This is how tinuwang isda is cooked. It is the first dish I learned to cook as a young girl because all I have to do then is simply drop the fish and the panakot (or spices) in the boiling water, then wait for a few more minutes and presto! I 'm done with my cooking.
But that is not the end of the story. When I got older, I learned that the secret to a real good tinuwa is in the fish. Got to have it fresh because it is the fish that will give the soup its distinct taste. When one can afford, one can choose the likes of lapu-lapu , tangigue, mamsa and other big fishes with white meat (mga isda nga hiniwa or sliced fishes). However for us ordinary folks, we can readily settle for smaller fishes like anduhaw or tamarong.
The spices are sliced tomatoes, green onions (although sometimes I used the bulb onions), sili (medium green pepper) and tangad (or lemon grass). Okay, the lemon grass lives up to its name by giving out a lemony scent, but it is the green sili that perfects the aroma and gives the tinuwa that hot sting. How hot it is going to be will depend on the cook’s discretion. A few more sili could be added to make it really HOT! One could stop there already. But other people would like to add ginger. And then, for the true blue Bisaya, lukot (or sea weed) is added to complete the dish.
Actually one can make a hundred and one variations by simply adding some vegetables here and there, the most common vegetables of which are kamunggay and agbati. However most often people would prefer to keep it very simple, so that only the flavor of the fish will be the most dominant feature. This simple dish is actually a favorite in all social classes. The only difference would lie in the choice of fishes. Otherwise, it is a leveler of sorts. For a Bisaya “makalipay ug maayo ang makahigop ug init nga sabaw aron panington ug bugbog” (sipping hot soup can give happiness to a Bisaya, especially when one breaks out in sweats). I am not sure if I have translated it correctly. But just try to get the gist. Thanks!