Kuya Wek brought home two Red Snappers. One I made into Sweet and Sour and the other I made into Pesa.
Pesa is one of the tastiest soupy dishes I really miss so when cousin Wek brought home some red snapper from Lucena, I immediately made it into a pesa.
I don't know where the word pesa came from but it is similar to nilaga or tinola, if they are not actually the same. Another dish that is reminiscent of pesa is swam.
Now I'll try to differentiate each dish although I can't seem to find any difference to them.
Mother makes Pesang Lapu-lapu or Bangus. She uses ginger, whole black peppercorns, pechay, cabbage and potatoes, just like making Nilagang Baboy but this time, fish is the main protein.
Then she makes Swam na Usohos, that elongated silvery fish that is so tasty and has a biya-like flesh texture that can either be fried or made into swam, this time without pechay or repolyo or patatas but Dahon ng Sili instead. But the procedure is the same--laga or boiled.
She calls boiled meat-- pork or beef-- with the same vegetables as found in pesa as Nilaga i.e. Nilagang Baboy or Nilagang Baka. Then with the same procedure of boiling but this time she uses Chicken, she calls it Tinola with either chayote or green papaya as the main vegetable. We never call it Nilagang Manok!
So what really is the difference if they are all nilaga? Why can't they just call it nilaga collectively? Nilagang Baboy, Manok, Lapu-lapu, Bangus, Usohos.... etcetera!
Anyways, another famous pesa aside from the grouper or snapper is Pesang Dalag which, according to my mother is prepared slightly different and a little more complex by the addition of tahure. Tahure is tofu aged with salt and water. Aging makes the tofu richer and the texture becomes more like feta or any soft cheese. And it is salty, nutty and a tastes a bit like rotten. I have made Pesang Dalag once or twice and certainly mine is not the definitive version.
In some regions, Pesa(of any kind) is accompanied with Miso dip. Miso is a by-product of tofu. But tahure is more pungent and has a s tronger flavor. It is an acquired taste.
I use tahure more in Tocho and in dishes that you put black beans or tausi in. Tochong Bangus is my second most favorite bangus dish of all time. The # 1 is plain pritong bangus that is extremely salty.
Here's how you prepare it:
Fry to golden crisp overly salted bangus. Set aside.
In a saucepan, sautee onion, garlic, tomatoes, grated ginger and tausi.
Add 2 pcs. crumbled tahure soaked in 1/2 cup vinegar and continue sauteeeing.
Add the vinegar where you soaked the tahure, 3 tbsp soy sauce and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil.
Finally, add the fried bangus. Adjust salt, pepper and vinegar if necessary but the saltiness of the bangus should be enough to season the dish.
Where was I, I forgot the point that I was making.....Ah there! So, cousin Wek brought home a red snapper which I made into Pesa....
Here's the recipe:
1 medium size (about 1 lb) red snapper or bangus
1 medium size ginger, sliced and crushed
1 tsp black peppercorns (crack some of it)
1 big red onion
1 big potato, cubed
1 bunch pechay
1/2 head repolyo
1 liter water
salt or patis to taste
Clean the fish and set aside.
In a pan put water, onion, ginger, pepper and potatoes together and bring to a boil. Add the fish, pechay and cabbage and allow to simmer until the fish is cooked through. About 8-10 minutes. Season with patis or salt.
Easy to cook. And just as easy to be gone-- before I can even photograph the finished product! All there is left are smiles on the face of those who finished it!!!