Pangasius Baked With Love Wins
A group of five culinary students from the Pililla campus of the University of Rizal System romped away with the first prize in the Culinary Clash that was a highlight of the Pangasius Festival organized by the Department of Trade and Industry in Rizal province.
The cooking competition with the use of Pangasius as main ingredient was participated in by 11 groups from different schools in the province of Rizal.
The festival is part of an advocacy launched by the DTI office in Rizal to promote the production and con-sumption of Pangasius, a fast-growing freshwater fish that is imported in big volumes from Vietnam. In local restaurants, the Pangasius usually comes in fillet form and is popularly called Cream Dory fish.
Mercedes Parreño, the Rizal DTI chief, said that Pangasius culture could become a major project in Rizal because there are highly suitable bodies of water for the production of this fish. It can be grown where the tilapia is being cultured. The advantage is that it is much faster-growing than tilapia.
The only problem is that not many Filipinos, especially in the countryside, are familiar with the prepara-tion of this fish. That is one reason why the cooking contest was held to showcase different ways of preparing Pangasius.
And there are really many ways of preparing the Pangasius for the table. One can cook the fish in a number of the popular recipes such as Sinigang sa Miso or with coconut milk. One unusual concoction at the festival was a Pangasius ice cream cake complete with chocolate flavor.
Then there was the Pangasius Sisig which could easily become a favorite “pulutan” of beer drinkers. The preparation in the contest came complete with a dressing.
An innovative preparation was the grilled Pangasius in Binarutak na Balaw-balaw. A dish of Pangasius in coconut cream also rated high among the judges.
There were two categories in the competition. One was the use of fresh Pangasius while the other was the use of Pangasius fillet. The prize-winning dish in the second category was prepared by culinary students from URS Cardona. They called their masterpiece Pangasius in pie shell.
Then there was the baked whole Pangasius with orange and roasted bell pepper sauce served with baked potatoes and anchovies. Another was buttered Pangasius with tomato sauce.
A novel preparation was Pangasius relleno that is contained in halved tomato fruits and ampalaya. There was also a steamed Pangasius in Alibangbang sauce. Another group came up with Cream Dory curry dish. Then another group entered a dish they called Nevermore Pangasius in Lemon Sauce. Still, another came up with fillet in orange sauce.
It appears there is no end in coming up with novel ways of preparing the Pangasius for the table.
Some 200 attendees from different parts of the region attended the festival. These included farmers, local government officials, members of the academe, restaurant owners, traders and others.
Dr. Jayson Canson, son of the founder of St. Martha Farm that produces a lot of Pangasius fingerlings shared his family’s experiences in developing their farm. First they started with contract breeding in poultry as their major business. Then in 2009, Mrs. Mercy Parreño, the head of the Rizal DTI office, told them about the potentials of the production of Pangasius fingerlings as well as the grow out operation of the same.
Gen. Jewel Canson readily saw the good potential of the business so he bought a lot of breeders and sent his men to train at the National Inland Fisheries Technology Center in Tanay. Within a short time, they were able to produce their fingerlings. Today, the hatchery can produce one million fingerlings a month.
Soon, the farm went into the processing of Pangasius with Mrs. Cecile Canson taking on the job. Today she is producing a lot of value-added Pangasius products. These include different kinds of sausages that include native longganisa style, nuggets, fish cake, fish patties, bottled Pangasius fillet in corn oil and in tomato sauce, etc.
Developing the Pangasius industry still has a long way to go. There are about 10 hatcheries in operation in the country while processors number about seven, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. With the sustained promotion of the fish, however, it is hoped that it will become a full-scale industry.
By Zac B. Sarian