Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Pospas na hingkin sourced from the Orani Public Market

Whenever I go out of Manila, I always try and visit the local palengke (public market). The
palengke is a microcosm of the town --  it gives me a good sense of the area's specialties and
produce,  how much things cost,  and yes, even how the local townsfolk are.
Are they hospitable,  are they casual and friendly or are they guarded and unwelcoming
towards strange faces (mine, in particular?).

Last Good Friday, I was in Orani, Bataan the small town where my father was born and where he grew up.  It was not surprising that the palengke was open although it did seem that the crowds were less than usual.

Except for a few, most of the meat vendors were closed for the day in deference perhaps to fasting and abstinence. 

I headed towards the section selling fish and seafood where the alimango and hipon vendors were trying to sell off everything so that they could head home.  Prices were abnormally high, as they 
are during Holy Week when seafood is in demand.
There was one particular vendor selling a variety of shark that we call hingkin, most of which had been sold except for its rather gigantic head ... a bit too big for my taste since this shark is usually 
just a meter long.   I would have panicked if I met this guy face to face underwater!
Hingkin is very seasonal and you can find it in the palengke only towards March and April.  
When I was growing up, eating hingkin was a big thrill although my father said that this type of 
shark was not a man-eater at all.

I did not buy the huge hingkin head at the palengke that day because I knew that my cousin would have put aside a few  slices for me to take home.  And true enough, she had gone to the palengke the day before to buy hingkin for me.  I took home about a kilo of choice hingkin,  with large chunks of  liver -- the best and tastiest part of the fish.

How does one cook this Orani specialty? Some people cook it as pesa, in a light gingery broth.
I prefer to cook it the way my father used to -- which is as pospas or a porridge like soup.
Put a few tablespoons of cooked rice and mix it with the broth.  See how nicely white and firm 
the hingkin slice is?  The flesh is mild and flavourful, without any unpleasant, fishy taste at all.

It is the liver that is the piece de resistance in this dish.  The liver is delicate and cooks very quickly so put it in the broth at the very last minute.  It is cooked when its pinkish colour turns to greyish beige -- I call it "greige".

I carefully apportion the pospas -- each person gets a slice of the fish plus pieces of the liver.  
The liver tastes like foie gras blended with bone marrow -- it has a rich, melt in the mouth 
umami taste.
The traditional sauce for this is a patis and calamansi -- spoon a little sauce on top and eat with steaming hot rice --  it's gourmet perfection, straight from the palengke of Orani, Bataan.


Ginger, sliced
Leeks or green onions
2 - 3 tablespoons cooked rice
Hugas bigas or rice water
Patis or salt for seasoning

How to cook

Saute onions, ginger.  Put in the rice water and simmer.  Add green onions or  leeks.
Add hingkin slices and cooked rice.  Season to taste with salt or patis (fish sauce). 
Simmer till fish is cooked.  Add the liver slices and  simmer for just a minute or two more or 
until liver loses its pinkish tint.
Serve with a dipping sauce of calamansi and patis.

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