Saturday, June 7, 2014

Ginataang Tilapia (Tilapia in Coconut Milk)

Ginataan is a method of cooking that uses coconut milk (gata) to poach or simmer food. This method is widely used in the Philippines to cook seafood, meat, vegetables,  rice and desserts. It was popularized by the Bicolanos. The addition of ginger, garlic, onion and pepper to the coconut milk makes the sauce so flavorful.  Bagoong or fermented shrimp adds saltiness to it. Vinegar might also be added and that makes the dish called "Paksiw sa Gata." The fish is not only limited to tilapia.  Tuna and other lean or fatty fish can also be used.  The fish is sometimes wrapped using banana leaves or green leaves such as bokchoy or pechay. Spinach and moringa leaves  can also be added to the dish.

Inspired by our recent trip to Atlanta and Duluth where we shopped at the Asian store, Super H Mart; we went to an oriental market last week to get ingredients for several Filipino dishes that I am planning to cook. My husband and I having been busy raising a toddler and a new baby felt like we're eating less Pinoy food these days.

Here's the recipe for Ginataang Tilapia, which I learned from my mom:


  • 2 whole large tilapia (cleaned and scaled; tilapia fillets can be used, too)
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 1 knob ginger, sliced thinly
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 2 banana peppers, sliced diagonally
  • 1 tbsp. shrimp paste (optional )
  • 1 tbsp. fish sauce 
  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • 4 cups moringa leaves (or spinach or bokchoy)
  • parsley, cilantro or wansoy to garnish

  1. Heat oil in a pan over medium high heat. Saute ginger, garlic, onion and chilies.
  2. Add shrimp paste and fish sauce.
  3. Pour the coconut milk. (If using vinegar, add it at this point.) Bring to a gentle boil with the pan uncovered.
  4. Add the tilapia. Cover the pan and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes. 
  5. Add the moringa leaves and simmer for about a minute.
  6. Garnish with parsley or cilantro and serve with rice on the side.
Number of servings: 2-4

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