"Kusina" = Kitchen; "Manang" = older sister

A Filipina's unabashed chronicle of her adaptations in the American kitchen. Includes step-by-step photos on how to make pan de sal, ensaymada, pan de coco, siopao, hopia, pandelimon, pianono, atsara, crema de fruta,etc., and if you are lucky, you will find videos too!

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Laing (using Haddock and Collard Greens)

I always have the craving for laing when I feel like going mostly vegetarian (mostly because I am and never will be a pure vegan), usually when I want to lose some weight.

However, being too far from Asian stores, and actually never really finding the dehydrated taro leaves in this state, I looked at some of the greens available in the grocery store and felt them with my fingertips, trying to imagine their consistency in comparison with fresh taro leaves. The collard greens seemed close enough...and I started my quest in finding a good substitute for taro leaves in cooking laing.

I have friends who have tried fiddleheads for this mainly-veggie dish, paired with pork. But for some reason, I get dizzy eating fiddleheads. It must have some component that did not agree with me.

I also have cooked spinach haddock laing, although it was heavier on haddock, so it was like a marriage between fish chowder and laing, using coconut milk instead of milk or cream. It was one of the recipes I submitted to Hannaford when they interviewed me for the "Food Lover's Favorite" column in fresh magazine.

But I really wanted a leafy type of veggie to make this dish with. Collard greens seemed like a good substitute.

I am posting here a procedure that I think will give me a better outcome. When I tried cooking this, I did not realized that the collard greens took a lot of time to cook to the tenderness I desired, and in effect, the fish was overcooked, and the coconut milk almost turned all the way to oil (I want it to reach only the creamy stage, not oily). So with the following revision in the procedure, I hope to next time cook this again, hoping that the results will be what I had hoped to achieved. Because after the "getting-to-know-you" stage (I admit I was not too fond of the veggie at first, because it somewhat left a subtle hint of bitterness, maybe because it was not fully cooked), I have come to love the taste of it on the subsequent days when I had it for lunch.

1 bunch collard greens, cut horizontally in strips (separate the hard stems from the greens)
3 tbsp oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 onion, slilced
3 tbsp (roughly) equivalent slices of ginger root
1 pound haddock, sliced (or you may purchase chowder cut;they are cheaper)
1 cup water (or enough to half cook the greens)
1 can premium coconut milk
3 tbsp patis (fish sauce)
salt and pepper to taste


In a wok, sautee the ginger and garlic in hot oil. Follow with onions and cook until translucent. Add patis and let sizzle. Add 1 cup water and the stems. Let boil for about 5 minutes. Add the greens and stir. Let boil until just past half-cooked (I'd say about 10 minutes). You may have to add some more water to make sure it does not dry up. Add the coconut milk and let boil for about 5 minutes uncovered. Add the fish cuts and let cook for about two minutes or so (do not overcook). Enjoy with plain rice.


  1. My wife let me tasted the laing in Bicol hen we went there last month..

  2. What a brilliant idea. We love collard greens, i prepare them the southern way. Have you tried mustard greens in your sinigang? if you haven't give it a try. For some reason the mustard greens compliments w/ the sinigang flavor.

  3. Isn't it possible to cook the collar green from water first and then just add the rest of the ings when the CG is cooked aready? That way, the fish wont be overcooked and the coco milk wont be oily but creamy.. thanks for sharing doc..

  4. I don't think I've tasted laing before but the ingredients all look good to me! Something new to try.

  5. In my hometown I remember my aunt cook the stem (?) of the taro, with coconut milk and blue crabs. And I love it. Are they close to taste? I don't remember eating this laing dish.

  6. Joops, did you like it? I hope you did! I can't even get my husband to try it...

    TGL, thanks for the idea on mustard greens! I will try that next time I cook sinigang.

    rose, maybe I can approach it that way, too. You should know! You came from the experts in ginataan...haha!

    TN, If you really are intent on re-tracing your Filipino roots through food, you should at least taste laing (it might be an acquired taste, so let someone else prep it and you try a little bit at first).

    Ebie, honestly, I have almost forgotten how laing with taro tastes like, but I am desperate to find a subtitute. Once the collard greens were fully cooked (like when reheated the second and third times), I loved it and I was hooked! I am definitely gonna make this again.

  7. MMMM.....I love this combination of flavours!! So delicious!

  8. Hi Manang,
    I love laing! My grandma used to make it and I remember her telling me it was a laborious process. If I can find frozen taro leaves here, would that be good?
    Mind you, I'm not opposed to collard greens - never tried them but I am always open to trying anything (except snails).

  9. Hi Sophie,
    It is indeed a good combination, and a lot of Filipinos are crazy for this veggie dish.

    Hi Anonymous!
    I think the frozen ones will be good since they have full flavors, although I am not sure whether the dehydration process of taro leaves actually do something to better them...Go ahead and try that! Or you can also try collard greens, at least you are sure of the freshness.
    haha...you don't like snails? I do!!!

  10. After I tried some braised collared greens in a local restaurant, I thought it would be a great substitute for dahon ng gabi in laing. I searched for it online, and sure enough, somebody thought of it already. Thanks for the recipe. I have one question though. I always knew the dahon ng gabi is supposed to be dried first before cooked in laing. How come we don't need to dry the collared greens?


  11. what is collard greens in tagalog?

  12. hi anonymous,
    I am not aware of any equivalent of this in the Philippines so I do not know. SOrry.

  13. Hi i was just wondering if collard greens is a better substitute for taro leaves rather than spinach leaves? Thanks..

    1. Hi, I would think so, as collard greens cook longer. If you use spinach, you will have to cook the coconut sauce first then just almost blanch the spinach leaves.

  14. Tagalog word for Collard Green is Berdeng Kuwilyo. Lol


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