A dish from those days when life was simple…”pinangat” or “tinuktok”

Pinangat

Pinangat

You can take the girl out of the province but not the province out of the girl. That’s me, still a “probinsiyana” or “province girl” at heart despite living for many years here in Holland and having seen a bit of the world.

In the Philippines where I come from, I grew up in one of the provinces of the Bicol region back in those days when life was simple. From food to the games we played as kids, I can still remember vividly how almost everything was available locally — fish and crustaceans caught from the river to vegetables and spices that were abundantly grown in the backyard. We played with sling shots fashioned from Y-shaped tree branches, we climbed trees and went fishing with hook, line and sinker in the river. Looking at the life we lead nowadays, there is some sort of nostalgia to those good old days.

On this post, I bring you a dish that fills me with longing of the simple life that I know from way back. I can say that this was a poor man’s dish in those days because the ingredients are all sourced out by a poor man from the river for the freshwater shrimp to his backyard for the coconut, taro leaves, ginger, onions, garlic, lemon grass and chillies. Normally, these ingredients cost him next to nothing. The exact opposite is true for me here in Holland in recreating this dish because all the ingredients being imported abroad cost an arm and a leg.

Many calls this dish “pinangat” but in our town’s vernacular, this is called “tinuktok” which literally means finely chopped. And why is that? It is because all the ingredients from the young coconut to the shrimps and spices all needed to be chopped finely with a sharp knife or cleaver.

This dish is simply lovely with the right mix of flavors and spiciness. It stands apart from the mainstream Philippine cuisine to which the Spanish influence is so strong. Served with rice, be ready to eat with your hands!!!

Ingredients:
½ kg freshwater shrimp, peeled and seasoned with 1 ½ tbsp salt
600g meat of young coconut (about 5 young coconuts), grated
2 onions, chopped
2 tbsp. grated ginger
6 cloves garlic
a few pieces of chillies (I used 2 birds’ eye chillies and would have used more if not for the special request of the hubby not to make it super spicy)
20 to 30 fresh taro leaves (should be intact with no holes)
kitchen string with which to tie each pinangat
6 to 8 stalks of lemongrass (lower white portions only), smashed
3 to 4 cups thin coconut milk

Key ingredients:  Taro leaves, coconut milk and coconut cream, shrimps, ginger, lemon grass, chillies, shallots and garlic.

Key ingredients: Taro leaves, coconut milk and coconut cream, shrimps, ginger, lemon grass, chillies, shallots and garlic.

Fresh taro leaves

Fresh taro leaves

For the sauce/ topping:
2 cups thick coconut cream
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 shallots, finely chopped
2 stalks lemongrass (lower white stalks), sliced
salt to taste
3 to 5 spring onions, finely chopped

Instructions:
1. Combine the shrimp, grated young coconut, onion, ginger, garlic and chillies and chop them together using a large knife or cleaver until the mixture looks like cornmeal. I used the food processor for this task.

Peeled shrimps, grated young coconut meat, chillies, garlic, ginger and onions ready for fine chopping with a very sharp knife or cleaver.  Food processor is an easy option...

Peeled shrimps, grated young coconut meat, chillies, garlic, ginger and onions ready for fine chopping with a very sharp knife or cleaver. Food processor is an easy option…

Finely chopped ingredients resembling a coarse corn meal -- ready for wrapping in taro leaves.

Finely chopped ingredients resembling a coarse corn meal — ready for wrapping in taro leaves.

2. Wrap 2 to 3 tablespoons of the mixture in two (overlapping) taro leaves and tie each with a kitchen string. I did not have kitchen string so I made use of the stalk of the taro leaves.

Two to three tablespoons of the shrimp mixture in two overlapping taro leaves

Two to three tablespoons of the shrimp mixture in two overlapping taro leaves

Pinangat all ready for cooking in coconut milk.

Pinangat all ready for cooking in coconut milk.

3. Line a heavy-bottom pot with the smashed lemongrass and arrange the pinangat pieces on top. Pour the thin coconut milk over the pinangat.

The pot lined with smashed lemongrass

The pot lined with smashed lemongrass

Pinangat piled on the bed of lemon grass and ready to be cooked with coconut milk.

Pinangat piled on the bed of lemon grass and ready to be cooked with coconut milk.

4. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat, shaking it once in a while to prevent burning. The pinangat is done when the taro leaves are already soft or when all of the thin coconut milk has evaporated.

The pinangat gently cooking in coconut milk.

The pinangat gently cooking in coconut milk.

Almost cooked...

Almost cooked…

5. While the pinangat is cooking, boil together in a separate saucepan the thick coconut cream, garlic, shallots and lemon grass. Season with salt and simmer until the mixture resembles a thick creamy sauce. Sprinkle the spring onions on top and remove from heat.To serve, arrange the pinangat in a wide platter and top with the sauce.

Ingredients for the topping/sauce:  finely chopped garlic, shallots, sliced lemon grass, spring onions and chillies.

Ingredients for the topping/sauce: finely chopped garlic, shallots, sliced lemon grass, spring onions and chillies.

Cooking the coconut cream to which garlic, onions, lemon grass will be added.  Final addition is the spring onions.

Cooking the coconut cream to which garlic, onions, lemon grass will be added. Final addition is the spring onions.

Pinangat up close...simply so yummy!

Pinangat up close…simply so yummy!

About Malou
I'm a mom to a five-year old little girl with interest in cooking, baking, traveling and photography. Castles and palaces are special favorites so when weather permits for a good walk on weekends, me, hubby and little girl are always out for a bit of adventure.

71 Responses to A dish from those days when life was simple…”pinangat” or “tinuktok”

  1. Love it. I like it extra spicy. Must go back to Bicol. :-D

  2. Ella Birt says:

    This recipe looks so fun and delicious! I am putting it on my recipe list for next week. :) Thank you.

  3. glebefood says:

    Love it, I will try to make it soon

  4. This is awesome! My mom’s favorite.

  5. puppy1952 says:

    Wow – I read this post out loud to my husband who is a fisherman and loves to cook. When he was a boy he lived just such a simple life but here at the tip of Africa.

  6. Wow, it looks like so delicious, look at the pictures, i thought it was an Indonesian’s dish because we share same spices :). i have to try it, i think. :)
    -Yuna-

  7. Kitty says:

    Sounds wonderful, Malou, and your perfect photos accompanying this post make it clear and tempting! :) Thank you! What a lovely way to honor the simplicity and comfort of childhood.

    • Malou says:

      Thank you, Kitty. Cost an arm and a leg plus a bit of work but worth it. It is also wonderful that my husband and parents-in-law loved this dish at first bite. ;-)

  8. Madhu says:

    That looks awesome Malou! We use a lot of coconut milk and even Taro leaves in our (Mangalorean) cooking, so I am sure I will love it :-)

    • Malou says:

      Oh, this will be something that you will love, Madhu. I was a bit stingy with the chillies because of the Mr. but a bit more sting will just be super. ;-)

  9. sybaritica says:

    That’s so interesting… I’d love to try cooking with taro leaves!

  10. Olivia says:

    Wow….. Het ziet er lekker uit. Hoe lang was je bezig in de keuken gisteren? Ik zal het proberen als ik wat tijd heb..en zin heb hahaha…

    • Malou says:

      Bedankt, Olivia. Ik was bijna twee uur bezig maar het was zo lekker hoor. Denk ik wel dat jij zal deze heel lekker vinden. ;-)

  11. Ang sarap! Nakaka-miss din! Thanks for liking my post Backpacking on Budget part 2!

  12. Great recipe and so well explained. You have many talents! I like and have cooked many Indonesian dishes myself, which many Dutch people consider just about part of the Dutch repertoire. Compared to the Asian dishes, the regular Dutch food is so bland and unimaginary!

    • Malou says:

      Thank you, Johanna. I love the way Indonesian dishes have integrated themselves in the Dutch culinary repertoire. The same for Surinamese dishes too. I enjoy the best of both worlds as I love Dutch dishes too. My favorite is the “draadjesvlees” and have learned it well from my mom-in-law. ;-)

  13. Jacob says:

    This is so cool.

  14. Lucid Gypsy says:

    I like the sound of it but I’ve never seen or tried Taro leaves!

    • Malou says:

      Taro leaves is a very tropical vegetable that grows in abundance in areas close to the water or in many cases in Asia, in rice paddies. ;-)

  15. Thanks for the recipe and tutorial – it looks delicious and I would have never put those things together – heck, I don’t even know what taro leaves are but I’m going to look for them now!

  16. cmbanerjee says:

    Delicious! Makes me long to go home to Philippines too! Thanks for sharing! I will have to try your recipe one of these days :)

  17. lucindalines says:

    Interesting! I believe we all have favorites that come from the place where we come from.

  18. Improvising with the stems looks better than any kitchen string! I’ve never had taro leaves before. How do they taste?

    • Malou says:

      Yes, the improvisation worked but it took me a bit of time to tie around the “pinangat”. Taro leaves taste wonderful with coconut milk, especially the way they are prepared in the place where I am from in the Philippines. ;-)

  19. bebs1 says:

    Am surprised that you have fresh taro leaves there. They are hard to find here. Filipinos buy the dried leaves which are so dry they are crumpled like corn flakes to make laing. Your dish certainly calls for a lot of rice – more coconut and the spicier the better for me.

    • Malou says:

      Holland has quite a big population of people from Suriname (a former Dutch colony) who cooks a lot with fresh taro leaves. Then there are the Indonesians as well. The fresh ones though, cost an arm and a leg. What would cost maybe Php 5.00 in Philippines for one bunch of the fresh leaves cost about Eur 8.00. The price is by the kilo and for this dish, I had to close my eyes and just pay up.

      I also cooked a lot with the dried taro leaves. It is similar process to the Bicol express with just the addition of the dried leaves. Also a favorite of the hubby and his family. ;-)

  20. likeitiz says:

    You found taro leaves in Holland? Are they imported or are they grown locally? Wow! I’m impressed. You’re originally from Bicol? My mother was from Tiagon, Camarines Sur, a suburb of Naga City. Last time we visited was in 2007 when we went with a huge medical delegation for a week long medical mission. It was my mother’s way to give back, by sponsoring the mission.

    We use fresh whole fish, small ones for the pinangat. Shrimp will do too. Some people use bagoong (fermented shrimp paste) to salt the dish and for the added umami effect. And yes, bicolanos like it spicy. Do Dutch like spicy?

    • Malou says:

      Yes, I can get fresh taro leaves here although quite pricey. They must be grown in special greenhouses if not imported so that’s the reason. Glad to know that you are partly Bicolana and from Camarines Sur at that. I know Tigaon, been there once or twice I guess when I was still a student. Doing that medical mission is a very generous way of giving back, many thanks to your mom who remains attached to her place of birth.

      I know the fish version. I used to cook them too way back then. We call them “sinanglay” and it is fish filled with chopped onions, tomatoes, ginger and lemon grass wrapped in taro leaves or petchay and then cooked in coconut milk. I love that version too.

      The Dutch are pretty accustomed to spicy dishes due to their colonial ties with Indonesia. I was pretty surprised myself when I came here that they were into spicy dishes. In fact, they were surprised that Philippine dishes are not so fiery as the Indonesians, Thai or Malaysians. ;-)

  21. What gorgeous ingredients! Lobster used to be considered poor man’s food in the New England region of the US. Now, people pay high prices for it. I love reading about recipes and their stories from all over the world. Food offers rich and beautiful stories. I especially like the way the little packets are wrapped up and tied before cooking.

    • Malou says:

      Funny to know that lobster was considered a poor man’s food. ;-) Saw the live ones in France when we were on holiday last year and one piece already costs over € 100. The irony of life is that what were used to be considered as poor man’s food are now more pricey than the ones that many think are only for rich people. ;-)

  22. EllaDee says:

    This looks divine, and I’m sure the aroma as it was cooking was tantalising. No wonder your family enjoyed the meal, they would have been waiting with great anticipation :)

  23. Totally gourmet and delicious to the last bite. It is the simple things in life that gives a lasting, happy memory. Miss these home cooked specialties. Thanks.

  24. viveka says:

    When I come to visit Holland … I would love to have this for lunch *smile
    Some work and passion you have put into this dish.

  25. Thanks so for this bit of lovely Filipino cuisine, Malou…your descriptions have made be able to almost taste these beautiful delicacies…surprising they are such a ‘common food’, because they are so intricately put together…with loads of care!

    P.S.: Hope hubby enjoyed…I would have preferred ‘hotter’!

  26. Beautiful dish- Life would need to be simple to have time to make this! But how delicious and full of flavor:)
    ps- i have no idea how I made this font bold nor how to get it back to normal!
    cheers… wendy

  27. I could easily make this dish here in Kerala, a coastal South Indian state of India, except that one wouldn’t get lemon grass shoots all that easily, although it is grown in some areas.By Taro leaves, I’m assuming you are referring to Colocasia, the roots of which are also edible.The leaves look similar, anyway. But it sure sounds yummy. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    • Malou says:

      You will definitely love this dish, Nadira. The taro leaves indeed have edible roots as well which I also love to cook just like the sweet potatoes. I’m surprised that it is not easy to get lemon grass out there when it is also a very tropical herb that grows profusely when planted on the ground. ;-)

  28. Purely.. Kay says:

    This is such a beautiful dish. I can definitely see how this dish could warm the so ul. Delish

  29. crashing waves says:

    Wow, that pinangat looks yummy! I’m from Bicol myself – in Albay to be specific but I’m now based in Manila. Like you, I also long for these kinds of native and home-cooked dishes. I shall be looking forward to eating pinangat when I go home to Bicol later this year, LOL! ;-)

    • Malou says:

      Happy to meet a fellow Bicolana here in WP. It’s good that you are just a plane or bus ride away to pinangat while I have to make them here myself at exorbitant price. ;-)

  30. Yumm… looks delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe. Also, thanks for liking my post!

  31. Karen says:

    I miss pinangat from Bicol. Your photos made my mouth water.

  32. That pinangat looks really interesting and very different from anything I’ve ever tried. It is funny how some things change – when I was young we would have lobster almost every week. At the time you could buy one for $1.00 and since last year we’ve had a glut of them here in New England so they’re ‘all the way down’ to $5.99 (usually about $8 in the winter).

    • Malou says:

      This is a dish that evolved from endemic ingredients in the place where I come from, Diane. I remember as a kid that meat was so special, something that we can have on a Sunday if we are lucky while fish and vegetables were every day fare. Now it is the world upside down because meat is now the seemingly daily fare because it has become cheaper due to mass production. Same with lobster, it takes more effort to catch them while meat is far easier to produce. ;-)

  33. Nina says:

    My ultimate favorite dish in Bicol. I shall try your recipe one of these days…only if I can find fresh taro leaves around. They’re hard to find on this side of the world.

    • Malou says:

      Still remember those days in Libmanan when an ambulant vendor would be shouting, “Tinuktok, bakal na kamong tinuktok” at the top of his/her voice? I’m sure that Barry will also love this dish just as it is a big hit with Siefko and his parents. ;-)

  34. So interesting that you use Taro leaves! In Thai cooking, everyone is done with banana leaves!

    Where do you get fresh taro leaves in Holland?

  35. agwink says:

    I just found you Malou, and love the look of your dish. The taro leaves remind me a lot of the collard greens here in the US. The idea of food that takes me back to my younger days is very inspiring, and the photos are great. I have recently discovered the amazing uses of coconut oil, and enjoy using it for cooking as well as in soap and lotions that I make. And I have always loved to eat the coconut.

  36. Friday Avila-Patricio says:

    Ini an saro sa mga paburito ko, lalo na kon samaharang! Kakamuton sigurado. Aadalan ko ki pag gibogibo kani. Masakit sakit hanapon dahon natong igdi samo (Las Vegas). Pero Madi salamat sa pag share.

  37. Debbie says:

    Nagirumduman ko na an tinuktok tig Php 2.50 each lng sa Libmanan pero ngunyan Php 8.00. Nakaka-miss ining kakanun…Napapadakol an pigkakakaon ko pag ini an samong panira. Makaluto daw kaini!

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