Fish Tinola


In the Philippines, a typical meal is not complete unless served with a hot bowl of soup often with vegetables, meat, or seafood. Being surrounded by water, Negros is blessed with a diverse selection of fish that allow us to enjoy them as part of our daily cuisine.

Snuggly good in the coolness of the morning, the tinola is a Negrense breakfast favorite.

Hereabouts, the word tinola commonly refers to fish soup. It is often compared to the Tagalog’s fish sinigang, but while the sinigang has a robust sour taste from the sampaloc, the tinola of Negros only has a hint of sourness courtesy of tomatoes.

As the fish is caught fresh, the tinola only needs delicate flavors, like the subtle souring of tomatoes.

Tinola is a Negrense breakfast soup. Especially in the countryside, early mornings are greeted by the cry of the fish vendor balancing his tuwang-tuwang (carrying pole) on his shoulder laden with the fresh catch of the day. If there’s good fish, this is bought and made into tinola. The variety of fish often used in tinola include sapsap (pony fish), kikero (scat fish), tangigue (kingfish), lapu-lapu (grouper), lagaw/bisugo (threadfin bream), dalagang bukid (yellowtail fusilier), maya-maya (red snapper), and salmonete (striped red mullet), to name a few. Bangrus (milkfish) is a popular choice, too, but largely because of its accessibility in urban areas where there are no early morning fish vendors plying the streets. .

Fish tinola makes use of the simplest ingredients, what is essential is the freshness of the fish.

The tradition of greeting the sunrise with tinola is for real, even observed by many Negrense golfers. They would tee off early in the morning, take a break halfway through, and have a steaming bowl of tinola before heading to the back nine. .
To a Negrense, tinola nga isda is a reminder of the bounty of the Visayan seas.

Fish tinola is a simple dish that uses only tomatoes and onions. It has fed Negrense families through generations. Its honest-to-goodness recipe unravels the briny tang of the fish, the subtle sweetness of onions, and the delicate sourness of tomatoes. In addition, this soup dish is definitely healthy and rich in vitamins and minerals. So if you are tired of eating the usual and just want soup that gives you that snuggly feeling, fish tinola might just be what you need. .
Sapsap (pony fish) is one of the best choices for fish tinola.

Negrense /neg-REN-se/ n. the people of Negros Island in the Philippines. The island is divided into two provinces, Negros Oriental to the east and Negros Occidental to the west.

3-4 cups water
½ cup ripe tomato, cut into wedges
½ cup onions, quartered
Salt to taste
½ kilo fish, cleaned
2 long peppers, optional
1 stalk of spring onion, chopped

1. Boil water.

2. Once boiling, add tomato, onion, and salt.

3. After 5 minutes, add the fish.

4. Add long peppers if desired.

5. Keep boiling until fish is cooked.

6. When ready to serve, add the spring onions on top of it.

Makes 2-3 servings.

Recipe shared by Nanay Lucita Divino Tonato
77 years old
Head cook of the Velez-Gamban and Locsin-Gamboa families

Nanay Luz has been cooking these family recipes that have been passed on for generations. She learned how to cook from her mother at a young age and became proficient with some of the heirloom recipes of the families she worked with.

Text by: Massah Gonzales-Gamboa
Photography by: Project Twenty Six
Food Styling by: David Dadivas

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