We spent four days in Vermont cooking and eating
with our dear friends who asked the same question (Mmmm…What’s in this?)
and got the same answer (Fish sauce!)
every time something was served to them.
It took a few days to convince them that fish sauce definitely is a major player in Filipino cuisine. Often used as a salt substitute, fish sauce adds a new dimension to the salty flavor, which by the time the dish is cooked is hardly detectable as an actual fish-based essence.
Case in point would be the typical breakfast side of sautéed eggs. Ginisang itlog would simply be considered an omelet if not for the fish sauce, which is added during the process of sautéing the onions and tomatoes. By the way, the smell of onions, tomatoes and fish sauce is unmistakably Filipino. All I need to do is close my eyes and I am back in my nanny’s kitchen. I am ten years old, waiting for the day I would be handed the ladle.
We begin by chopping up some tomatoes and onions. Ripe, unrefrigerated tomatoes work best.
They are sauteed in oil and 1/2 teaspoon of Thai fish sauce
(less if using Filipino fish sauce) for every four eggs until soft.
The consistency of the tomatoes and onions is key here.
They must be mushy and liquefied before the eggs are added.
Beaten eggs are added and stirred into the mixture on medium heat.
Remove from heat while eggs are still runny. It will continue cooking as it rests.
They said the dish was called Delicious and that’s exactly what it was. One morning in our Vermont ski rental, the air was filled with the flavors of tomato, jalapeno and feta because of this colorful palette of reds, greens and yellows.
“It’s not really called Delicious, we just named it that,” our friends said. Upon further investigation I discovered that the dish was actually called shakshuka, a North African dish popular in Israel and in the Middle East.
Tomatoes are stewed and reduced with the addition of jalapeno and feta, and then eggs are poached in the mixture as it spends a few minutes in the oven.
We served it with rice but recipes online sometimes call for tortillas or pita. I think it’s excellent on its own, and definitely a dish to share. I love pretty food!
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 2 jalapeños, seeded, finely chopped
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
- 2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, juices reserved
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup coarsely crumbled feta
- 8 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- Warm pita bread
Preheat oven to 425°. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and jalapeños; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Add chickpeas, paprika, and cumin and cook for 2 minutes longer.
Add crushed tomatoes and their juices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle feta evenly over sauce. Crack eggs one at a time and place over sauce, spacing evenly apart. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, 5–8 minutes. Garnish with parsley and cilantro. Serve with pita for dipping.