I think most people in Cebu would associate the soup “linarang” with a a soup from stalls near the Pasil seafood market in the wee hours of the morning that is made with large or small eel and or other fish. It is hot, slightly sour, slightly spicy and incredibly hearty… sometimes referred to as literally “recovery food” after a night of drinking. Reputedly, the eel has “warming” capabilities so in addition to the spice, the “heat” generated by the eel is an added benefit or side effect. A bit of googling yields a definition of a larang as a stew with coconut and seafood. But more interestingly, larang in Malay is something that is forbidden, and I actually like that definition in the context of eating something just slightly unusual or uncommon — in some case linarang can be made with pufferfish, stingray, shark and other species that frankly, aren’t kosher to eat these days.
So the version we made, while true to form as far as the broth is concerned, used talakitok or mamsaa instead of the traditional eel, or other more “exotic” species of fish. We sautéed some onions and chopped tomatoes in a bit of oil, add some garlic or ginger if you like, then some water, green onions, iba or kamias, unripe tamarind broth, some fish sauce and salt and pepper. Add some chopped finger chilies for heat. Keep tasting the liquid until you have the preferred balance of saltiness, sourness and spiciness. Add the fish, sliced into smaller pieces, and when it’s just about done, add some chili or sili leaves and turn off the heat. Serve soon after with lots of rice on the side. It’s actually not unlike a sinigang, but with some spice added in… delicious on a cool and rainy day!