Friday, March 4, 2016

Dinengdeng or Inabraw (Mixed Vegetables and Fish Simmered in Fermented Fish Broth)

Dinengdeng or Inabraw is a popular vegetable dish from the Ilocos Region in the Philippines. It is considered a "frugal man's dish" because there are no strict rules about cooking it when it comes to ingredients -- it's basically what's growing in your own garden (or your neighbor's.) There's no need to flavor it with herbs and spices. The salty and very potent bagoong isda (fermented fish sauce) takes care of it. Historically,  leftover fish either fried or grilled is added to the simmering vegetables for added flavor and texture.

Dinengdeng is composed of vegetables and grilled or fried fish simmered in fermented fish sauce-based broth. There is no hard and fast rule for the recipe. The vegetables used vary depending on the availability. Tubers such as kamoteng gapang (sweet potato) and taro; leafy vegetables such as kuantong (amaranth leaves) and saluyot (jute leaves); fruit vegetables such as eggplant and malunggay or moringa buds;  legumes such as snake beans, winged beans, and patani (lima beans); and flower vegetables such as squash blossoms, banana blossoms or birch blossoms are usually used. The critical ingredient is the fermented fish sauce. 

Bagoong isda or bugguong is made through the mixture of salt and munamon (anchovies) covered in burnay (earthen jar) to ferment for at least 30 days. Bagoong isda is not just a simple condiment. It is used as a complement dip sauce for most local appetizersin Ilocos.  It is also used as a main flavor enhancer and ingredient to a number of Ilocano dishes.

The following dishes are similar to dinengdeng:

a.) Buridibod - a well-known version of dinengdeng, uses kamote (sweet potato) to create a slightly sweet flavor with a pulpy and mushy broth. 

b.) Pinakbet Tagalog - a popular vegetable dish known for the use of alamang (shrimp paste) as the saltening agent. 

c.) Bulanglang - a popular vegetable dish in Batangas (Southern Luzon) which is distinct for the use of rice washing for the broth and the medley of tough vegetables like squash, okra, bunga ng ampalaya (bitter gourd) patola (sponge gourd) and green papaya. 

d.) Utan  - a vegetable dish in Cebu (a province in the Visayas) which basically use any or a combination of ginger, salt, dried fish, shrimps or bouillon cubes as the main seasonings for their vegetable soup. 

e.) Laswa - a vegetable dish in Iloilo (a province in the Visayas) which basically use any or a combination of ginger, salt, dried fish, shrimps or bouillon cubes as the main seasonings for their vegetable soup. 

Dinengdeng is served warm over steamed rice. It is an entree for lunch or dinner. It can also be a side dish to a larger meal.  As the Ilocanos would say it, "Naimas! Mangantayon!" (Delicious! Let’s eat!")


  • 4 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup bagoong isda (fermented fish sauce)
  • 1 large sweet potato, diced
  • 1 cup lima beans
  • 1 bundle moringa buds, skinned and cut into 2-inch slices (substitute: okra)
  • 1 bundle snake beans, cut into 2-inch pieces (substitute: green beans)
  • 1 bundle winged beans (optional)
  • 2 pieces Japanese eggplant, sliced lengthwise and cut diagonally about an inch each piece
  • 1 cup birch blossoms (optional)
  • 1 whole fish (tilapia or milkfish), pan-fried or grilled 


  1. Boil water in a medium pot. 
  2. In a bowl mix bagoong isda with some fermented anchovies with 1 cup of hot water from the pot. Mash the anchovies while diluting the bagoong with water. 
  3. Pour the diluted bagoong back to the pot over a strainer. Discard the filtered fish bones. Simmer for 3 minutes while scooping out all scum that rises. 
  4. Add the sweet potatoes and lima beans. Simmer for 5 minutes. 
  5. Add the moringa buds or okra, winged beans (if using) and snake beans or green beans. Simmer for 3 minutes.
  6. Add the eggplant and birch blossoms (if using.) Simmer for 3 minutes or until the vegetables are tender but not soggy.
  7. Add the grilled or fried fish. Cover the pot and simmer for 3-5 minutes. 
  8. Remove from heat and serve warm with steamed rice. 
Serves 4


*  Small to medium meaty fish is ideal such as tilapia, milkfish, tuna, bigeye scad, or even mackerel scad.

*  Shell fish can also be added instead of fish such as fresh shrimp, hibi (dried salted shrimp) or dried salted squid.

*   For a different flavor, meat may also be added in place of fish.

*  Chopped onions or ginger may be added to the boiling water to lessen the stench of the bagoong isda.

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