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Dining Guide

Seafood

Tanguigui is a large mackerel com-mon in Philippine waters. With its high fat content it has a meaty taste. Seafood res-taurants commonly serve it fried. However, Spanish restaurants and delicatessen stores of five star hotels also sell it raw and smoked.

Galunggong is the most common fish prepared in homes but less often served in restaurants, particularly not the classy ones. It's usually fried or grilled. Other common fish prepared in homes but not that often in the better restaurants are talakitok and dalag which are usually served grilled. Sapsap is a common smaller fish; however the savoring of this fish is disturbed by its many bones.

European cuisine considers sole one of the best fish; sole is occasionally available in the Philippines, and so is a similar tasting fish, pampano.

Pusit (squid) is prepared grilled, fried, or as adobo. Eel is more common in Chinese than Filipino restaurants.

Shrimp (also called by the Spanish name Gambas) are very affordable in the Philippines and therefore also commonly eaten in homes. The Philippine way of preparing shrimp is to steam them with garlic. They may then be fried or not. A special kind of shrimp is Suahe. Alive they appear as if they have a skin of glass; when steamed they turn bright red. And they not only look more attractive on the plate but they also have a more delicious taste, slightly sweeter than the ordinary kind.

Prawns are much more expensive and therefore only found in better restaurants where they commonly are served grilled.

The lobsters caught in Philippine waters are of a Pacific species, also called rock lobster; they do not have the large claws typical of the so-called Maine lobsters caught in the northern Atlantic.

Alimango is a very delicious Philippine crab with large pincers. In Philippine cuisine, crab is commonly steamed or simmered in coconut milk. Better native restaurants only serve the female alimango as it always carries the spawn (Aligi in Tagalog). The spawn is the most delicious part of the crab; it is red colored, tastes stronger than the rest of the crab, and has a slightly crisp texture. As restaurants, when purchasing crabs from dealers, often specify that they only want female alimango, that sold by ambulant vendors is generally the male. Crab crackers are not common in Philippine homes and simple res-taurants. The original Philippine way of cracking crabs is by banging on them with a spoon.

Curacha is another kind of Philippine crab, but to the gourmet it ranks only second to the alimango. Curacha (in English: red frog crab) is a little bit meatier than the alimango, but females do not carry aligi (spawn).

Coconut Crab is much rarer in restaurants than the two kinds mentioned above. It's meat has a higher fat content than Alimango and Curacha; it's not surpris-ing as it feeds mainly on coconuts. By the way, coconut crabs are interesting animals not only as a dish but also alive. They make their living climbing coconut trees where they bore holes in coconuts and scrape them out with their long pincers.

Three kinds of shellfish are common in Philippine cuisine: oysters (in Tagalog: talaba), mussels (in Tagalog: tahong), and clams (in Tagalog: imbao).

In native and Chinese cuisine, oysters are usually steamed or grilled on the half shell after being marinated in vinegar and onions. Oysters are very cheap in the Philippines. At local restaurants a serving is available for about 20 to 40 pesos.

Mussels are served steamed or in soups. There is a great abundance of tahong on Philippine shores, and therefore they are a poor man's food. Clams are more expensive. As anywhere in the world, they are most commonly served in soups.

The French way of preparing seafood is more elaborate than the na-tive and Chinese styles; in French cuisine seafood is accompanied by fine, sometimes even mysterious sauces which often contain wine as well as cheese.

Oysters, mussels, and clams all can be prepared with a cheese and wine sauce. However, as oysters have the mildest and clams the strongest taste of the three, the sauce for oysters has to be milder, too. Clams can also be served in a combination with little bits of bacon without completely concealing the seafood taste.

Unlike in Europe and the US, to serve oysters raw and chilled with lemon is uncommon in the Philippines.

The most famous French combination of seafood and cheese sauce is lobster a la Thermidor. If prepared in this style the meat is taken out of the lobster, cooked and served in a cheese sauce. The dish may or may not be served in the lobster shell; serving in the shell adds eye appeal but doesn't influence the taste.

Prawns, and even crabs, can be prepared and served Thermidor style. For crabs, however, a slight variation is more common: the preparation a la Newburg.

The meat of lobster, prawns, and crab tastes fairly similar, par-ticularly if prepared Thermidor or Newburg style. As a rule of thumb, lobster has a stronger flavor than prawns or crabs, and crab meat is softer in texture than lobster or prawns.


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