The Happy Home Cook: Pesang Salmon: Filipino Fish Stew in Ginger Broth with Tomatoes and Spinach

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Pesang Salmon (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

Pesang Salmon (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

“Pesa” connotes a clear, gingery broth that’s been simmered a while in tomatoes, onions and seasonings. The delicate, delightful ginger-lemony aroma blended with a bit of fish sauce, is the perfect base for a good seafood stew.

Salmon fish in “pesa” is a flavorful all-in-one soup stew that’s good for any day, any season all year long. But one of my favorite times to have it is during the Fridays of Lent.

Our family has religiously observed the Lenten season and Fridays has often been a challenge for me. On Fridays, I get extremely hungry during the day when we have to abide by practices of fasting and abstaining (from meat). So, I think hard for something hearty, filling and very delicious for the Friday evening family dinner.

“Pesang isda” (fish pesa) has always been a winner for us. I can switch the main fish ingredient to different types available. Usually, I add tomatoes, onions and spinach to the fish broth as the recipe calls for it. Often I add a bunch of potatoes to fill us up. There are no hard and fast rules to this recipe. Just boil, simmer and enjoy it!

Pesang Salmon : Filipino Fish Stew in Ginger Broth

*Servings: 2-4

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 whole tomatoes, chopped
1/2 pound salmon fillet
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tablespoons “Patis”, Filipino fish sauce (Available in Asian groceries)
1 vegetable bouillon cube
5-6 cups water from the rice wash*
2 potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 cups fresh spinach (about 1 bag)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Steamed jasmine rice, for serving


Pre-marinate the fish with the juice of a lemon, 15 minutes before cooking.

  1. In a large deep pot, over medium high heat, add the vegetable oil.

  2. Saute the onions, garlic, ginger. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes till soft.

  3. Add the “patis” or fish sauce. Then add the salmon fillet and potatoes.

  4. Pour the rice water. Add the bouillon cube.

  5. Season with salt and pepper. Let the broth boil, then lower heat to a slow simmer till the fish cooks. This should take about 20-25 minutes.

  6. At the last 5 minutes before cooking time ends, add the spinach. Mix well and simmer for a minute or two.

  7. Serve hot with steamed jasmine rice.

Recipe Notes:

*Rice Water – is commonly used in Filipino dishes for flavorful soup broths. When cooking rice, wash the rice grains with water twice. In the second washing, sieve the rice and keep the “rice wash” water.  Add this “rice wash”  to the soup broth later on. Filipinos use “rice wash” (or called “hugas bigas” in Tagalog) often to flavor soup broths.

Cook's Comments: Feel free to use other types of fish preferred for this recipe. I often use what’s readily available. The addition of shrimps is also a delicious idea.

First published in

Elizabeth Ann Quirino

Elizabeth Ann Quirino

Elizabeth Ann Quirino, based in New Jersey, is a journalist, food writer and member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). She blogs about Filipino home cooking and culinary travels to the Philippines on her site

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