[Culture: Food] Pinarusahang Isda: Unveiling the Mystery Behind the Food Name - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore [Culture: Food] Pinarusahang Isda: Unveiling the Mystery Behind the Food Name - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

[Culture: Food] Pinarusahang Isda: Unveiling the Mystery Behind the Food Name

Among the amusing food names one may hear when one is in the province of Batangas is “pinarusahang isda,” literally “punished fish.” As amusing as the name sounds, there is actually nothing remarkable about “pinarusahang isda.” It is just typical Filipino food, but with a twist.

First, one has to have food that was cooked “pinais” or “pinangat.” These two dishes are similar, but the way people may understand them may vary from one family to the next or depending on the locality.

The word “pinais” — from the root word “pais” — is understood by some in Batangas to refer to food, usually small fish or anchovies, that is wrapped in banana leaves. Others, however, will say that the word refers to the recipe itself or the way the small fish is cooked.

Pinais na dilis
Pinais na dilis.

The small fish may be “dilis1,” “dulong2 | 3,” “sapsap4” or even smaller of juvenile sardines or even “galunggong5. It is traditionally cooked in a “palyok” (an earthenware pot) with dried bilimbi (calamias), salt, vinegar, ground black pepper if desired, water and allowed to simmer until only a small amount of water is left in the pot.

“Pinangat,” meanwhile, is cooked the same way, except that it is done with larger fishes such as “tulingan6” and not wrapped in banana leaves. The term “pinangat” — from the root word “pangat” — as this writer understands it is the preferred term in western Batangas. In eastern Batangas, the word used is “sinaing,” which is simply boiled and simmered until cooked.

Sinaing na tulingan
Pinangat or sinaing na tulingan.

Invariably, when more “pinais” or “pinangat” is cooked or bought that can be consumed by a family in one day, the leftoever is kept inside the fridge to be consumed the following day.

There will be those who will prefer to fry the “pinais” or the “pinangat” the next day, usually for breakfast, to be served with fried egg, fried rice and a steaming mug of “kapeng barako” (liberica coffee). It is a humble, simple meal, but for many Batangueños, breakfast fit for royalty.

So now to unveil the mystery behind the name “pinarusahan isda.” A Batangueño will explain it simply as “pinais (or pinangat) na, pinirito pa” (loosely translated “boiled and simmered already, then additionally fried) — a tongue-in-cheek commentary on what the poor fish could have done to have deserved to be cooked twice.

Not that there will be any real sympathy for the fish because the “pinarusahang isda,” after all, is so good!

Notes and references:
1 According to Information Exchange, “dilis” is a type of anchovy, any of many varieties of small fishes that live in marine or salt water environments but can also be found in brackish waters. “Pinoy Fish Names,” online at Information Exchange.
2 According to the blog “Silver Spoon,” “dulong” is known as “silver fish” in English, probably because of its color. “Silver Fish (Dulong) Patties,” online at Manila Spoon.
3 According to “About Filipino Food,” studies have identified “dulong from Batangas Province as post-larval to early juvenile stages of sardines and anchovies.” “Dulong,” online at About Filipino Food.
4 “Sapsap” as per Information Exchange is “ponyfish.” Op. cit.
5 “Galunggong babae” according to Information Exchange is “hard tail mackerel.” “Galunggong lalake,” meanwhile, is scad. Ibid.
6 “Tulingan,” according to Information Exchange, is also called “tambakol” in Tagalog and “skipjack tuna” in English. Ibid.
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