Gata. Ginataan. This is any dish that has coconut cream or coconut milk dish. Gulay in turn is anything that is a vegetable. Coming from the Philippines, it must be rather obvious that we have a lot of dishes where coconuts are part of the recipe. One of the main coconut milk-infused dishes that I love is Ginataang Gulay. I have seen it with so many kinds of vegetable combinations but what I loved the most is the combination of squash (kalabasa) and string beans (sitaw).
Just like any kid, I used to pout secretly when the dinner was something vegetable. It was a staple then to pair fried fish with vegetables as it is cheap and nutritious. But I didn’t mind much when it was a dish with squash. I actually find it comforting. It can just be squash simply sautéed (ginisa) with onions, garlic and seasoned with Filipino soy sauce and I am all set. I found out later that there was a better version, one that was the squash mixed in with long beans and swimming in creamy coconut milk. The velvety texture of the coconut milk marries perfectly with the sweetness of the squash and beans, this is definitely one of my comfort foods.
500 g Squash, peeled and cubed
500 g String beans, cut into 2 inch strips
250 g pork, cubed (optional) + 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup Filipino soy sauce (suggested brand, Marca Pina or Silver Swan)
1 cup water
3 cloves garlic
1 small can of coconut milk (5.5 fl oz or 165 mL)
salt and pepper to taste
1. Render the fat from the pork by placing the pork cubes in the pot with 1/4 cup water. Wait for water to evaporate and for the pork fat to render. Remove excess fat. Maintain enough fat for sautéing onions and garlic.
2. Saute onions and garlic. Add the soy sauce and simmer for a minute.
3. Add the water and let boil then add the squash and string beans and coconut milk. Stir well and let simmer, stirring occasionally until almost done. This should be about 5 – 10 minutes, depending on how crisp you want the squash and the beans to be. I rather like them soft and it takes me about 10 minutes.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Don’t be liberal with the salt as the soy sauce is already salty.
5. Serve warm paired with steamed rice and fried fish.