and so it was last night when everybody went home with a smile in their faces and a little hesitation in their steps.

we were drunk. we had good cognac. good music. and we just had good food.

the good cognac was courtesy of a friend who promised after the last big night that the next drink would be his. good music was provided, of course, by no other than the good host – moi. and the good food was by my brother’s bicolano barber – edsel.

last night was another one of those nights that our tropa would call our very own big night. a combination of good food, good drink, good music, old and rehashed stories and good laughs.

our big night is a big and well-thought of event that is held once or twice a month. it was our excuse to splurge a bit, a respite from the usual san mig pilsen/light and boy bawang nights. one time, we thought of having bulalo steak on a sizzling plate with gravy and 2 kinds of lengua – one cooked in white sauce and the other in red. so we went all the way to tagaytay for some freshly slaughtered batangas beef. the other time we had humongous beef burgers grilled and unlimited chicharon bulaklak. once we had huge steaks and home-made pizza. our last big night was fresh salmon sashimi, kimchi and adobong kangkong (which was featured in earlier posts). our poor attempt in vegan pulutan with the salmon serving as a compromise.

last night was pata tim and pla-pla cooked in fresh coconut milk.

first thing edsel did when he got to my place was to crush a lot of ginger and half a head of garlic. 3 tomatoes were quartered and 2 medium-sized shallots (sibuyas tagalog) sliced. 4 to 6 big kalamyas (kamias for you city folks) washed and halved. and six pechay washed and chopped at the end. half of these ingredients (except for the kalamyas)were submerged in a large bowl filled with 3 to 4 cups of freshly squeezed coconut milk. and of course, there were the red hot chili peppers and the pang-sigang sili which was limited to just a few for those of us (edsel the barber was the only bicolano among us that night) who are not natives of the much admired (gustatory and women-wise) peninsula.

in a large caldero, he placed a small banana leaf that covered just the bottom of the caldero. he then arranged the pechay leaves at the bottom. placed the kalamyas around the pechay leaves with all the other remaining ingredients. at the very top were the 2 kilos of salted pla-pla (8 small pla-pla in all but better if you get the bigger sized pla-pla). lastly, he poured the coconut milk and all the other ingredients that went with it. put the stove on high heat. and the moment the unseen coconut milk boiled, he set the stove into low heat. he then added salt and covered the caldero. after 15 to 20 minutes of anticipation, everything was cooked! it was truly a remarkable bicolano dish!

be sure to wash the fish thoroughly so you won’t taste it’s muddy origins.


2 kilos of pla-pla

3 tomatoes

half a dozen kalamyas or more

2 medium-sized shallots

half a head of garlic

6 bunches of pechay

3 – 4 cups of coconut milk

sili (your preference)