Steamed Tilapia in Lemon & Pork Fat

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Oh how I love my mom’s steamed tuna or sinaing na tulingan (my most requested dish from her whenever I’m back home on vacation) but we bought tilapia so I have to work my way into this fish just to satisfy my cravings.This is a typical dish from my mom’s hometown & she can cook it w/ as much variety (such as other types of fish w/ banana leaves as covering) as I can remember w/ her eyes closed. But the recipe I’m about to share is another edible experiment of mine. 1st thing, not tuna but tilapia. 2nd thing, instead of the famous dried kamias or bilimbi, I used lemon (always my dear substitute for any souring agent like tamarind or kalamansi).

1 big tilapia
about 3 slices of pork fat (2in x 5in x 1/2in each slice, u may add some lean mean if u wish)
1 onion, cut into halves
1 cup of lemon juice
salt and pepper (& MSG)

Clean the fish & arranged it in a saucepan w/ all the other ingredients. Pour in about half of the lemon juice & pour enough water to cover the fish. Cook over low heat until the pork fat is tender & there is about 1 cup of fish sauce left. Never dry it up ’cause the fish sauce is great on plain rice. Pour the remaining lemon juice & cook for another minute.

Is this chicken, what I have, or is this fish? I know it’s tuna, but it says Chicken by the Sea. – Jessica Simpson

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I am not a professional cook. My only claim to having a culinary background is a short stint as my dad’s teen ‘sous chef’ in his carinderia ages ago. Dad ran small eateries since I was a young kid - serving standard ‘turo-turo’ food ranging from the likes of menudo, adobo, pritong isda, dinuguan, binagoongan, bopis, munggo, pinakbet and giniling to merienda fares like goto, ginataan, pancit bihon, halu-halo and saging con yelo.

My father, a farmer in his hometown before working his way to becoming an accountant, definitely influenced my cooking in a lot of ways than I thought. My siblings and I were raised in a backyard full of fruit trees and vegetable garden. We spent weekends and the summer breaks running around with ducks, chickens, goats and pigs. I had wonderful memories of gathering eggs, butchering chickens, selling vegetables and the sweet aroma of preserved fruits. But my love for art led me to a degree in Architecture. Just few months after getting my license, I went abroad and lived independently at age 23. Definitely no maid, no cook, and a totally different food culture. Along the way I met lots of friends and spent what seemed a lifetime learning new tricks and recipes.

Now living in Auckland, I am a work-from-home mum who juggles time between work, fun and family - in pursuit of work-life balance. No matter how busy I am, I love the idea of cooking for my family. My blog chronicles home cooking greatly influenced by life outside my home country from Southeast Asia to Beijing and Auckland. And most of the time, being busy also means easy (sometimes quick), affordable meals.

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