Everything You Need to Know About Paksiw na Isda

IMAGE Majoy Siason

Paksiw na isda is mealtime staple that is easy and quick to prepare. Whether at the family dining table or the workplace cafeteria, this simple fish dish is a favorite Filipino ulam recipe of many who crave a salty-sour taste to please their Pinoy palates.

What is Paksiw na Isda?

Strictly speaking, "paksiw" is a method of cooking that uses vinegar as the main vehicle to flavor the dish, similar to its cousin, the sinigang, which uses sour fruits instead. Often, it is spiced by siling pangsigang or finger chilies and vegetables are added such as bitter gourd (ampalaya) and eggplant (talong). This produces a broth that melds all the ingredients' flavors together into a powerfully tangy viand that Pinoys love.

paksiw na bangus in a blue bowl
Paksiw na isda can be made with bangus, but you can always substitute it with your favorite fish.
Photo by Bianca Laxamana
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What is one of the favorite proteins that Filipinos love to paksiw? Fish! When it comes to Filipino food, paksiw na isda ("isda" means "fish" in English) is one of the most comforting fish-based soups you can have. The choice of fish marries the distinct seafood taste to the irresistibly salty-sour broth well!

(This "paksiw" using fish is not to be confused with another kind of "paksiw": the lechon paksiw. Lechon paksiw or paksiw na lechon is made from leftover lechon, liver gravy, and vinegar to create a sweet-sour pork dish that's well loved as well.)

Table of Contents

History of Paksiw na Isda

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Recommended Videos

How to Cook Paksiw na Isda

How to Serve Paksiw na Isda

Paksiw na Isda Recipes

Tips for Making the Best Paksiw na Isda

Paksiw na Isda Storage Tips

History of Paksiw na Isda

bonless bangus paksiw in an aluminum pot
Milkfish afficionados know what's up when it comes to its best part, and that's the fatty belly.
Photo by Toto Labrador
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Paksiw has its roots in the Philippines' early days as a nation when the Chinese and Spaniards arrived and introduced their own food ingredients to our ancestors. For these foreigners, cooking food in vinegar not only preserved them for long voyages on the ocean, but also made them extra tasty. Fish of course was what was most commonly found at sea, and so paksiw na isda was born.

How to Cook Paksiw na Isda

To cook paksiw na isda, vinegar, which is sometimes diluted with water, is simmered in a pot with spices and flavorings before fish and other ingredients are included. The resulting dish can have a lot of liquid and can be treated as a soup or allowed to reduce to a thin sauce that coats the ingredients.

How to Serve Paksiw na Isda

Paksiw na isda is best served piping hot with a generous serving of steamed white rice, over which you can spoon some of the soup to give it a kick of tangy, tasty goodness. You can eat it any time of day, but lunch is preferred, as its heartiness and sour zing has an energizing effect on anyone who is tired from the morning's duties. This fish soup uses accessible and economical ingredients, which is why it is a common viand to serve at home and is also a staple at karinderya (Filipino roadside restaurants).

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Paksiw na isda is the perfect dish if you want a pescatarian meal, and the vinegar is great help if you need help with your digestion. Not to mention, this is a great meatless dish to make if you've got religious obligations (or other reasons) to avoid eating meat. But really, you don't need a reason to make and eat something so undeniably tasty!

Paksiw na Isda Recipes

paksiw na tilapia on a white dish
This paksiw na isda recipe uses a more affordable fish: tilapia.
Photo by Patrick Martires | Styling by Lady Badoy
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You can't go wrong with a healthy serving of fish in sour broth, slow-simmered until tender.

Paksiw na isda ingredients are very basic and its simple preparation makes this dish a first choice when it comes to cooking something to eat fast. The flavor depends mainly on the vinegar used, and depending on how strong it is, you may dilute it with some water or use the vinegar straight. If you are using uncut vinegar, be sure to simmer it for a while first to reduce its tartness (unless of course, you really want to pucker up when eating this dish). Any fish can be used, but firm-fleshed fish like bangus or milkfish is best as it maintains its shape as it's cooking.

• Fish Paksiw Recipe (Fish in Vinegar Recipe)

• Paksiw na Isda Recipe (Tagalog version)

• Tilapia Paksiw Recipe (Paksiw na Tilapia Recipe)

• Milkfish Paksiw Recipe (Paksiw na Bangus Recipe)

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Tips For Making the Best Paksiw na Isda

paksiw na isda topped with eggplant and garlic
Cooking paksiw na isda is easy and quick.
Photo by Shutterstock

1 Choose your vinegar wisely.

Vinegar is undoubtedly the soul of any paksiw na isda recipe, and which one you decide to use is up to you as the cook. White coconut vinegar is what is used for the most recipes since this is the most common kind available in markets, though you may use Japanese rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar in a pinch. We Filipinos are definitely spoiled for choice when it comes to this table-side acid, with heirloom or region-specific kinds like basi-matsi or pinakurat available for us to try.

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While local and Asian white vinegars are the best kind to use for paksiw na isda recipes, you can use other kinds of vinegars, too. It's recommended you stick to neutral white vinegars instead of using dark vinegars or even flavored ones. If you do decide to become adventurous with western vinegars like balsamic or apple cider vinegar, be responsible on behalf of your diners and taste test the resulting dish. You might find it's a delicious (or disastrous) innovation!

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2 Add ingredients in order while cooking.

Fish cooks very quickly so you may add it last to the broth. If you want a stronger flavor in the fish though, then it should be the first thing to be added. Vegetables have different cooking times, so add them in the order listed in the recipe, usually from the slowest to the fastest cooking ingredients. They can be more evenly cooked as well by cutting them into evenly-sized pieces beforehand.

Paksiw na Isda Storage Tips

Vinegar is a great preservative. This means that properly cooked paksiw can be stored in an airtight container for roughly two weeks before spoiling (though really, why would you not finish such a tasty dish off before it reaches that time?)

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Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!

Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on Yummy.ph by submitting your recipe here.


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