Inun Unan Explained: Origins, Variations, and Health Benefits
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What is inun unan?
Inun-unan is a notable Visayan version of the fish paksiw dish spiced primarily with ginger, as well as onions, shallots, pepper, salt, and sometimes siling haba chilis. Unlike northern paksiw na isda, it does not include vegetables and very little or no water is added to the broth. It is sometimes anglicized as “boiled pickled fish”.
Let’s look at what it is, how it’s cooked, and why it’s so popular.
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In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What Exactly is Inun-unan and How is it Cooked?
- 2 The Roots of Inun-unan: Tracing the Origins of this Iconic Filipino Dish
- 3 Cooking Inun-unan: Tips and Techniques
- 4 Switching it up: Substitutions and Variations on Traditional Inun-unan
- 5 Leftover Inun-unan: How to Keep it Fresh and Delicious
- 6 Is Inun-unan a Healthy Dish?
- 7 Other dishes similar to Inun-unan
- 8 Frequently Asked Questions About Inun-unan
- 8.1 Can I use other ingredients besides pork or seafood?
- 8.2 What is the best way to increase the sour content of inun-unan?
- 8.3 Can I use a metal pot instead of a clay pot?
- 8.4 What is the iconic ingredient in inun-unan?
- 8.5 Can I use milk instead of vinegar in inun-unan?
- 8.6 What is the best way to create a balanced flavor in inun-unan?
- 8.7 What are some common substitutions for ingredients in inun-unan?
- 8.8 What are some tips for cooking inun-unan?
- 9 Conclusion
What Exactly is Inun-unan and How is it Cooked?
Inun-unan (full recipe here) is a popular Filipino dish that is primarily cooked with fish, but can also be made with pork or other seafood. It is a type of paksiw, which means “stewed in vinegar.” Inun-unan is a Visayan version of paksiw, which is a typical everyday dish in the country. The dish is simmered in a mixture of vinegar, ginger, onions, and other vegetables, making it mildly spiced and slightly bitter.
The Recipe: How to Cook Inun-unan
Here is a simple recipe for inun-unan:
- 1 big fish, sliced thinly
- 1/2 cup vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 thumb-sized ginger, sliced thinly
- 1 medium-sized onion, sliced thinly
- 2 pieces eggplant, sliced thinly
- 1/4 cup string beans
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. In a clay pot or metal pot, arrange the fish slices at the bottom.
2. Add the ginger, onions, eggplant, and string beans on top of the fish.
3. Pour in the vinegar and water mixture.
4. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Cover the pot and bring to a boil.
6. Once it starts boiling, lower the heat to the lowest setting and allow it to simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the fish is cooked.
7. Gently turn the fish over to allow the other side to cook.
8. Serve hot with rice.
The Difference Between Inun-unan and Paksiw
While inun-unan and paksiw are both Filipino dishes that are primarily cooked with vinegar, there are some differences between the two. Inun-unan is a Visayan version of paksiw, and it uses a mix of vegetables such as ginger, onions, and eggplant. In contrast, paksiw is cooked with a lot of vinegar and is usually served as a main course dish. Inun-unan, on the other hand, is commonly served as a side dish.
Similar Dishes to Inun-unan
Inun-unan is similar to other Filipino dishes such as paksiw and stewed fish. Here are some other dishes that are similar to inun-unan:
- Pinangat- a Bicolano dish that is cooked with coconut milk
- Paksiw na Isda- a Filipino dish that is cooked with a lot of vinegar
- Pinangat na Isda- a Filipino dish that is cooked with coconut milk and vinegar
The Roots of Inun-unan: Tracing the Origins of this Iconic Filipino Dish
Inun-unan is a traditional Filipino dish that is typically made with fish or pork, vinegar, and vegetables. The word “inun-unan” comes from the Cebuano word “un-unan,” which means “cooked with vinegar.” “Unan,” on the other hand, means “main dish” in Tagalog.
The Popularity of Inun-unan
Inun-unan is a beloved dish in the Philippines, and it is commonly served in households and restaurants across the country. Its simple recipe and easy cooking technique make it a go-to dish for everyday meals. In recent years, inun-unan has gained popularity outside of the Philippines, with many Filipino restaurants around the world adding it to their menus.
Cooking Inun-unan: Tips and Techniques
- Traditionally, inun-unan is cooked in a clay pot, which is believed to enhance the flavor of the dish.
- If you don’t have a clay pot, a metal casserole dish can be used as a substitute.
- Make sure the pot is small enough to fit the fish fillets snugly.
Preparing the Fish
- Inun-unan is usually made with milkfish, but other varieties of fish can be used as well.
- Before cooking, the fish should be cleaned and scaled.
- Make a few diagonal cuts on each side of the fish to allow the marinade to penetrate.
Creating the Marinade
- The marinade is the heart of inun-unan, and it’s what gives the dish its unique flavor.
- The basic marinade consists of vinegar, water, ginger, onions, and salt.
- Other spices and ingredients, such as bay leaves, green onions, and chopped vegetables, can be added to balance the flavor.
- For a spiced version, add a couple of green chilies to the marinade.
- To ensure that the fish absorbs the flavor, allow it to marinate for at least an hour before cooking.
Variations and Substitutions
- Inun-unan is a popular dish in Visayan cuisine, but there are many variations throughout the country.
- Lechon inun-unan is a special version that uses leftover roasted pig instead of fish.
- Paksiw na isda is a similar dish that uses the same cooking technique but with different ingredients.
- Coconut milk can be added to the marinade to create a creamier sauce.
- If you don’t have ginger, you can substitute it with turmeric or galangal.
- If you don’t have vinegar, you can use calamansi juice or tamarind paste instead.
- For a more Asian fusion flavor, add soy sauce and mix it with the marinade.
Switching it up: Substitutions and Variations on Traditional Inun-unan
If you want to try making inun-unan but don’t have all the ingredients, don’t worry! There are plenty of substitutions you can make to create a dish that’s just as delicious:
- Instead of using fish, you can use pork or chicken for a heartier dish.
- If you don’t have vinegar, you can substitute it with lemon or lime juice.
- Soy sauce can be used instead of salt for a slightly different flavor.
- If you don’t have fresh ginger, you can use ground ginger instead.
Adding Additional Flavors
Inun-unan is a great dish to experiment with. Here are some ideas for adding additional flavors:
- Add chopped onions and garlic for a savory kick.
- Bay leaves can be added to the pot while simmering for a fragrant aroma.
- For a sweet and balanced flavor, add a small amount of sugar.
- Fresh vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, and green beans can be added to the pot for a complete meal.
Creating New Dishes with Inun-unan Techniques
Inun-unan is a stewed dish that uses a specific technique to develop its flavors. Here are some other dishes you can create using this technique:
- Paksiw na Bangus: A popular Filipino dish that uses milkfish (bangus) and vinegar to create a sour and salty flavor.
- Adobo: Another iconic Filipino dish that uses a similar cooking technique to inun-unan but with the addition of soy sauce and garlic.
- Lechon Paksiw: This dish uses leftover lechon (roasted pig) and is simmered in a sauce made from vinegar, sugar, and spices.
Switching Up Cooking Methods
Inun-unan is traditionally cooked in a clay pot, but you can use a metal pot or casserole dish if you don’t have one. Here are some other cooking methods to try:
- Steamed Inun-unan: Instead of simmering in a pot, you can steam the fish with the same ingredients for a healthier option.
- Japanese-style Inun-unan: Use miso paste and sake instead of vinegar and soy sauce for a different flavor profile.
Watch Your Calorie Content
Inun-unan is a balanced dish with a lot of flavor, but it can also be high in calories. Here are some tips to help you keep your calorie content in check:
- Use low-fat milk instead of coconut milk to reduce the fat content.
- Use a non-stick pan to reduce the amount of oil needed.
- Serve with steamed rice and fresh vegetables to create a complete and balanced meal.
Inun-unan is a popular Filipino dish that can be adapted to suit your tastes and ingredients. Whether you’re looking to switch up the flavors or try a new cooking method, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this iconic dish.
Leftover Inun-unan: How to Keep it Fresh and Delicious
Here are some helpful tips for storing your leftover inun-unan:
- Allow the dish to cool down to room temperature before storing it.
- Use an airtight container to keep the inun-unan fresh for longer.
- Store the dish in the refrigerator if you plan to eat it within the next few days.
- If you want to keep it for a longer period, you can store it in the freezer.
- Label the container with the date you stored it to keep track of how long it has been in the fridge or freezer.
Reheating Inun-unan: How to Keep the Flavor Intact
When reheating inun-unan, it’s important to do it properly to keep the flavor intact. Here are some tips:
- If the inun-unan is in the freezer, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating it.
- To reheat, place the inun-unan in a pot and add a little water to increase the sauce content.
- Heat the pot on medium heat until it starts to gently simmer.
- Lower the heat to the lowest setting and allow the inun-unan to heat through.
- Be sure to stir the dish occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Using Leftover Inun-unan: Creating New Recipes
If you have leftover inun-unan and want to create a new dish, here are some ideas:
- Use the inun-unan as a filling for a savory pie or empanada.
- Mix the inun-unan with rice and vegetables to create a complete and easy meal.
- Use the inun-unan as a marinade for seafood or pork.
- Slice onions and ginger and add them to the inun-unan to create a new flavor profile.
- Add a little vinegar and mango to the inun-unan to create a fusion dish with a Japanese twist.
Is Inun-unan a Healthy Dish?
Inun-unan is a traditional Filipino dish that is popular in the country. It is a simple recipe that uses a mix of vegetables, pork, and fish, simmered in a sauce made of soy, ginger, and sugar. The dish is commonly served with steamed rice and is a staple food in many households. But the question is, is inun-unan a healthy dish?
Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients used in inun-unan to determine its health content:
- Pork: Inun-unan uses pork as its main protein source. Pork is a good source of protein, but it is also high in fat. To make the dish healthier, you can substitute pork with seafood or lean meat.
- Vegetables: Inun-unan uses a mix of vegetables such as sliced onions, ginger, and string beans. These vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, making them a great addition to any dish.
- Soy sauce: Soy sauce is a common ingredient in many Filipino dishes. It is a good source of protein and is lower in fat compared to other sauces. However, soy sauce is also high in sodium, so it should be used in moderation.
- Sugar: Inun-unan uses sugar to add a sweet taste to the dish. While sugar is not necessarily unhealthy, it should be used in moderation as it can increase the calorie content of the dish.
The Cooking Technique
The cooking technique used in inun-unan is a great start to creating a balanced and healthy dish. The dish is simmered in a clay pot or a metal pot over medium to low heat, allowing the flavors to meld together. This technique enables the dish to be cooked without the need for additional oil, making it a healthier option.
The Nutritional Content
The nutritional content of inun-unan can vary depending on the ingredients used and the cooking technique. However, a typical serving of inun-unan contains:
- Calories: 250-300
- Protein: 20-25g
- Carbohydrates: 10-15g
- Fat: 10-15g
Inun-unan can be a healthy dish if you make some adjustments to the recipe. Here are some tips to make it healthier:
- Use seafood or lean meat instead of pork.
- Use low-sodium soy sauce or substitute it with a healthier sauce.
- Use a small amount of sugar or substitute it with cane sugar or a natural sweetener.
- Add more vegetables to increase the fiber content of the dish.
Other dishes similar to Inun-unan
Paksiw na Isda is a Filipino dish that is similar to Inun-unan. It is a fish dish that is cooked in vinegar and water with ginger, onions, and sliced chili peppers. The dish is usually simmered until the fish is cooked and the sauce has thickened. Some variations of the dish also add soy sauce, sugar, and bay leaves to the mix. The difference between Paksiw na Isda and Inun-unan is that Paksiw na Isda is cooked in a pot, while Inun-unan is traditionally cooked in a clay pot.
Ginataang Isda is another Filipino dish that is similar to Inun-unan. It is a fish dish that is cooked in coconut milk with ginger, garlic, onions, and sliced chili peppers. The dish is usually simmered until the fish is cooked and the sauce has thickened. Some variations of the dish also add vegetables like string beans, eggplant, and squash to the mix. The difference between Ginataang Isda and Inun-unan is that Ginataang Isda uses coconut milk as a base, while Inun-unan uses water and vinegar.
Paksiw na Lechon
Paksiw na Lechon is a popular Filipino dish that is made from leftover roasted pork. The dish is cooked in vinegar and water with garlic, onions, ginger, and sliced chili peppers. Some versions of the dish also add soy sauce, sugar, and bay leaves to the mix. The dish is usually simmered until the sauce has thickened and the pork is tender. The difference between Paksiw na Lechon and Inun-unan is that Paksiw na Lechon uses leftover roasted pork, while Inun-unan uses fresh seafood.
Ginger Steamed Fish
Ginger Steamed Fish is a popular Chinese dish that is similar to Inun-unan. It is a fish dish that is steamed with ginger, garlic, and soy sauce. Some versions of the dish also add vegetables like scallions and cilantro to the mix. The dish is usually served with rice and is a popular main dish in Chinese cuisine. The difference between Ginger Steamed Fish and Inun-unan is that Ginger Steamed Fish is steamed in a metal pot, while Inun-unan is traditionally cooked in a clay pot.
Mango Fish is a popular dish in Thai cuisine that is similar to Inun-unan. It is a fish dish that is cooked in a sweet and sour sauce with mangoes, onions, and bell peppers. Some versions of the dish also add additional ingredients like sugar and fish sauce to the mix. The dish is usually served with rice and is a popular main dish in Thai cuisine. The difference between Mango Fish and Inun-unan is that Mango Fish uses mangoes as a main ingredient, while Inun-unan uses vinegar and water as a base for the sauce.
Japanese Miso Soup
Japanese Miso Soup is a popular dish in Japanese cuisine that is similar to Inun-unan. It is a soup that is made from miso paste, which is a fermented soybean paste. The soup is usually served with tofu, seaweed, and chopped scallions. Some versions of the soup also add additional ingredients like sliced mushrooms and fish. The difference between Japanese Miso Soup and Inun-unan is that Japanese Miso Soup uses miso paste as a base for the soup, while Inun-unan uses vinegar and water as a base for the sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions About Inun-unan
The traditional way of cooking inun-unan involves using a clay pot and simmering the meat or seafood in water and vinegar. The dish is then flavored with a mix of ginger, garlic, and onions, and a balanced amount of soy sauce and salt. The dish is simmered on the lowest heat possible for a long time to allow the flavors to develop.
Can I use other ingredients besides pork or seafood?
Yes, you can use other ingredients besides pork or seafood in inun-unan. Some popular variations include using vegetables like string beans or eggplant, or using fish like bangus or tilapia. You can also add sliced mango to create a sweet and sour flavor.
What is the best way to increase the sour content of inun-unan?
If you want to increase the sour content of inun-unan, you can add more vinegar to the dish. However, it’s important to do this gently and in small increments to avoid overpowering the other flavors.
Can I use a metal pot instead of a clay pot?
Yes, you can use a metal pot instead of a clay pot to cook inun-unan. However, using a clay pot can help to create a more authentic and traditional flavor.
What is the iconic ingredient in inun-unan?
The iconic ingredient in inun-unan is vinegar. It is what gives the dish its sour flavor and helps to balance out the other ingredients.
Can I use milk instead of vinegar in inun-unan?
No, you cannot use milk instead of vinegar in inun-unan. Milk will not provide the same sour flavor that vinegar does, and it will not work well with the other ingredients in the dish.
What is the best way to create a balanced flavor in inun-unan?
To create a balanced flavor in inun-unan, it’s important to measure the ingredients carefully and to allow the dish to simmer on the lowest heat possible for a long time. This will help the flavors to develop and blend together.
What are some common substitutions for ingredients in inun-unan?
Some common substitutions for ingredients in inun-unan include using ginger powder instead of fresh ginger, using white vinegar instead of cane vinegar, and using brown sugar instead of white sugar.
What are some tips for cooking inun-unan?
Some tips for cooking inun-unan include:
- Use a clay pot if possible to create a more authentic flavor.
- Measure the ingredients carefully to create a balanced flavor.
- Simmer the dish on the lowest heat possible for a long time to allow the flavors to develop.
- Allow the dish to cool completely before storing leftovers.
- Try using different meats or seafood to create new versions of the dish.
So, that’s what inun unan is- a Filipino dish made with fish, pork, or seafood, cooked in a mixture of vinegar, water, and spices. It’s a delicious and healthy dish that you can enjoy every day, and now you know how to make it yourself. So, don’t be afraid to try it!
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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.