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: