Pesang isda recipe (Pinoy original): Fish with ginger & sayote

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If you like fish, then you’ll enjoy this Pinoy-style fish in a tasty ginger broth!

Pesang isda is an adapted Chinese-influenced dish comprising fish, rice wash, and ginger.

This recipe is simple and easy to follow, as this is mainly a ginger stew with a strong fishy flavor!

The fish commonly used for this recipe is dalag (murrel) or hito (catfish); however, you can actually use any type of fish for this recipe. One perfect substitute is tilapia.

Aside from fish, the recipe also includes heaps of sliced ginger to counter the strong fishy smell of the fish and also to act as the main driver of the taste in this dish.

Also included are peppercorns (very important since this will give another layer of pungency to the dish), sayote (squash), napa cabbage or cabbage, and pechay.

Pesang Isda Recipe (Pinoy Original)

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Pesang isda recipe (Pinoy original)

Joost Nusselder
Pesang isda is an adapted Chinese-influenced dish of fish, rice wash, and ginger. It's a simple fish stew dish you'll love.
4 from 2 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Main Course
Cuisine Filipino
Servings 4 people
Calories 450 kcal


  • 2 lbs lapu-lapu (or other white fish of your choice) cleaned and cut into serving pieces
  • 2 thumb-sized ginger pieces peeled and sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic crushed and peeled
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • ½ tsp peppercorns
  • 2 pcs sayote (pear squash) peeled, seeds removed and cut into wedges
  • 1 small Napa cabbage washed, trimmed, and quartered
  • 4 stalks green onions washed, trimmed, and cut into 1 1/2 inch length
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 5 cups water (or rice water is better)
  • Salt to taste


  • Sprinkle lapu-lapu with salt. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.
  • In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute garlic, onion, and ginger in vegetable oil until onion is almost translucent.
  • Add water and bring to a boil. Add fish sauce and peppercorns.
  • Let it simmer for 5 minutes to blend the flavors in the soup.
  • Add fish and sayote. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until the sayote is almost cooked.
  • Add Napa cabbage and green onions. Simmer for about 3 minutes or just until wilted but still crisp.
  • Remove from heat. Serve hot with rice.


In this recipe for pesang isda, I used lapu-lapu. You can substitute this with your favorite choices of fish, like tilapia, mahi-mahi, bangus, and more.


Calories: 450kcal
Keyword Fish, seafood
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Check out this video by YouTuber Localife Philippines to see how pesang isda is made:

Cooking tips

For the broth itself, this pesang isda recipe would tell you to use rice wash so that the broth will be white and more on the textured side. If, however, you don’t want the rice wash, plain water will do.

To get the rice washing water ready, simply wash your rice and let the water run until it’s no longer cloudy. This is the water you’ll use for your pesang isda.

For more flavor, you can add a fish broth cube or seasoning. Fish sauce adds tons of flavor, but you can add miso sauce too to make it more aromatic.

Always boil the cabbage, squash, and firm vegetables first. Boil the leafy greens (like bok choy) last so they’re not mushy.

Substitutions & variations

When it comes to the fish, you can use lapu-lapu. But any white fish will do, especially tilapia, mahi-mahi, bangus, and even traditional mudfish works. Red snapper (maya-maya) is another good choice.

All common fish varieties work since the ginger broth makes the fish taste very good.

For this recipe, the fish is boiled, but some recipes call for fried fish which is then added to the soup. Another version of this dish substitutes the fish for chicken (pesang manok).

You can also add other vegetables, like chayote, okra, string beans, onion, leeks, and even potatoes.

If you want a bit more sourness in your pesang isda, you can add calamansi or kalamansi juice. Just be careful not to add too much, as it’ll make the dish too sour.

If you want a bit more spice, you can add siling labuyo or chili peppers. You can also add green chili peppers (siling pangsigang) for more flavor.

And lastly, for a bit more thickness, you can add a cornstarch slurry. Just mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water and add it to the dish.

Pesang Isda

How to serve and eat

Pesang isda broth is best served with steamed rice on the side or some golden brown quartered potatoes.

You should eat the dish with a spoon and fork. Place the fish and ginger broth into a serving bowl and as you remove fish pieces, dip them into the dipping sauce.

This dish is also served with dipping sauce on the side made of miso sauce, fish sauce, or soy sauce.

I like to have either fish sauce (patis) or fish paste (bagoong) as a side dip for added flavor.

You can also have siling labuyo for an even stronger kick to your taste buds!

This dish serves as a viand for both lunch and dinner. Its broth is favored when temperatures are low.

With each spoonful, make sure to include some ginger slices for added flavor!

Pesang Isda Recipe (Pinoy Original)

How to store

After it’s cooled, store leftovers in an airtight container and put it in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Place in a pot or saucepan and turn the stove to medium heat to reheat.

Similar dishes

Fish broth is a popular Filipino dish, and there are many variations of it.

Pescado nilaga is a boiled fish soup with vegetables, while sinigang is a tamarind-based soup.

Paksiw na isda is another boiled fish dish, but this time, it’s cooked in vinegar and spices.

Pangat is daing na bangus (milkfish) cooked in tomato sauce, while relleno is a stuffed milkfish.

Menudo is a different Filipino dish altogether, but it is also a stewed dish with fish as the main ingredient.


Can I use other fish for pesang isda?

Yes, you can use any type of fish for pesang isda. The most common types used are mudfish or red snapper, but you can also use others, like tilapia, catfish, or even salmon.

Can I use chicken instead of fish?

Yes, you can use chicken instead of fish. This dish is then called chicken pesang isda.

What other vegetables can I use for pesang isda?

You can use any type of vegetable you want for pesang isda.

The most common vegetables used are bok choy, cabbage, and sayote squash. You can also use other vegetables like green beans, carrots, or even mushrooms.

Is pesang isda healthy?

Yes, pesang isda is a healthy dish. It’s low in calories and fat, and is a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. The fish is boiled in this recipe, so there’s no frying and extra calories involved.

Make a big pot of pesang isda

Pesang Isda Recipe

Pesang isda is a delicious Filipino fish soup with ginger and vegetables. It’s simple to make and can be served with rice or potatoes.

You can use any type of fish for the dish, and it’s a healthy option as well.

Give this recipe a try the next time you crave a simple fishy soup. It’ll warm you up on rainy days and fill you up on busy weeknights. Enjoy!

Aside from pesang isda, you can also try my pesang manok recipe. Comments and suggestions are very much welcome!

If you want to learn more about pesang isda, then read this article.

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

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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.