly into squares to cook my sinigang na tiyan ng salmon.
- Lightly pound the garlic cloves; shake off the skins and discard.
- Peel the onion and slice thinly.
- Dice the tomato.
- Halve the finger chilies.
- Cut each kamias into four to five pieces.
- Heat the cooking oil in a pot. Saute the garlic, onion, tomato and chilies for about a minute.
- Add the kamias to the pot. Pour in about two tablespoons of fish sauce. Stir. Set the heat to low, cover the pot and cook until everything softens and starts to liquefy. It'll take about ten minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the vegetables. Halve each okra. Dice the eggplant. Rinse the kangkong well then cut into three portions--bottom (thick stalk), middle (thin stalk with leaves) and top (leaves).
- Cut the salmon belly into bite-size pieces.
- Pour a liter of vegetable or fish broth into the pot (water is quite all right) and bring to the boil. Taste, add more fish sauce to balance the acidity of the kamias.
- Add the vegetables, starting with what takes longest to cook. My preferred order is okra, eggplant, thick stalks of the kangkong and thin stalks of the kangkong at two to three-minute intervals.
- Finally, add the salmon belly and kangkong leaves. When the soup comes to a hard boil, turn off the heat, cover the pot and leave to cook the fish in the residual heat for five minutes.
- Give the sinigang na tiyan ng salmon broth a final taste. Add more fish sauce, if needed. Serve immediately.