6 Simply Easy Holy Week Dishes For A Filipino Easter

6 Simply Easy Holy Week Dishes For A Filipino Easter

Celebrate Holy Week the Filipino way with juicy eggplant omelettes, and a smoky grilled squid

While there is no Filipino dish exclusively served during Philippine Easter Sunday, Holy Week, or Mahal Na Araw, is very dear to the Filipino as Filipinos are predominantly Catholic. Holy Week, the week leading to Easter Sunday where Christians celebrate the resurrection of their God, Jesus Christ, is a time to reflect and focus on spiritual health. In that time, abstinence from eating meat is practiced, even though meat happens to be the center of almost all Filipino dishes.

1. Tortang Talong 

An eggplant is first flattened then coated with egg 

This is basically an eggplant omelet, but the way it is prepared keeps the eggplant intact and is fried to give a great hearty texture. It is like a flattened eggplant coated with egg, salted for some taste and it has a bounciness to the texture, usually eaten with rice in the same spoon. Sometimes ketchup, banana ketchup, or even fish sauce is added to up the flavor. The eggplant is broiled first to soften and to make it easy to remove the purple skin. It is then dipped into a beaten egg and fried. During Holy Week, the egg mixture has no meat, but after the meat fast, on Easter Sunday.  During the rest of the year, ground beef or ground pork can be added to the egg mixture.

2. Laswa

If you're feeling indulgent, include crab in the dish- it will amp up the umami, or "seafoodness" of the soup

Laswa is a nice and light vegetable shrimp stew that is not only healthy but very flavorful due to a combination of veggies, herbs, and unpeeled shrimp. It is a quick dish to cook, as the most time consuming portion is the preparation of veggies and shrimp. After prepping okra, eggplant, calabash squash, string beans, tomato, and onion, as well as the cleaning the shrimp by clipping off the antennae and tip of the nose (so soup can go inside the delicious head!), heat up a pot of boiling water. The tomato and onion are the first to go in, then shrimp, and finally all the veggies. After eight minutes pass, add the saluyot leaves, which are the corchorus leaves native only to tropical and subtropical regions. After some salt and pepper to taste, the stew is done!

3. Sinigang Na Salmon Sa Miso (Salmon Miso Sinigang) 

Milkfish used in many Filipino dishes, including an appetite-opening sour soup known as Sinigang na Tiyan ng Bangus, or Filipino Sour Soup with Milkfish Belly

Sinigang is becoming one of the most internationally recognized and favored soups of the Philippines, but this version sets it apart from the other styles of sinigang by adding the savory taste of miso to the sour tamarind base. This soup also begins by sautéing the onions, then adding three quartered tomatoes and half a cup of miso paste. Then fill the pot with water, halve three salmon heads, and add it to the pot - there’s so much flavor and healthy omega-3 fats in the head! Add the sinigang (tamarind soup base) mix of your liking and continue the boil. Season with salt, pepper and patis (Filipino fish sauce) to your taste. At the end, add mustard leaves and mahabang sili (Filipino long chilies) so as to not brown the leaves, and it’s ready to serve!

4. Inihaw Na Isda 

Another popular milkfish dish, Daing na Bangus or Deep-Fried Milkfish, is an expertly crisped milkfish 

Technically translating to grilled fish, here’s a great way to grill tilapia or milkfish - stuffed with tomato, onion, scallion, and ginger! Perfect for the summertime, and by the way, did you know the Philippines experiences summer from March until June? In the Philippines, Easter and Holy Week are the most popular summertime holidays. First, have a tilapia (or bangus (milkfish), whichever you prefer) scaled, gutted, and washed, then rub salt and pepper all over the inside and outside of the fish. Cube an onion, a scallion, and a teaspoon of minced ginger and mix it all together with some garlic powder, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stuff the mix into the fish, start up the grill, and grill each side of the fish for ten to twelves minutes. Serve with your favorite sawsawan (dipping sauce made of soy sauce, vinegar and ) and enjoy!

5. Inihaw Na Pusit 

The squid is grilled to a juicy crisp and stuffed with tomato, onion, and garlic

Similar to the above mentioned dish, this translates to grilled squid, and is also stuffed with tomato, onion, ginger, and salt and pepper. First, clean the squid and remember to debone the squid:  there’s a long plastic-looking bone on the inside. Add soy sauce, mirin, and lime or calamansi juice into a bowl and let the squid marinate for 12 minutes in the refrigerator. Combine the cubed and diced onion, tomato, ginger, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Stuff the contents into the squid and secure the head with a toothpick to keep the squid intact. Brush the squid with annatto oil (a Philippine oil from a native nut), and grill each side of the squid for two minutes, being very attentive as to not overcook the squid. Just like any other seafood, squid is easily overcooked and can turn to a rubber consistency quickly. When the time is right, pull it from the grill and prepare it with a side of sawsawan!

6. Ginataan

Jackfruit slices give this dessert a natural refreshing sweetness

This is possibly the most popular dish served around Holy Week- a colorful dessert or afternoon snack that has fruits, tubers, glutinous rice or malagkit, jackfruit, orange cubes of sweet potato, yellow whole saba (short, thick tropical banana), white chunks of taro root (gabi), and the mixture is “polka dotted” with clear white sago (Philippine tapioca pearls)- all stewed in coconut milk.  First, fire up a pot with two cups of water and 13 ounces of coconut milk. Add a half cup of glutinous rice and stir occasionally for ten minutes. Then add cubed taro, purple yam, and sweet potato, and simmer for fifteen more minutes until tender. Add the bananas, tapioca pearls, jackfruit strips, a cup of coconut cream, and half cup of brown sugar to the mix. After stirring over heat for ten more minutes, the liquid will slowly start to thicken and the contents will become increasingly tender. You’ll notice that the colors of the contents will bleed into the cream, giving that pinkish hue to the coconut base. Finally, serve it hot or even serve it cool; either way this will definitely lighten the mood of the fasting Filipinos during Holy Week!

Matthias Rhoads, also known as PHoodDude, is an actor turned food journalist based in the Philippines. Follow him on all socials @manilamatthias .

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