In Samar, tinapa is a famous cuisine

Tinapa or smoked fish can be found almost anywhere in the country, making it one of the easiest choices for lunch or dinner.

But in the town of Calbayog in Samar, tinapa is a famous cuisine served on special occasions and given as pasalubong for family and friends.

There is one store in particular in Calbayog that surely won’t disappoint tinapa lovers: Pingping’s. In fact, Pingping’s is so famous that the local government in Calbayog decided to place a “Tinapa Producers” marker right in front of their store, which is located along Roño Street in Barangay Matobato.

Founded in 1983 by Guadalupe “Pingping” De Guzman, Pingping’s has become Calbayog’s most popular tinapa brand. But when Pingping passed away in 2015, her children took over the business.

One of Pingping’s children, Guada De Guzman-Abrera, decided to turn the brand into a one-stop-shop of pasalubong for tourists who want to taste the different specialties of Samar.

SEALED. Vacuum packaging of tinapa. Photo courtesy of Pingping.

Some of Samar’s highly regarded products that can be found in his store are corioso cookies, tahong crackers, locally sourced honey, and other fish and dried products.

Although there is now more than one person running Pingping’s, De Guzman-Abrera ensures the same quality taste that Calbayognons have enjoyed since its inception.

Abrera recalled how her mother ran the business at the time, saying all she wanted was other people to taste her tinapa and not necessarily make money.

The great pleasure of niya matikman niya. Kahit walang siyang tubu-in, kahit malugi siya, okay lang. Basta mamake-sure lang niya na quality talaga ‘yung fish niya“said Abrera.

(All she ever wanted was for other people to get a taste of her tinapa. If even if that meant she wouldn’t get any profit from it, even if it meant a loss to her. company. She just tried to make sure that the quality of the fish she was selling was there.)

But what exactly sets Pingping’s tinapa apart from the rest? It has a reputation for only selling freshly made tinapa. Its use of wood chips instead of pieces of wood to smoke the fish also gives the fish a richer color and flavor.

GOLDEN. Tinapa while they are smoked. Photo courtesy of Pingping.
The Pingping Process

Fishermen usually go to the sea to start fishing as early as 3 a.m. Then, around 6 a.m., Styrofoam boxes filled with fresh fish arrive at Pingping for sorting.

They then wash the fish thoroughly, carefully remove the innards, and make sure the stomachs are not damaged in the process.

After cleaning the fish, they boil them in salted water, dry them, arrange them on a kaping or a wooden tray, then start the smoking process, which takes about 30-45 minutes.

While other tinapa sellers use bangus or milkfish, De Guzman-Abrera said they only use hasa-hasa and buraw or mackerel.

“I have already asked my mother why the others used the scad or the chano. She told me that mackerel has a much tastier piece of meat and can last for days, ”De Guzman-Abrera told Rappler in a mixture of waray and English.

Abrera said it was important to remove everything, including the black parts of the intestine, to prevent the build-up of odors, mold and worms. This is one of the reasons they don’t use tamban (round scad) or bangus (milkfish) to make tinapa.

“If you’ve ever seen a round scab, you’ll notice that you can’t remove everything, including the intestines, because the stomach will be damaged. But you have no choice but to cleanse the stomach, so it would end up damaged, ”she said.

“It’s the same with the chano. Because it has a small mouth, you will have a hard time cleaning it. And the head of a chano is usually cut off in two days, ”she added.

Even if there are only two or three rotten fish in a Styrofoam box, they will have to throw out the entire batch to avoid spoiling the rest.

However, they also use tamban or sardinella, which is relatively cheaper for them, and more affordable for customers, according to Abrera.

De Guzman-Abrera said they source their fish only in the city, as a longer travel time causes the fish to bloat. This also allows him to support local fishermen in Calbayog at the same time.

As Pingping’s does not use preservatives, they decline offers to export their tinapa to avoid compromising the product.

While travel restrictions affected the company at the start of the pandemic, De Guzman-Abrera said they could easily recover as food is a “necessity.”

VARIETY. Other delicacies of Samar sold at Pingping. Photo courtesy of Pingping.
Tips for purchasing

If you want to buy fresh produce, you can choose box-packed ones, which can last up to two weeks inside the refrigerator or five days outside the refrigerator.

For a longer shelf life, you can opt for vacuum seals which can last for six to three months, depending on how much remains in batch after consumption.

You can buy the Pingping 3 tinapa for P100 for hasa-hasa and buraw, while mackerel can be purchased at P50 each.

Depending on the weather, mackerel can go up to 55P per piece during habagat and up to 45P in good weather. – Rappler.com

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