Story has it that when 12-year-old Kris Aquino arrived in the country in 1983 after the murder of her father, she was asked by the media if she ate galunggong and she turned to her mother and asked what galunggong was. Fried galunggong (Mackarel Scad) is considered a poor man’s food but galunggong, although still cheaper than a lot of fish varieties, is not the cheapest in the market. If we consider, however, how much flesh a single fish yields after cooking, it does make sense to consider it a real budget helper. Galunggong is fleshy and very tasty.
Is there, however, no other way to enjoy galunggong except to fry it whole? Yesterday, I did a little experiment. I was thinking Swiss Rosti and ukoy (shrimp fritters) combined — substantial and crispy. The result was the fish cakes.
How was it? Think of shoestring potatoes with fish and herbs. Delicious.
Makes 12 3-inch fish cakes.
500 g. of galunggong, about three pieces (boiled, broiled or grilled)
400 g. of potatoes, peeled and coarsely shredded1
half a head of garlic, finely minced
1 tsp. of grated ginger
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
3 tbsps. of finely chopped onion leaves
2 tbsps. of finely chopped Vietnamese cilantro2
3 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 tsps. of salt
1/2 tsp. of pepper
about 2 c. of cooking oil for deep-frying
Pick the flesh of the galunggong, carefully removing small bones, and shred coarsely.
Add 1/2 tsp. of salt to the shredded potatoes, mix then squeeze out the excess water.3
Mix together all the ingredients except the cooking oil.
Heat the cooking oil to smoking point.
Form the mixture into patties4 and fry in batches of three or four until golden. Flip over halfway through cooking to ensure uniform color and crispness. Drain on paper towels and serve with your favorite dipping sauce.
1The sizes of blades and holes of graters vary. Use a grater with the largest blade and holes.
2Wansuy (Cilantro) or Kinchay (Chinese celery) may be substituted.
3Squeezing out the water ensures crispiness of the fried fish cakes. If you do not squeeze out the water, the fish cakes will turn soggy within a few minutes after cooking.
4Forming the fish-potato mixture into patties can be tricky since the ingredients don’t really stick together well. I suggest you form a patty with your hands, invert it onto a spatula then slide it carefully into the hot oil.