I was rummaging the freezer this morning when I happened upon an odd package. I was puzzled as to what the package contained and when I looked in…Ahhh, frozen stingray…the wonder of freezers. I remember buying this a few weeks back thinking of making Kinunot but I was only able to boil it and didn’t have the time to cook it…so I had to chuck it in the freezer and wait for the right time to make this dish that I remember eating when I was young. Now that I have all the time in my hands, I was at leisure to cook this dish that I used to love when I was a growing girl back in my hometown in Bicol. I don’t know if Kinunot is ever cooked in other regions of the country, but I’m sure Mama Miti could make one mean Kinunot.
What is Kinunot? Kinunot is a dish made out of Stingray (Pagi) or Shark (Pating) cooked in coconut milk which is boiled until we render oil from the milk. It is lightly seasoned with salt and peppercorns. Malunggay (Moringa Oleifera Lamk) is added for its mild flavour, vitamin content and luscious green colour. Now, being Bicolana, I am supposed to add some chili to make the dish ‘fiery’…but my Bicolano blood is laying low nowadays and I have been eating less chili.
Whenever I am in my regular scouring of the market, I would sometimes see shark being sold at the fish monger’s but I refrained from buying them because I couldn’t remember which type of shark I should get. My good ‘ol Mama Miti told me once that I have to be careful buying shark because if I get the wrong one, I would end up with a mapanghi (pee-smelling) kinunot. And for the life of me, I couldn’t remember whether it is the snub-nosed or the pointy-nosed shark that I should purchase. So out of fear, I restrained myself from procuring shark, lest I end up smelling-up the kitchen of pee. When I chanced upon these lovely stingrays, I was ecstatic….a kinunot cooking challenge!
1 kg pagi (stingray), cut into small pieces
1 ‘hand’ ginger, crushed
For the kinunot:
1 onion, chopped finely
1 liter coconut milk
1/4 cup vinegar
siling haba (chili)
bird chili, if desired
Boil pagi in water seasoned with salt, ginger and peppercorns until tender. Set aside. When cool, flake the meat. (My mom never let me take out the cartilage and ligaments because they were healthy to eat too.)
In a saucepan, put about 3/4 liter of coconut milk with the garlic, onions, ginger and peppercorns and let simmer stirring constantly to avoid the milk from curdling. When coconut milk thickens, add flaked pagi and let simmer some more until the liquid is reduced. Season with salt.
When the oil is starting to come out, add the remaining 1/4 liter of coconut milk, vinegar and chili. Let boil until the liquid is reduced again, add the malunggay leaves and let boil one more time. Serve with hot steamed rice.
Note: I like to eat this the next day after reheating. I think the taste is more incorporated after storing for a day.