Binukakang dalag (split mudfish)

Binukakang dalag (split mudfish)

In the menu of Bulawan Floating Restaurant in Pililla, it is called crispy dalag. Split-open, the whole mudfish is deep-fried until a crisp golden crust forms on the surface. In a place in Tanay called Kainan sa Tabi ng Lawa (eatery by the lake), the same dish is called binukakang dalag. In much the same way that I cannot think of a proper translation for the word malansa, I have no translation either for binukaka. The root word is buka (open). Bukaka means legs spread wide open and binukaka would mean forced to spread wide open. I know that it conjures naughty erotic images but I doubt if binukakang dalag can satisfy prurient interests.

My version of binukakang dalag is grilled, not deep-fried. And, yes, it is possible for the fish to have a crisp golden surface without frying. The trick is to brush the fish with oil before putting it on the grill. In my case, that’s the convection oven (a turbo broiler will work although you will need a large turbo broiler to accommodate a whole dalag that is at least 800 grams in weight).

But let’s start at the beginning. In local wet markets, dalag (mudfish) is sold fresh. Fresh as in live. You will see all the dalag inside a net, you specify how many you want (or the equivalent in live weight) and the fish monger dips her hand inside the net and catches the fish for you. He hits its head with a mallet and, when it is still, it is gutted and cleaned. Before the fish monger starts cleaning the fish, say that you want it prepared a la daing so that the fish scales are not removed and, instead of cutting the fish into portions, it is split open from head to tail, and the head and spine scored in places.

When you get home, rub the fish all over with rock salt to remove the sliminess. Then, season the fish. You can stick with salt and only salt, the preference of most so that nothing competes with the natural fresh flavor of the fish. Of course, there’s nothing wrong if you want to sprinkle the fish with pepper and herbs. You can even drizzle some kalamansi juice on the fish. Whatever seasonings you want to use, use them. When you have added all the spices and seasonings that you want, brush the fish with cooking oil — not the skin but the meat of the fish.

Cook in a pre-heated 200oC convection oven (grill setting) for 15 to 20 minutes or until the fish is lightly browned. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Nothing ruins fresh fish faster than overcooking.

Mix together some kalamansi juice, soy sauce and crushed chili peppers, and serve on the side as a dipping sauce.

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  1. Marnie says

    Hi Connie,
    I love reading your blog. The term “binukaka” could probably be translated in English to “spread-eagled” (snicker-snicker) which is as bad as “binukaka” if you think about it.
    The closest culinary term that I can think of is “butterflied”.

  2. says

    I love dalag too, grilled or fried. aside from kalamansi and toyo, I love partnering it with balaw-balaw as dipping sauce.

    Haven’t tried the crispy dalag though, coz whenever we had a chance to eat at Bulawan, I always insist that we order the walang kamatayang sinigang na kanduli sa miso. :)

    I’m gonna try the turbo broiler way of grilling one of these days. thanks for the great tip, Connie. :)

  3. says

    Marnie, yes it is butterflied. But that kinda loses the cultural essence (humor or otherwise) of “binukaka”, ‘no? hehehe

    Feng, naku, I cooked sinigang sa miso a few nights ago. Not kanduli though but fish head. Not easy finding decent kanduli. The ones in the market are so small.

  4. Ellen says

    Ohh gosh! It’s been awhile since I had dalag! I think its close to 15 years na ‘ata =( I used to eat this with kalamansi and bagoong with plenty of hot steamed rice. hayyyy dapat yata akong makauwi ulit. thanks connie for featuring this. it made my mouth water =)

  5. Ebba Myra says

    When I buy fish in the oriental store here in Houston, libre ang palinis and pahiwa, and when you want this style or cut, especially with bangus – they call it butterfly…or kung marunong mag-tagalog yung mga Mexican workers – they say “daing”.

    In Pinoy restaurant here, Dangsilog, is one of the mainstay for breakfast…sarap, kaso, nakaka-tamad early in the weekend morning na mag-himay ng tinik sa bangos na ginagamit nila.

  6. says

    is dalag a fresh or salt water fish? if dalag is unavailable, what other kinds of fish could you substitute?

    also, are you going to post your sinigang sa miso recipe? i would love to try that. the only kind of sinigang i have access to comes in a powdered mix. but i do have miso!

  7. brenda says

    wow, binukakang dalaga, este dalag pala! hehehe

    haven’t tried this but I also love dalag pero laging pesa ang luto ko. kaya lang, as usual, wala akong makitang dalag dito sa Cebu.

    thanks for the recipe….

  8. karyl says

    i think that the ovens in the philippines differ from the ones abroad, and our ovens here only has two settings for broiling, either high or lo. i was wondering what setting (high or lo) would you recommend, or should i just bake it in a 200 degree oven? also, did you mean to preheat the oven to 200 degrees then put the fish in and broil it?


  9. says

    LOL Ellen, time to come home for a vacation indeed! :)

    Ebba, boneless bangus is a huge export product these days! Wala pa pala dyan?

    Lani, it’s freshwater. I suppose you can butterfly any firm fleshy fish but of course, the flavor will be different. Sinigang sa miso will be posted within the day. :)

    brenda, hahahaha naughty, naughty!

    karyl, you’re talking about traditional ovens. Convection ovens, with the grill setting, are widely available in the Philippines. I use an Ariston convection oven. Elba convection ovens are also available here.

    If you have a traditional electric oven, the broil setting means the heat (coils) are on top. Preheat for 10 minutes, put the fish in and it’ll work. However, if you have a gas oven, hay… am not sure if the fish will form a crusty golden surface.

  10. Josie says

    Many moons ago, I used to go with my grandma to Muntinglupa, where they often served us pesang dalag, which dish I didn’t really care for. I think I’d rather have it crispy than with broth. I love sinigang na kandule and biya with gata and yellowing(?), though. Na-homesick na naman tuloy ako. I’ll keep Bulawan Floating Restaurant and Kainan sa Tabi ng Lawa in mind for my next holiday. Salamat sa mga tip mo, Connie.

  11. noemi says

    meron ng boneless bangus dito sa america. frozen and its very pricey. I usually got mine from the small filipino store.

  12. Ebba Myra says

    Merong boneless bangus, kaso, sometimes hindi na bago ang lasa, so most eateries, they buy the “fresh” fish and daing it themeselves, and if you want boneless, it comes pre-marinated.

  13. Redge says

    i’d like to try this tonight. was wondering if i could brush it with sesame oil instead for the added flavor – or do you think it will burn easily?
    thanks connie!

  14. says

    Josie, there is a biya dish called “pakalog” that I really love. Don’t know how to cook it though.

    Noemi, even here boneless bangus isn’t cheap, especially the belly fillets.

    Ebba, so those are whole boneless bangus? Not fillets? We have back fillets and belly fillets here. And whole fillets which come marinated and unmarinated.

    Redge, am not really sure. Sesame oil does not do well with extended exposure to heat.

  15. emy medina says

    the dish caught my attention….dalag is not available here where i live…lately i’m buying
    only “live” fish in a chinese market…they have a
    big tank with tilapia,bass,catfish,dungeness crab..
    the catfish sell for $3.79/lb…some catfish are really big & i think i can substitute that for
    the dalag…now, i got to practice how to demonstrate to the non-english speaking fish guy
    how to cut it ala daing or ala bukaka…hehehe..
    do you know the difference bet.convection oven &
    traditional gas oven?

  16. says

    Convection oven is electric AND FAN-ASSISTED for a more even distribution of heat. I’ve used both. COnvection ovens are really great if you don’t mind the power consumption.

  17. Ferlyn Therese says

    wow I enjoy reading your blog specially in the recipe for dalag… it gives me an idea on how to make a reaction paper regarding the dalag…
    By the way, how can you totally removed the bad smell of dalag?.. because I hear some rumors that dalag are so smelly… =) is it true?

  18. says

    have you tried pinalundag na dalag? this is some kind of
    sadistic kind of cooking, where in the dalg is being while it is

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