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Gracie Diet Recipe #2: Lex’s Tinapa Cream of Pumpkin Soup


Eat Healthy with this Great Tasting Low Cost Recipe

About two days ago, I messaged Marcia Carvalho of Gracie Barra Georgia. I was raving about the recipe a friend of mine especially tailored for the people in Gracie Barra. Then she said, “I don’t eat pork. Most of us do not since it’s what Master Carlos Gracie Jr. told us.”


I am not about to give up my love for pork, nor will I alienate the non-pork eating members of Gracie Barra. Therefore, as adaptive as cooking and writing should be, and due to a stroke of epiphany in the quest for creating a universal appeal for those who like to eat, but with the exemption of pork, Arvin (author of the recent recipe posted in the website) came up with a great tasting, healthy (and again, can be prepared without burning a hole in anyone’s pocket) recipe.

This recipe was first used by Arvin’s close friend (who is a short acquaintance of mine) when he joined the local auditions for Master Chef Philippines. This cost him less than $3 if I remember it correctly. The authors variation with the addition of spices and what-have-yous can jack up the price to $6, but less than $10 for a great tasting soup is more than a bargain. I think anyone should throw in their $6 for this one.

By the way, Tinapa is smoked fish. I am not sure if this is available in the United States. However, there are suggested variations to this which will do. If you insist on getting the authentic Tinapa, let me know.

What you need:

Kalabasa (Pumpkin)

All purpose cream

Tinapang Galunggong (Mackerel Scad, here’s Market Man’s description) If you don’t have access to this, any smoked fish like Mackerel or trout will do. I really don’t know if salmon would have enough of a kick to get the smoke notes you want in this soup.

Olive oil

Wansuy (Cilantro)


Cayenne Pepper

Habañero powder (optional)


Bay leaf


How to do it:

Fry galunggong over medium heat and enough olive oil to keep the fish happily half submerged in it. Trust me, using olive oil is worth it because you can use it later to finish the dish. Flake fried tinapa once it cools and set aside. Strain oil and set aside. Peel and clean kalabasa and boil with bay leaves and ginger until soft. Don’t season it yet. This is where it can get a bit complicated. If you don’t have a ricer or a blender, smoothening the pumpkin mash can be troublesome. If you do, then use these tools. I didn’t have them at my disposal when I tried my hand at this dish, so I did it the hard way. First, I took out the bay leaves and ginger, strained the boiling liquid and saved it. I mashed the pumpkin in a big bowl with a fork, getting it as smooth as I could. I added it back to the boiling liquid. Then I slowly strained it with a fine mesh strainer. I fully charged my phone in the time I spent straining the soup, that slow. The thing is, a kalabasa is stringy and putting it though a sieve means you’re going to have to work it through. But the creamy texture you get is worth the elbow grease man, I’m telling you.

Put the creamy soup back on the fire and simmer slowly. Add half of the tinapa flakes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add paprika, cayenne pepper and habañero powder to give the soup a kick and enhance the smoky flavor. If you have saffron, not kasubha (find out the world of difference between the two in this fierce post), add it to the dish to take it to a whole new level.

To serve, add a dollop of all purpose cream onto the soup when you put into the serving bowl. This will add contrast to the bright yellow color but also tighten up the soup even more. Top with finely chopped wansoy for a dash of freshness and finish with a healthy teaspoon of the olive oil you fried the tinapa in to really enhance the smoked fish taste.

Some notes:

Now, saffron and habañero powder are very hard to come by for most home cooks. I talked about where I sourced my habañero powder on this post, but saffron is a bit more tricky. If you are, like me, an OFW kid and have relatives in the middle east, or the US try asking them for a small pack of saffron the next time they come home. My cousin got it for me at around 800 pesos ($40) for 10 grams in Oman. When you open the pack, store the precious fiery orange stuff in an airtight container and it can keep for months. Do not attempt a Paella without having saffron ready.

Now, pumpkin soup is a fairly familiar soup to Westerners, but the smoked fish is a better substitute for the Pancetta and slab bacon often used to flavor pumpkin or butternut squash soup. You get an entirely new flavor profile if you can get your hands on tinapa. Also, notice that I only add the cream upon serving, so the dish is less fatty.


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