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The ‘pabasa’ is a chanting ritual, a time-honored tradition in the Philippines during the Holy Week. Also, called “pasyon”, it refers to the passion of Jesus. This is a story-telling event where the passion of Christ is retold via songs sung by a community choir.
In Tarlac where I grew up in, the verses were sung in Capampangan . Today, the ‘pabasa’ is sung in several dialects like Tagalog, Ilocano, Waray, Pangasinense.
After attending the pabasa in our neighborhood, we sat down to dinner at home and there was always a large, grilled sweet-flavored tilapia mom cooked for Good Friday. The fish was the hallmark of our fasting and abstaining from meat that day.
This baked fish dish is an adaptation from the grilled fish my mom prepared. Instead of a large whole tilapia, I baked these fillets. The result was a wholesome, flavorful casserole of citrusy flavors. This is an Asian In America recipe and serves 2 or up to 4.
Tilapia fish fillets - 2 to 3 pounds, boneless
vegetable or corn oil - 6 Tablespoons, divided, use 3 Tablespoons to marinate fish
lemon - 1 whole sliced
juice from a lemon - 1 Tablespoon
tomatoes - 2 large, sliced
white onion - 1 whole, sliced
fish sauce or Filipino 'patis - 1 Tablespoon
salt - 1/2 teaspoon
freshly ground black pepper powder - 1 teaspoon
fresh chopped parsley - 1/2 cup, for garnish
vegetable broth - 1/2 cup
boiled jasmine white rice - for serving
paprika powder - 1/2 teaspoon, for marinating the fish
whole black pepper corns - 1 teaspoon, for marinating the fish
Pre-marinate the fish fillets for 20-25 minutes before cooking. Pierce the fillets with a fork. Add the 3 tablespoons cooking oil, lemon juice, fish sauce or ‘patis’, chopped onions, paprika, salt, black pepper powder and black pepper corns. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Prepare an oven-safe deep pan, about 9 x 13 inches or any casserole container where the fish fillets will fit. Brush the pan with the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil.
Arrange the fish fillets next to each other on the pan. Do not overlap the fillets or the bottom part that’s hidden will not cook well. Place the sliced tomatoes and lemon pieces on the side of the fish. Pour the broth on the fish. Cover with foil. Bake at a preheated oven 350 F degrees for 25 minutes. When done, remove from oven and uncover. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve hot with boiled white rice. Sprinkle juice of a lemon all over the fish just before serving.
Cook's comments: if tilapia is not available, feel free to use any other white fish fillet for this recipe.
Elizabeth Ann Quirino, based in New Jersey is a journalist and author of the “How to Cook Philippine Desserts: Cakes and Snacks” Cookbook. She is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and blogs about Filipino home cooking on her site AsianInAmericaMag.com.
More articles from Elizabeth Ann Quirino