Grilled bangus (milkfish) with tomato and itlog na maalat (salted egg) salad
Bangus, or milkfish, the Philippines’ national fish, has a flavor distinctly its own. It can be the main ingredient in a soup like sinigang or in a saucy dish like sarciado. On its own, it can be fried, grilled or deboned and made into relleno. Grilled bangus is a common meal in the Filipino home. This version adds a little extra something to perk up the aroma of the grilled fish.
I don’t know of any other fish that has more bones than bangus. But it just tastes so good that picking out the bones as you eat seems like a little sacrifice for the gastronomic delight it gives you.
Boneless bangus is widely available in the frozen section of supermarkets in several varieties. Whole fish are either marinated daing or smoked (tinapa). Bangus belly, highly prized for its rich texture and flavor, is available as is and can be cooked in several ways.
While commercial boneless bangus is a great convenience, its price is three times more than in its original state. Bangus is a very inexpensive fish. Current wet market price is between PHP50.00 (about US$1.00) and PHP80.00 per kilogram, depending on the size. While deboning bangus may seem like a daunting task to the average cook, practice makes perfect. And, with a experience, you can debone a whole fish in less than 20 minutes.
1 pc. bangus (about 3/4 kilo)
1/4 c. vinegar
1 whole garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. of pepper
1 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of sesame seed oil
Cooking procedure :
With a very sharp knife, cut the fish along the back from head to tail. Open up the fish and cut along the spine to separate the flesh until the fish is divided into 2 equal parts, but attached along the middle (the front part of the fish’s body). Discard the spine. Remove the gills and intestines. Wash and drain on paper towels.
(This is optional : Using small tweezers, pick the bones of the fish and pull them out. Hold the fish with one hand and use your fingers to push the flesh towards you. When the ends of the small bones stick out, pull them out with the tweezers.)
Mix together the vinegar, garlic, pepper and salt. Stir well until salt is dissolved. Place fish, skin side down, on a glass platter. Pour vinegar mix over the flesh of the fish. Cover with a cling wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, turning the fish every hour.
Grill fish over live coals. Remember to brush the grill with a little oil before laying the fish on it to prevent sticking. Place the fish on the grill, skin side down. Cook for 10 minutes; turn over. Cook for another 10 minutes, turn over and brush fish flesh with sesame seed oil. Transfer to a plate and serve at once with salted egg and tomato salad.
For the salted egg and tomato salad :
Dice 2 salted duck eggs (itlog na maalat) and 4 tomatoes. Toss with 1/2 tsp. of finely chopped fresh parsley.