At our recent 3-day family reunion, our families did nothing else but eat, chat and take photos. This past weekend, when we got together, we gorged on huge meals, both Filipino and American dishes, with a Chinese banquet thrown in for good measure just before everyone hit the road again.
After our whole clan flew back to their homes, I knew I still needed to feed my family here in the house, but it had to be something light and easy.
If you haven’t had tuyo yet in your life, let me tell you what it’s all about. In the Philippines, food preservation is a craft that has been mastered by generations due to the extreme heat in the tropics. Salted fish is one example. The dried fish or “tuyo” (say “too-you”), a Pilipino word which literally translates to the word ‘dry’, is really a ‘poor man’s dish’. But over the years, this tiny dried herrings, preserved in plenty of salt, has made its way to many dinner tables of Filipinos. I consider it sheer comfort food when I can enjoy fried tuyo with a bowl of sinangag (garlic rice), sunny side eggs and fresh tomato slice for breakfast.
Over the past years, new recipes emerged in the Philippines where the salty tuyo was preserved in bottles of olive oil, garlic and chilies. This method opened the door for bottled tuyo to be exported from the Philippines to the USA and other countries. Bottled tuyo has given many Filipinos overseas a chance to thwart their homesickness by relishing the salty, savory fish and be reminded of this simple delicacy from home.
It wasn’t hard to come up with a Pasta and Tuyo concoction. Once the minced garlic was sizzling in the hot oil, I immediately tossed in the cherry tomatoes and flaked tuyo with a few tablespoons of white wine to dash the ‘fishy’ after taste. After a few minutes of reducing the wine to make sure I had achieved the right savory flavor, I tossed in the fresh spinach and the cooked pasta. I let the simmering extra virgin olive oil encase the thin pasta noodles till they glistened with a pearly sheen. The combined aroma of garlic and olive oil was a heady invitation all around the house.
I could not believe how such a little bottle of tuyo could give so much joy to our family meal, even after some serious food binging from the holidays.
Pasta with Filipino Tuyo and Vegetables: Herring in Oil
- 16 ounces (1 lb) spaghetti pasta cooked in water according to package directions
- 4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic peeled, minced
- 220 g bottled tuyo (dried herring in olive oil) flaked, include 1-2 Tablespoons of the olive oil from bottled Filipino tuyo
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes sliced in halves (or use 2 cups chopped large tomatoes)
- 2 Tablespoons white wine
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup reserve some from the boiled spaghetti pasta pasta water
- 2 to 3 cups fresh baby spinach washed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper powder
- 1 whole lemon for the juice
- Cook the spaghetti pasta noodles in water according to package directions. After about 11 to 12 minutes, drain the pasta from the water. Run the pasta noodles through hot water to prevent them from sticking. Keep pasta on a colander till ready to add to the rest of the ingredients.
- In a large skillet, over medium high heat, add the extra virgin olive oil. After 1 to 2 minutes, once oil is hot, add the minced garlic, tuyo (bottled herring), tomatoes and white wine. Continue cooking for 8 minutes more.
- Add the fresh spinach leaves and the cooked spaghetti pasta to the tuyo-tomato mix in the skillet. Incorporate the mixture well so that the olive oil and tuyo flakes encase the noodles. If noodle dish gets dry, add about 1/4 cup pasta water to moisten dish.
- Season with salt and black pepper powder. Sprinkle lemon juice all over (optional). Serve the pasta dish while piping hot.
- Cook's comments: if tuyo is not convenient, use canned sardines in olive oil for this recipe. Check the bottled tuyo for spicy flavors or amount of chilies. If spicy flavors are not to your liking, omit adding the chilies from the bottled tuyo (or canned sardines).
- Recipe notes: feel free to use other types of pasta preferred. This is a forgiving recipe and you can adjust or substitute ingredients to suit individual tastes.
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