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The traditional Friday menu consists of mongo and fish (paksiw, escabeche, or tinapa with salted eggs). As a concession to the younger generation, a pot of beans or a dish of pasta may replace the mongo but no meat is served as a main dish on this day.
At any rate, the budget-conscious housewife deserves a respite, if only for one day of the week, from her daily struggle to stretch her food allowance to the limit. By following tradition of serving meatless dishes on Friday, she does not have to rack her brains planning a menu that is both within her budget and acceptable to her family.
A meatless dish does not mean using fish alone. Other alternatives for meat are eggs (which can be prepared in many different ways), legumes or beans and pasta made with cheese and milk to make it protein-rich. Fish, however, is always the first choice of most housewives when do not want to use meat, for fish, being light, is a welcome change from the usual rich heavy meat dishes. Unfortunately, fish and other sea foods are no longer so cheap as before. Even the lowly galonggong and dalagang bukid now cost P5 to P7 a kilo. Many varieties of fish which are in great demand cost of much as meat, while large shrimps and prawns cost more than beef tenderloin. To get the most out of the money that you can spend on fish, you must learn to do two things: how to buy them wisely and how to cook them so that they will be acceptable to your family, specially when they are not over fond of fish. Perhaps these suggestions would help.
But fish in your neighborhood market where you will find more varieties and at wider price range. Go to market early for in these days the supply of fish, specially from the deep seas, is rather on the short side. If you are not a working housewife, go to the market often if not everyday, to buy fish and vegetables. Before buying anything, go around first, to compare the prizes. Don't be afraid or ashame to bargain but don't reduce the prize of the vendor to half. Because cooking oil has more than doubled in price, learn to cook fish without using any or just very little cooking oil. Trim off the fat from the pork you buy, render into lard, and use this fat for sauteeing fish and vegetables.
Do not overcook fish. It is done as soon as its flesh can be flaked with a fork. Cook just enough fish one meal, for reheating left-over develops an undesirable strong fish odor.
Always serve a fish dish, even the lowly paksiw or tinola, with a flourish, never with an excuse. Take some effort to fry rice, with eggs, or prepare a filling dessert.
Now that the tomatoes are plentiful and cheap, prepare plenty of sauce for the fish first, drop it into the tomato sauce and let simmer in the sauce until done. Serve while hot.
Fuss with fish, that is, give more time and effort when you buy, cook, and serve fish, to make it more palatable, more attractive. The trouble you take will be repaid when you see your husband and your children enjoy eating fish instead of leaving it on the table.