Apan-apan in the Ilonggo dialect means grasshopper. Back in the days when the verdant fields of rice were still pesticide free, farmers would catch the deluge of grasshoppers infesting the rice crops with a large net.The grasshoppers are then cooked to be eaten as sumsuman( a drink accompaniment)when the farm folks gather to drink at dusk after a hard days work or, as a dish on the family dinner table. With some degree of hesitation I was able to taste this dish many years ago when somebody from Mindanao dropped us a bagful. It was crunchy alright but the discomfort of thinking that you are munching on a grasshopper somehow made the eating experience a bit stressful.
Today, Apan-apan is actually Tangkong(kangkong) leaves and stems simmered in sauteed guinamos(fermented shrimp),garlic,white onions and native vinegar. Because of its sour and salty combination, it is served as an appetizer or as a relish to a sweeter main dish. It is also a perfect accompaniment for hot steaming rice.
Yesterday I cooked Apan-apan for dinner as a pair to baked tilapia.Instead of Tangkong, I used choy sum , an Asian vegetable also known as Chinese flowering cabbage,oil vegetable, and Yow Choy in Cantonese. Instead of the Filpino native vinegar, I experimented on mixing Chinese rice vinegar and malt vinegar. Not bad. The Malt vinegar somehow sweetens the dish and balances the sour and salty dominating flavors.
Here is the recipe:
a bunch of Kangkong or Choy sum stems and leaves cut to about two inches long.
about 4 cloves of finely chopped garlic
sliced white onions
about 11/2 teaspoons of guinamos( bago-ong)
3/4 cup water mixed with rice and malt vinegars(according to taste)
1 .Boils the water/vinegar mixture in a wok or sautee pan.
2. Put the stems and leaves on the pan and set aside when the vegetable have wilted and all the liquid have evaporated.
3. On the same pan, heat the oil and add the garlic and onions and tomatoes.
4. Add the guinamos and stir fry. Add a little water if the mixture becomes too dry.
5.Simmer until all flavors are infused.Inhale the aroma while you wait. But be wary of your mean neighbors who most likely will not like the "smell".Lock your door and have a baseball bat ready just in case.
6. Add the vegetables and mix until all the vegetables are soaked with the oh-so-mouth-watering guinamos sauce.
7. Serve hot or cold.It doesn't matter.Surely you will crave for more rice.