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Tilapià

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My family usually consume tilapià once or twice a week. We eat it either fried or sinampalucan. I prefer the former, but the rest of the family loves the latter. Sinampalucang tilapià is a fish broth which has, aside from the fish, sampáloc or tamarind (brought here by the Spaniards from México). In addition as a sour flavoring, the tamarind also gets rid of the lansá or stench of the tilapià.

If I remember correctly, it was former president Ferdinand Marcos who had the tilapià imported from Africa; the fish is not native to the Philippines. Now, it is the country’s second most important food fish for mass domestic consumption next to bañgús or milkfish, which is considered as the pambansáng isdâ. Moreover, the Philippines was ranked as the fourth largest producer of “tilapià world aquaculture” in 1998 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Truly, the tilapià has gone a long way.

Due to strong demand perhaps, a kilo of tilapià costs ₱100.00 (between three to five pieces) in the wet market nowadays. And at the market, one should buy this fish ALIVE to assure of its freshness. Yes, the fish can live for hours out of water. And that fact fascinates me. Whenever I accompany Yeyette to the market, I never tire of watching these fishes in fish stalls gasping for air (or water, I should say), leaping for dear life. I pity them most of the time, and feel glad that I am not a fish. And then I remember a line from Kurt Cobain’s “Something In The Way”: It’s okay to eat fish, ’cause they don’t have any feelings.

Below is a video of Yeyette buying a couple of these fishes who live pitiful lives for the sake of our existence (uh, not for the faint of heart):

After Yeyette chose a couple of tilapià, the fish vendor then hits the fish’s head with a hard object to knock it out of its wits. This keeps the fish from struggling but not actually killing it. Afterwards, these fishes are scaled alive (notice how their fins stiffen in pain!). Then their hasang or gills are cut out. Finally, they are cut into pieces.

But hey — they still survive for a couple of seconds or minutes after being hacked and chopped to death! Many times I’ve felt these chopped fishes still moving inside their plastic bags!

I am so glad I am not a fish (especially a tilapià), although we somehow live a fish-like existence in a capitalistic/imperialistic realm.

Enough about that for now. Here’s an entry of this poor fish from everybody’s favorite, Wikipedia:

Tilapià

Tilapià (pronounced /tɨˈlɑːpiə/) is the common name for nearly a hundred species of cichlid fish from the tilapiine cichlid tribe. Tilapià inhabit a variety of fresh water habitats including shallow streams, ponds, rivers and lakes. Historically they have been of major importance in artisan fishing in Africa and the Levant and are of increasing importance in aquaculture. Tilapià can become problematic invasive species in new warm-water habitats, whether deliberately or accidentally introduced but generally not in temperate climates due to their inability to survive in cool waters, generally below 60 °F (16 °C).

Etymology

The common name tilapià is based on the name of the cichlid genus Tilapià, which is itself a latinization of thiape, the Tswana word for “fish”. Scottish zoologist Andrew Smith named the genus in 1840.

Tilapià go by many names. The moniker “St. Peter’s fish” comes from the story in the Christian Bible about the apostle Peter catching a fish that carried a shekel coin in its mouth, though the passage does not name the fish. While the name also applies to Zeus faber, a marine fish not found in the area, a few tilapià species (Sarotherodon galilaeus galilaeus and others) are found in the Sea of Galilee, where the author of the Gospel of Matthew accounts the event took place. These species have been the target of small-scale artisanal fisheries in the area for thousands of years. In some Asian countries including the Philippines, large tilapià go by pla-pla while their smaller brethren are just tilapià.

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