|Eel adobo soured with palali fruit. (Photos courtesy of Pinakbet Republic).|
Igat (eel, palos) is unusually abundant these days in Cagayan Valley (Region 2, Philippines), what with a reported one ton daily export to countries who relish this rather slimy but very tasty fish, especially the Japanese, Chinese, Koreans. And these are eels gathered in the rice paddies in the region, mostly growing wild. A kind of small eel called kiwet is even considered now as a pest in the ricefields in the valley, especially in Nueva Vizcaya and Isabela, because this eel burrow and bore in the soil, making holes and thus draining the rice paddies. Farmers gather it as a delicacy though and one of the preferred way of cooking it is deep frying it in oil to make it crispy and crunchy.
Some do not like eels because of its distinct sliminess and overwhelming langsi or lang-es (fishy stench, lansa). But proper cleaning and cooking can rid these and turn it into a very tasty fish dish, like adobo, paksiw, even sinigang (sour soup). It can also simply be grilled. And it’s perfect for tapa or daing (sun-dried, salted or smoked).
One Sunday morning, I saw these gorgeous eels for sale along the highway in Iguig, Cagayan. Live eels in various sizes still wriggling. I was told these were caught in the nearby Cagayan River. I bought one stringful of three eels for PhP100. I like to think it’s a bargain. These are kind of exotic fish and is prized by some gourmands who claim it’s an aphrodisiac food and therefore insanely expensive in some countries:
I cut and cleaned the eels, repeatedly rinsed it in water to get rid of the slime and draining all its blood thoroughly:
I intend to cook it into an adobo, dry and a bit salty stew which is just apt for the firm texture of this fish. I decided not to use vinegar as a souring agent and instead opted to use palali (catmon) fruit:
I cooked my adobo nga igat in slow fire for all the flavors and spices (soy sauce, garlic, black peppercorn) and sourness to seep in. As it cooks, the fish will literally ooze its fat:
Simmered into a dry, palali-soured adobo, the igat is here rendered phenomenally tasty and delicious, I say that the the palali fruit as a souring agent further removed the fishy smell than a vinegar can, adding more flavor into the delicate but firm eel flesh: