Although indigenous ingredients from the Philippines have become more accessible for us Filipino-American consumers in recent years, there are still food stuffs that are hard to come by. The sturdy okra, eggplant, long beans and kalabasa are readily available year round but fragile ampalaya leaves, saluyot or kalabasa flowers are not as easy to find. So, when I saw fresh ampalaya tendrils at Seafood City a couple of weekends ago, I was beside myself with glee. I am not a veggie kind of gal, mind you, but I haven’t had these for so long a Godiva bar couldn’t have had me salivating more.
I really didn’t have any specific recipe in mind when I bought and took home my precious bunch of bittermelon leaves. I thought of quickly blanching the tendrils and tossing them with salted eggs and chopped tomatoes for a refreshing salad or enjoying them a la tinola soup with papaya chunks and ginger. In the end, I decided on making this ginisang ampalaya leaves with tinapa. I sauteed onions, garlic and tomatoes, poured in about a cup of water, added the flaked smoked fish and then the leaves until just wilted. Oh what a scrumptious dish it turned out! And with the good-for-ya nutrients from the ampalaya, healthy, too! Give this a try for dinner tonight and please let me know what you think. Your comments are always a joy to read.
- ½ small bunch ampalaya leaves
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 large Roma tomato, chopped
- 1 cup water
- 4 pieces smoked round scad (tinapang galunggong), flaked and bones discarded (about 1 cup of flaked meat)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Remove leaves from stalks, leaving soft stems intact. Discard stalks. Wash leaves under cold running water to rid of dirt. Drain well and set aside.
- In a pot over medium heat, heat oil. Add onions and garlic and cook until limp. Add tomatoes and cook, mashing with back of spoon, until softened and release juice.
- Add water and bring to a boil. Add flaked tinapa and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add ampalaya leaves and gently push down into liquid. DO NOT STIR. Continue to cook for about 1 to 2 minutes or until leaves are just wilted.