Food feature: Ensalada in ‘Bagoong Padas’ and Calamansi

I’ve been in love with vegetables especially the ones found in the Philippines ever since I could hardly remember.  Probably because of my Ilocano roots.  To think of it, I’m a quarter Ilocano (from Naguilian, La Union), a quarter Tagalog (hailing from the alleys of Tondo, Manila), an eighth of being Pangasinense (because my grandmother is from Urbiztondo, Pangasinan), and the rest of being matakaw (“gluttonous” in Filipino – this explains it).

And I just have to give-in with homemade and guilt-free dishes.  Besides, cooking with vegetables are very economical while there are various ways to cook it (for vegetarians and for those undergoing naturopathy, they would even prefer eating vegetables raw).

What is appetizing about this dish, especially for Ilocanos, is the use of ‘bagoong padas’ – fish sauce made by fermenting fish with salt.  The ‘padas’ fish (comparable to anchovies) found in the sauce provides texture and stronger saltiness in the whole blend – a twist most of us look forward to in every dip.  This fish sauce is frequently paired with tomatoes, calamansi, as well as grilled fish.  The sauce is the ultimate counterpart of soy sauce in Chinese cooking.  The Ilocano pantry cannot go empty of ‘bagoong’ or ‘bagoong padas’.

Ingredients:

(for blanching)

  • eggplant
  • okra
  • stringbeans
  • kangkong (any variety)

(for ensalada sauce)

  • tomatoes
  • shallots
  • calamansi
  • ‘bagoong padas’

Note: Any locally found vegetables would do. Options like ar-arosep (or fresh seaweeds), malunggay, or even sweet potatoes can be used for this dish.

What to do:

  1. Clean and slice vegetables.
  2. Blanch the vegetables separately or according to density such as kangkong cooks faster than okra and eggplants.
  3. On the side, slice tomatoes and dice the shallots.
  4. While the vegetables cook, prepare the ensalada sauce. Mix in the tomatoes and shallots in a large bowl. Add a tbsp of ‘bagoong padas’ (more or less according to the amount of vegetables to flavor). Squeeze at least 2 calamansi with this amount of ‘bagoong padas’.
  5. Toss in the blanched vegetables into the sauce.

Tip:

  • Only toss in the vegetables if you are ready to eat them.  Dishes with tomatoes and shallots need to be consumed immediately, else the rest will spoil instantly.
  • Try sprinkling it with unsalted peanuts for a more filling and earthy taste.  Best enjoyed with grilled fish or just with warm rice.

See how mouthwatering yet inexpensive dishes can be? Try this now and let me know what you think.

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