Eating fish is green

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CHIT JUAN

CHIT JUAN

“Communities with more fish species are more productive and more resilient to rising temperatures and temperature swings, according to a new study.”—Science Daily (www.sciencedaily.com).

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Yes, going green does not mean just planting trees and living an eco-friendly lifestyle. Even eating the right kind of fish increases biodiversity in the seas and contributes to marine species being more resilient. It takes a diverse community whether on earth or in water to help heal the world and save the seas.

I was at a lunch meeting a few days ago and a colleague exclaimed, “I don’t like fish. It makes me feel I’m on abstinence. But I love fish, especially the deep sea kind, not the farmed varieties. As we all know farmed varieties feed on fish meal and sometimes, even spoiled doughnuts! Or wasted doughnuts that you did not buy at ‘buy one take one’ at end of day end up as fish food. And that fish will be artificially sweet but not healthy to eat. So, I know when to eat fish.”

On flights to and from Manila I ask what fish they are serving. I am not partial to Cream Dory. So I choose chicken (if the only other choice is Dory) even if I know it is not pastured or free range. When the flight comes from other Asian cities chances are you may get snapper or grouper, not dory. I choose chicken, which may be the lesser evil.

It’s tricky to eat fish in restaurants (usually imported farmed Sea Bass or farmed salmon) unless you are in a provincial town like Iloilo where they have Managat or other local varieties. In Sulu, they have lots of deep sea fish. Or Tawi-Tawi. But who goes to Sulu and Tawi-Tawi often? I remember seeing styro boxes of fish being loaded on the turbo prop plane going to Zamboanga from Tawi-Tawi. These fish will end up live and swimming in the Chinese restaurants in Makati, I thought to myself.

In General Santos, we see a lot of tuna. Or what’s left after they ship the best ones to Japan. That ends up in your sashimi in Tsukiji Tokyo. Or ends up as Kinilaw in Cagayan de Oro, flavored or soured with TabonTabon, making the dressing milkier than usual. Japan wants them a certain size that has less mercury. Any bigger than their specs means the fish has swam longer and has more mercury in its meat. Any smaller and the fish may end up in cans of tuna.

In Cebu, we look for Danggit. And this is the sustainable fish. We see it as fried fish in the hotel breakfast buffet and we see it being sold as pasalubong (presents) at the airports. Reminder: do not put it in your handcarry. Check them in. We carry them in ECHOstore—from the typhoon survivors in Bantayan Island.

Unlike my friend for whom eating fish is a sacrifice, my family raised us on more fish, rather than beef or pork. So we were taught early in life how to eat fish to avoid getting the bones stuck in your throat (Tip: eat a banana, and it may go away with the banana my mother says). We knew the difference of eating or dressing a hasahasa vs. a bangus vs. Talimusak. It’s like a lesson you keep for life. Knowing which fish you eat the belly of, or totally avoid.

Last weekend we got invited to a Slow Lunch (heirloom recipes served) in San Pedro, Laguna. Our host served Tulingan, sinaing style or steamed in coconut milk and kamias (souring agent or fruit). It was beautiful. My sister has mastered doing Sinaing na Tulingan but with sun dried kamias. Another Batangas specialty even if we are not from Batangas. It’s an acquired taste, but it’s definitely good!

We must try other fish dishes if we are to eat green and help in biodiversity. Fish is not just fish fillet or tilapia and bangus. We must look for other species so fisherfolk will help save other varieties. Fish is not just Daing na Bangus (famous dried milkfish viand) or rellenong bangus. Experiment with other species. Help marine life be resilient towards warming temperatures.

Just like other tenets of Slow Food, Slow Fish means eating a variety of fish and served in many ways. I love Paksiw (fish stewed in native vinegar) and love it a few days after, but fried crisp—it has that sourness in a fried state which is different. I love Sinigang, Inihaw (grilled) and most of all nothing beats frying fresh fish. Just rub with a little salt and fry. Eat with plain steaming hot rice and a side salad of fresh tomatoes with cilantro and patis (fish sauce).

Get to know other fish. Not just the fillet or bangus belly. Be part of the Slow Fish movement and save the seas. What fish will you try today?

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Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra ,Salcedo Village, Podium, Centris QC mall, Davao, Cebu City, Iloilo and Antipolo City. She also is Chair of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates and NGOs on sustainability, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at puj@echostore.ph.

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