Version 1 of Sinaing na Tulingan was done in a palayok (traditional clay pot), in an attempt to do it as “authentically” as possible. But I realize that 90-95% of readers probably won’t go out and buy a palayok and stoke a wood or charcoal fire to replicate the recipe, so at the same time we were simmering away on coals, I also tried a version in a heavy enameled cast iron pot (Le Creuset in this case) on the stovetop to see if I could obtain similar results. The results? Yup, you can do this on your stovetop without sacrificing too much of the flavor (save for the underlying smokiness provided by the fire).
We cut open the fish and lay them flat on the banana leaves and seasoned them with salt and pepper, topped with both fresh and dried kamias or belimbi fruit. Notice how blood red this fish is, perhaps even more so than beef!
Wrapped the fish up in banana leaves and placed then in an enameled cast iron pot, which also had ginger, more kamias, chili, and some sliced red onions (an additional ingredient)…
…and each layer fit three fish wrapped in banana leaves (which I believe are both for flavor and for helping preserve the shape/integrity of each whole fish.
Add water to cover the fish and cover the pot and bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cook for roughly 2-2.5 hours, paying attention to the level of liquid.
I will say that the braising liquid in the palayok or clay pot evaporated a lot faster than the tighter seal on the Le Creuset. At about the 1.5 hour mark, I put the cover of the pot askew so that more steam would evaporate and reduce down to say 1.5 cups worth at the end of cooking.
The results were delicious. I kind of like the splayed open version, as the flavor seemed to intensely seep into all of the fish meat. I am sure these would have been delicious fried as well, but we let them sit on the kitchen counter in the pot for about 7 hours then decided to serve them up for dinner in this snazzy take on “sizzling sinaing na tulingan” on a hotplate.
Onto a cast iron hotplate that was put over high heat for several minutes, I added some vegetable oil (it should have been lard and a lot more of it) and placed one whole tulingan on the plate to serious sizzle which “fried” the skin of the fish…
…then ladled in some of the “patis” or braising liquid of the sinaing onto the plate, that resulted in a hot, flavorful steam bath for the fish. This was DELICIOUS, but I worry about the acidic liquid on the cast iron plate (acid can strip some iron which you ingest) for any repetitive uses in this manner.