Gata Makes These Recipes Extra Irresistible

You can do so much more with the coconut.

IMAGE At Maculangan

The coconut tree is called the tree of life for good reason. Buko juice or coconut water has already gained prominence worldwide but that’s where the popularity of eating the coconut has ended. 

Our Asian neighbors know the value of the coconut—and not just for its buko juice—and thankfully, so do we.

How do you cook with coconut milk?  

There are other delicious ways to cook with coconut milk or gata. There is coconut cream, too, which is the creamier, thicker version. While these two coconut ingredients are moderately interchangeable in dishes, what you might have noticed is that whenever you use it in a recipe, you add a certain sweetness, creaminess, and overall delicious flavor that is unique to the coconut.

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Yes, they are two different things.

Take advantage of the fact that we can have coconuts all year long! Here are a few recipes that we think you should think about trying out for your next meal because these recipes with gata are powerfully flavorful and delicious.

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Photo by Michael Angelo Chua

1 Halaan at Tahong sa Gata (Seafood in Coconut Milk) Recipe

There is something delicious about having access to the freshest seafood. Just like the coconut, we are blessed to have fresh shellfish and other seafood for any number of times throughout the year. For shellfish, it's important that it's as fresh as it can be! In fact, the fresher, the better and this recipe showcases the freshness of the halaan (clams) and tahong (mussels) with a wonderfully aromatic yet still light-tasting broth. The broth has coconut milk but its hue is from fresh turmeric while its aroma is made more appetizing with the use of tanglad or lemongrass.  

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If you ever worry or are curious whether the tahong, halaan, crabs, or other shellfish are safe from the deadly red ride, head over to the Bureau of Agriculture's Red Tide Alert page for the latest update. 

Taste the sea in this light seafood dish.

Photo by Majoy Siason

2 Adobong Hipon sa Gata Recipe 

There is really something irresistible about an adobo dish. So, it's no wonder that this adobo recipe may be just as appetizing as any other. This, however, changes things since this isn't your usual adobo recipe. Succulent prawns are used as the main ingredient together with the usual soy sauce and vinegar.

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What makes this recipe over-the-top with flavor is the addition of the gata, giving it a creaminess and a slight sweetness that complements the salty-sour flavor. You'll need mounds of steaming hot rice!

Your usual shrimp dish is made more flavorful with coconut milk and adobo sauce.
 

Photo by Patrick Martires

3 Pancit Buko Recipe 

There are a few ingredients that can be made as a substitute for pasta noodles. There are vegetables that many like using as common substitutes such as zucchini noodles and kangkong noodles even. Coconut noodles, however, may not yet be as universally known but the pancit buko recipe is more common than you may think. There is a pancit buko version found in San Pablo, Laguna called the Pansit Kalabuko which incorporates kalabasa (squash), kabute (mushrooms), and buko or coconut meat into the dish instead of noodles.

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Since you may not be anywhere near Laguna, we think this recipe will still give you an idea of how you can use coconut for more than just making sauce.  

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This pancit dish uses coconut meat instead of noodles!
 

This is a pancit dish that will definitely be the talk of the table.
   

4 Creamy Chicken Binakol Recipe 

Binakol is already a delicious dish! Traditionally, it's a rather simple chicken recipe where the chicken is simmered in the buko juice, creating a light and flavorful broth with a hint of sweetness from the coconut. However, there is always room for improvement, and while this recipe makes this version creamier with all-purpose cream, we think this creamy recipe needs a tiny ingredient tweak.

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To enhance the flavor of the coconut, even by just a little bit, we think you should not just use the coconut juice and buko meat, but also think about substituting coconut cream for the all-purpose cream in the broth. It will result in a much bolder coconut flavor.   

Both juice and meat of fresh buko are highlighted in this Pinoy classic.

Photo by Patrick Martires

Hipon At Kalabasa Sa Pinausukang Gata Recipe

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What could be more delicious than something that has been smoked? We think smoking can do wonders to a dish, and this otherwise normal ginataang hipon at kalabasa recipe is made even more appetizing with the addition of some smoked coconut milk. The recipe instructions even tell you how you can do this with a charcoal grill!

Once you learn how to do this and develop a love for the taste, your summer grilling days will never be the same again. 

Give an all-time favorite a unique twist by smoking the coconut cream.
 

Photo by At Maculangan

6 Prawns with Coconut Milk and Santol Recipe

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Ginataang hipon is a common enough dish. However, the ginataang santol recipe, on the other hand, may be less common. Both are delicious recipes that take advantage of the sweetness of the gata to enhance its flavors.

So whoever thought it would be a brilliant idea to put these two dishes together was clearly a genius. You get the benefit of having a succulent hipon together with the tanginess from our native santol, and it's a wonderful recipe you just have to try to fall in love with.  

Here's a fancier take on ginataang santol.

Photo by Patrick Martires

7 Tangy Chicken Fingers Recipe 

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Not every recipe that has gata needs to be the star ingredient. For this recipe, these are seemingly normal chicken fingers, well seasoned and made extra crispy from the breading. What makes this a gata recipe is the sauce that is served with it and it's not your ordinary sauce either. This crispy chicken fingers recipe has a secret ingredient in the gata sauce: tamarind or sampaloc.

What you do is infuse the coconut cream with the sabaw from the fresh sampaloc, and the resulting sauce is tangy, creamy, and oh-so-good with the chicken fingers. The kids—and any kid-at-heart!—will love these! 

These sinigang-flavored tangy chicken fingers are best with a coconut milk dip!
    

Photo by Anna Varona

8 Kinunot na Isda Recipe 

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Kinunot basically means "flaked" and in this case, tanigue aka Spanish mackerel steaks are simmered in ginger water before being flaked. This is then tossed with other ingredients to make the creamy and coconut-y dish: two kinds of sili, onions, vinegar, malunggay leaves, and of course, the coconut cream that brings the dish together in a thick and tasty sauce.     

Is it obvious that this dish is a Bicolano recipe? 

This Bicolano favorite is made up of flaked fish, malunggay leaves, and coconut milk.
 

There is really something about a gata dish that makes it sweet, savory, and irresistible. We think the combination of flavors is perfect for the Filipino palate, but more than that, it's a warm flavor, too. It seems to go naturally well with other ingredients, making it highly versatile when cooking. If you need more recipes that include gata, check out more recipes here: 

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This cooking staple can make your dishes extra delicious.

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Gata is creamy, aromatic, and delicious!
 

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