Paksiw, or what I would translate as Filipino vinegar stew, has got to be my father’s favorite dish. Filipinos, especially those from the northern part of the country, love anything with vinegar. We can cook and stew almost anything in sour goodness and make an honest meal out of it.
My father loves fresh seafood paksiw the best because he grew up in a farm where the family didn’t own a refrigerator. He’s told me about heading into the nearest town very early in the morning to buy the morning’s catch and consuming all of them before they went bad, usually before the day ended. Meat was expensive and hard to come by.
The traditional paksiw recipe uses milkfish, or bangus, but Kona Blue Water Farms sent me a whole kampachi and I wanted to use every part of it. It would have been a waste to throw away a perfectly good head. My father happily cleaned and gutted out the fish. I used the entire head for this dish with a small steak from the body. My favorite part is crushing the pepper after the entire thing has reduced: the sourness has a touch of spiciness to it that will make the skin behind your ears crawl.
kampachi head with some fillets
1/2 cup white vinegar
a small knob of ginger, peeled, crushed
1 green Serrano pepper
1. In a nonreactive pot, bring all ingredients to a boil with 1/4 cup of water, uncovered.
2. When boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, covered, turning fish head once to evenly cook. The liquid should have reduced, making the vinegar and water combination more concentrated. If you like, crush the pepper a tad to release some spice into the stew.