Plapla is what we call the big-sized tilapia. That’s a 1.25 kg. fish in the photo. When you buy fish that you intend to cook whole by steaming, tell the fishmonger to pull out the intestines through the ‘neck’. No incision through the stomach. It is always a good idea to stuff the cavity with spices and the flavors and juices are better retained if there is no incision.
I found the original recipe in Asian Favorites (Simple Dreams Publishing Inc.). I just made some modifications because I did not have all the listed ingredients.
You will need a whole fish. Ones with white fleshy meat would be ideal. How big depends on how many you will be feeding.
Wash the fish well. Place under the tap and let the water run straight into the cavity to flush out remaining blood and dirt.
Score the fish twice on both sides. Rub with salt inside and out. Fill the cavity with a few stalks of onion leaves, cilantro or leeks. Then pour a tablespoonful of kalamansi (or lime or lemon) juice into the cavity. Place in a large and lightly oiled piece of aluminum foil. Cover with a larger piece of foil and roll and pinch the edges together. Bake in a preheated 180oC oven for 30 to 40 minutes.
Prepare the sauce. Heat a tablespoonful of oil in a small sauce pan. Saute 1 tablespoonful each of finely minced ginger and garlic until fragrant. Add a thinly sliced finger chili (siling haba) and cook for about 30 seconds. Pour in about 1/4 c. of light soy sauce and add a teaspoonful of sugar. Stir until heated through. Turn off the heat and stir in a tablespoonful or two of finely chopped onion leaves.
When the fish is done, remove from the oven and carefully peel off the top foil. Be careful because the steam that will escape might burn your hands. Transfer the fish to a serving platter by sliding it or with the use of spatulas. Pour the sauce all over the fish and serve at once.