I’ll come clean and say this: even a hardened chowhound like myself will have days when fresh fish and veg are the only things my belly will crave for. This craving may be satisfied by a fairly simple dish of, say, bulanglang (vegetables lightly poached in fish broth) paired with a crisply-fried catfish or an even more rustic grilled tilapia with an ensaladang talong (grilled eggplant salad).
But there are days when further embellishment is required to keep tastebuds from getting bored with such healthiness. In which case, a good hefty dose of Korean cuisine is necessary.
Sikeumchi (cold blanched spinach dressed with sesame seeds) and Savoy cabbage kimchi are a good way for prepping up one’s palate for the meal to come. The nutty flavor of the spinach and the tart, spicy cabbage get the tongue ready to meet richer, stronger flavors head on. Plus, unlike other appetizers, these are actually quite light.
Which brings us to this little bit of Filipino-Korean fusion referred to on the menu as an aligue bibimbap.
Now, for those of you who love Korean food, we all know that a bibimbap is a bowl of rice topped with a fresh egg and an assortment of julienned vegetables, shredded beef, and sesame seeds. An aligue bibimbap takes this concept to a higher level as the rice is cooked in pretty much the same manner as a Spanish paella: sauteed with a hint of garlic and – this is where it gets really interesting – a generous amount of aligue (crab fat). Yes, the rice is given a rich orange color and the fragrance and savor of one of the most decadent foods on the face of the planet.
While some of the classic bibimbap ingredients are placed on top of the rice (chilled blanched spinach, sesame seeds, julienned carrots and pumpkin), the protein element is replaced with three plump and flavorful prawns and tender slices of squid.
The resulting bowl is spicy and flavorful enough on its own that the traditional addition of kochujang (red pepper paste) is anathema, completely unnecessary.
Admittedly, it’s quite rich and I wouldn’t recommend it for lunch everyday. But as a more delicious way of having fish and veg, it definitely gets my vote. 😉