Bacalao for Lent


Hello and Happy Holy Week to each one of you! Welcome once again to another week of Bheng’sBahay Kubo, atbp. It’s almost Easter and to some, it’s Spring Break! I know, it’s hard to figure out ways to diversify your meals when you can’t have meat for Lent.

Suddenly, all your favorite dishes get put on the back burner as you try to figure out how you can add some variety to dinnertime. I was requested to share another Filipino dish by a Caviteñean friend/colleague, Mylene Manalac of Alameda, CA. And what perfect timing for me to share this authentic Caviteñean dish than this week? A recipe I definitely recommend all my readers to try during this Lenten season.

Bacalao, pronounced [bah-kah-LAH-oh] is a traditional Caviteño dish which is made of dried Cod fish (daing na bakalaw), tomatoes, garbanzos, bell peppers, potatoes, cooked in good quality olive oil. This dish is present in most homes in Cavite City every Lenten season, most especially on Good Friday. This savory originally Spanish-Portuguese dish is very rich with history and colored with flavors from our ancestors. Particularly, the Cavite Chavacano way of preparing this dish.

There are hundreds of variations of bacalao recipes but no one can claim to possess the original recipe. And because of adaptation (to available ingredients) and transformation (taste and economy), change is inevitable. One of my favorite versions of this recipe is the Bacalao con Patatas (bacalao with potatoes). The recipe I’m sharing is from Ige Ramos, of Cavite City.

Note: if you’re on a budget, you can use daing na labahita (dried surgeon fish) which is much cheaper than the dried codfish which is usually imported. The daing na labahita con salsa recipe is a counter-part of the popular Spanish dish called Bacalao a la Vizcaina.
I know you can’t wait to experiment on this dish, so here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

½ kg daing (dried fish)
¼ cup olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 tbsp garlic, crushed
¼ kg tomatoes, chopped
2 bell peppers, seared, peeled and sliced
¾ cup garbanzos, peeled
¼ kg potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
All-purpose flour for dredging
Patis (fish sauce)
Ground black pepper (to taste)

*After Lent, you can add 1 piece of chorizo de Bilbao, thinly sliced.

1. De-salinate the daing by soaking it in cold water for 24 hours. Change the water every eight hours.
2. When ready, pat dry and dredge in flour, then fry in hot oil until golden brown. Set aside to cool. De-bone and flake the fried daing.
3. In another pan, heat the olive oil. Sauté onion, garlic, tomato, bell pepper until fragrant.
4. Add the garbanzos and potatoes. Cook until tender. Add the de-boned and flaked fried daing and season with patis and pepper.

This dish is best served over rice, pasta, quinoa…or enjoy on a pizza crust or with a loaf of bread!

Next week, I’ll be back to reviewing food from various restaurants. Happy Easter and Happy Cooking!