Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ginataang Kalabasa at Sitaw

Ginataan is a Filipino cooking term that means to cook in coconut milk.  So Ginataang Kalabasa at Sitaw is Squash (kalabasa) and long beans or pole beans (sitaw) cooked in coconut milk.  Like adobo, there's a myriad of ways to cook this dish - spicy, sweet, salty, with a whole new cast of vegetables, with shrimps, talangka, crabs, dried fish (daing) or with pork.  It can even be a sweet dessert stuffed with rice balls, bananas, yams, taro, sweet potato, langka... the list is practically endless!  

In our household, this dish is a favorite such that it's on the table at least once a month!  And while the standard is always with some shrimp and ground pork, sometimes we vary the dish depending on our particular mood.  The more interesting twists that we've made with this dish was with talangka (small crab, which someone said to be shore crab) and with squash blossoms.

This time, however, we made the dish a little more special by  adding bagoong alamang (shrimp paste in English).  But the bagoong I used is no ordinary shrimp paste!  It's the one made by friend M's mom!  In our humble opinion, it is ABSOLUTELY the best one! 

The bagoong is used a seasoning and it brings out a different dimension to the dish - a nice contrast of salty to the sweet coconut milk.  And it is sooooo goooood!!!  Believe it or not, I actually ate the whole dish (see the picture above) all by myself!  Yummmm!

The recipe -

3 pieces thinly sliced ginger
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
pinch of chili flakes
2 tablespoons bagoong
100 grams ground or thinly sliced pork
100 grams shrimp, cleaned, deveined
about 200 to 300 grams squash, skins removed and cubed
about 200 grams long beans (sitaw), cut into 2-inch lengths
2 bundles bulaklak ng kalabasa (squash blooms), cleaned
1 1/2 to 2 cups coconut milk
1/2 to 1 cup coconut cream
salt and pepper, to taste

Saute ginger until lightly browned.  Add garlic and onion and stir fry a few seconds.  Sprinkle in the chili flakes and bagoong.  Add the pork and stir fry until halfway done.  Throw in the shrimp, squash cubes and beans.  Stir fry several seconds.   Pour in coconut milk and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the cut of the squash.  It may take as along as 20 to 30 minutes.  Add the squash blooms.  When the mixture boils, add the coconut cream and bring to boil again.  Then season with salt and pepper.  Remove from fire.  Serve while hot.

Note - the measures are a bit variable depending on personal preference.  We prefer a dish with a lot of thick sauce (to pour over rice! Mmmm...) so we use the larger measure.  Some people prefer a really thickened, almost no sauce dish, in which case use the lesser measure and cook until the sauce has totally reduced, but note that too long a cooking time may result in the coconut milk/cream to exude its oil (we know someone who prefers that as well!).  Take care also that the squash does not get too overcooked that it crumbles and disappears in the sauce.  Personally, we no longer add salt when we use the bagoong, but this may depend on the bagoong as they are not created equal - some bagoong are saltier than others, and there are sweet and/or spicy variants.

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