Saturday, June 28, 2008

Foray into "Fusion": Pan-roasted Halibut with Fava Beans, Potato-Onion Cakes and Bagoong Butter Sauce

A TS Original!

As our readers can glean from reading the entries on this blog, we are eclectic in our tastes. Most of the time, we have been pretty happy travelling in different culinary spheres and just eating all that delicious food. Every cuisine is vibrant, alive, with a whole lot to offer, if only we look. We are great believers in respecting different traditions, and on the occasion that we cook from these traditions, we always strive for authenticity in word, deed, and spirit.

For our Mmm...Canada entry, we wanted a dish that would hopefully pull together the diverse strands of our culinary influences. Cross-pollination between different culinary cultures happens, and it's beside the point for us whether it's "good" or "bad." When such cross-pollination happens, we can only hope that we treat the donor cultures with the appropriate respect.

So you can say that this is our first foray into "fusion," which is quite a meaningless term nowadays, so take that for all that is worth. ;)

We wanted a dish that uses a ubiquitous BC ingredient, halibut, and use it in an application that would also invoke our culinary roots and heritage.

Bagoong is a staple condiment on Filipino tables. Growing up, we were more familiar with the alamang version of bagoong, made from shrimp, instead of the fish version. It is very strong-smelling and those who are not used to the smell will often find it quite revolting. It is delicious, though, and it's good with rice. Our usual application for our bagoong alamang is as topping for green mangoes.

Mention green mangoes with bagoong to any Filipino and you'll find them drooling! The tartness of the green mangoes very effectively activates the salivary glands. It's happening to me right now just writing about it!

It's been so long since we've had green mangoes. We've had to improvise and use tart Granny Smith apples for the mangoes. Bagoong on Granny Smith apples are good too.

So here goes. TS did all the work for this one, so I can't claim any credit. I got intimidated at the shelling of the beans.

It all started with the beans.

We saw some fava beans in the produce market and decided to get some. We've never used them in any way before, so we thought it was high time we did.

I shelled the beans. They were quite "mature", as they already had a tougher pale outer skin. (This I learned from Jamie Oliver.) At first I attempted to remove the outer skin, but it was too difficult. So I went straight to blanching them. Apparently, that's how you make it easier to remove the skin!

It was actually quite fun popping those beans out! I lost the first couple of beans because I didn't expect them to jump out quite so fast and far.

Grape tomatoes were simply quartered and seasoned with salt.

To get it out of the way, I also made cilantro oil early in the game. I blanched some cilantro, then pureed that with some oil in the blender. I strained not once, but twice!

To make it easier on myself, I baked my potato-onion cakes instead of pan-frying them. I grated some potatoes with some onions and added some flour and an egg. I formed rings and into the oven they went. They had a more hash brown-like texture than a crispy latke or rösti texture.

Now, the pièce de résistance!

I made the bagoong butter sauce while pan-roasting the halibut. I used the The French Laundry Cookbookas a refresher to making beurre monté.

I added about a tablespoon of water and heated that until boiling, then whisked in piece by piece of cold butter. When that was emulsified, I added the bagoong and whisked to combine.

Some bagoong butter sauce went in, one potato-onion cake, the fava beans, another potato-onion cake, then the halibut. I sprinkled the grape tomatoes around, drizzled a little bit of cilantro oil, et voilà!

Surprisingly, this dish was quite good. The bagoong butter added such a wonderful depth of flavour: it made the whole dish very, very umami. At first, I thought the bagoong butter would overwhelm the halibut, but there was a balance achieved between the fleshy, firm fish and the sauce. The grape tomatoes were such a welcome pop of flavour, essential to break the richness of the sauce. The beans had that fresh greenness that also provided a nice contrast to the sauce.

For revisions to this dish, I would recommend that the potatoes pancakes be crisper for more textural difference. The pancakes turned soggy, especially sitting in the sauce. If not more crispy, then at least more substantial to stand up to the bagoong butter. Perhaps cubed, or perhaps mashed potatoes will even work.

The dish could have used a touch more acidity, perhaps a squeeze of lemon at the end. Of course, calamansi would have worked great, too, for additional tartness and sweetness.

The cilantro oil didn't add to this dish, but we're saving that for other applications.

In the end, it was the bagoong butter that unified all the different components of the dish. That's a keeper.

Does this taste like Canada? Well, to me, it does. It certainly takes the spirit of Canadian multiculturalism and translates it onto the plate.

[eatingclub] vancouver Filipino food
Mama's Ampalaya (Bitter Melon)
Faux Kamote-Que
Philippine-Style Chicken "BBQ"
Fried Hasa Hasa (Mackerel)
"Savory" Chicken Wings
Sinamak (Chile-infused Vinegar)
Pan-roasted Halibut w/ Fava Beans, Potato-Onion Cakes & Bagoong Butter Sauce
Bulalo & Bangus: an even simpler Filipino meal
Baked Tahong (Mussels)
Adobo Kangkong (Adobo Water Spinach)
Oyster Torta (Oyster Omelette)
Chicken Tinola (Chicken Soup w/ Green Papaya & Pepper Leaves)
(Chinese) Roast Pork Belly / Lechon
Tilapia wrapped in Banana Leaves
Pork Belly, Two Ways
Chicken Adobo
Salabat (Ginger Tea)
Lechon Manok (Philippine Roast Chicken) & Lechon Sauce
"Chinese Adobo" Clams and Oysters
Bistek (Citrus Beef with Caramelized Onions)
Beef Kaldereta (Beef Stew with Bell Peppers)
Atsara (Green Papaya Pickle)
Sardinas na Bangus (Milkfish in the style of Sardines) and Pressure Cooker Fear

Mmm... Canada is hosted by Confessions of a Cardamom Addict. The invitation to the event can be found here. The round-up will be posted on July 1 (of course!).


  1. Mmmmm..bagoong butter. Such a great combination. I can imagine a number of applications... bagoong butter and corn on the cob, bagoong butter and a juicy rib steak, bagoong butter and lobster, bagoong butter and steamed veggies...yummmmmy!!

  2. Fabulous post. I love the writing, the gorgeous photos and the delicious recipe.

    And even more...I love how you captured the multicultural spirit that is definitely Canada.

  3. This looks absolutely delicious and I love how you use halibut in it. Well done!

    Thanks for participating.


  4. You've got a gorgeous blog here. Thanks for stopping by. Hmm.. not sure but would bagoong be equivalent to our shrimp paste or chinchalok (fermented shrimp)?

  5. that bagoong butter - whoa. I can see how effective that would be with that dish! Make a compound butter out of that stuff to throw on pasta! sounds amazing.

  6. This is truly a most delicious and beautiful "fusion" dish and the use of bagoong is just fantastic!
    Thanks for visiting my blog, btw...I'll come back for more yummy dishes.:)

  7. mmm, this looks SO amazing! yum!

  8. Joseph, Jonny and Amy:
    We'll be having corn on the cob with bagoong butter tomorrow. TS did suggest tossing the butter on pasta! Great minds think alike, eh?

    Singairishgirl: I would think the taste is going to similar, but I don't think I've ever tried chinchalok. I've had belachan before: is that made from fermented shrimp?

  9. Gorgeous! The colours in this dish are amazing. If it tastes half as good as it looks, then it must be devine! Thanks for sharing.

  10. I have never heard of bagoong before, but I think I should try and find some. Happy Canada Day!

  11. This is beautiful! And sounds intriguingly delicious as well.

  12. Butter and bagoong... I never thought I'd ever see that in one dish. Will definitely try it.

  13. perfectly twisted pinoy food! you should've joined my 'lasang pinoy: deistinctly pinoy with a twang' theme but that was 2 years ago:) own take naman on fusion with bagoong?...pasta! it's good i must say!:) hey, you might want to join my weekly meme...lasang pinoy,sundays! details are all found on my page!


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