Most Filipinos call this dish “bangus a la pobre”. It’s seasoned and fried boneless bangus (milkfish) fillets served with a little sauce, lots of onion rings and toasted garlic bits. It’s prepared in basically the same way as the traditional bistek (Filipino beef steak) except for the garlic bits. That might make it sound ordinary but, believe me, this dish is scene stealer.
I’ve done this dish in so many ways but the best was the version I served at my husband’s birthday party last June. Oooh, the praises I got. And when they come from your mother-in-law, it can’t be a small thing, right? Kidding, kidding. My mother-in-law adores my cooking, so there.
Boneless bangus belly is available in most supermarkets. You may also use whole boneless UNSEASONED bangus.
4 bangus belly fillets
2 large onions
about half a cup of flour
2 c. of vegetable cooking oil
juice of 12 kalamansi
1/2 c. of light soy sauce
4-6 cloves of garlic
Cooking procedure :
Pat the bangus belly fillets dry with absorbent kitchen towels. Season lightly with salt and liberally with pepper.
Peel, crush and coarsely chop the garlic.
Peel the onions and cut into rings about 1/4 of an inch thick. Hold a slice and press outward with your thumb to separate the rings.
Heat about a quarter of a cup of cooking oil in a frying pan.
Fry the garlic in the oil just until toasted. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Lightly fry the onion rings. DO NOT OVERCOOK. About a minute in the hot oil is enough. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Pour the rest of the cooking oil into the pan and heat until it starts to smoke.
Dredge the fish in flour, shaking off the excess. Over medium-high heat, fry the fish — two at a time so as not to overcrowd the pan — until lightly crisp and golden. Flip halfway through cooking to brown both sides evenly. Drain on paper towels then arrange in an oven proof baking dish (overlapping is fine but not one on top of the other). Arrange the onion rings on top.
Mix together the kalamansi juice and soy sauce and pour over the fish and onion rings. Bake in a PREHEATED 170oC oven for 7-8 minutes. Remove from the oven, tilt the baking dish lightly, scoop the sauce with a spoon and pour over the fish and onions. Do this about five times. Sprinkle the toasted garlic on top before serving.
1. If you marinate the fish in kalamansi juice and soy sauce before frying, it will never form a crisp coating.
2. If you simply pour the kalamansi juice and soy sauce over the fish after frying, the fish will never get a chance to absorb any of the flavors from the sauce. With or without the flour, fish that has been fried to crispness forms a coating which will not allow the sauce to permeate the inner part. You might as well serve the kalamansi juice and soy sauce mixture as a dipping sauce.
For some reason, by baking the fish and the sauce, everything just blends perfectly together. My guess is the heat. At a certain temperature, the fried fish becomes more amenable to absorption. I’m not a scientific person and that’s just a guess. But baking works. Ask my mother-in-law.
3. By scooping the sauce and “basting” the fish straight from the oven, you give the fish even more chance to absorb the flavors.