Special relyenong bangus (stuffed milkfish)

When we went to the Taytay public market on Sunday afternoon, I was hoping to buy at least five varieties of fish. For some reason, most of the fish stalls were closed. Were we too early? But we’ve gone there before at around 3.00 p.m. and there was always plenty to choose from. Anyway, the choices last Sunday were limited to tilapia (St. Peter’s fish), bangus (milkfish), some small fish that didn’t look fresh and some very expensive prawns. I went for the bangus and tilapia.


What my husband wanted was to have the whole bangus deboned completely so that we could marinate it at home for daing. But the only fish stalls open at the time did not render that service. I suggested having the bangus deboned for relyeno instead. When I chose the biggest bangus (1.5 kilograms), the fish monger looked at me doubtfully and asked if it would fit in my frying pan. I said no problem. I didn’t bother explaining that I had no intention of frying the thing. Relyenong bangus is traditionally fried after stuffing but I hate frying because I don’t like cleaning up oil spatters. I planned to grill the fish in the convection oven. No unnecessary spatters, no unnecessary fat.

So the fish monger started deboning the bangus. How did she do it? Let me describe the process.

First, the fish is scaled, gutted and the intestines pulled out. Through the cavity opening, a long slender spatula is inserted between the meat and the skin. The spatula is pushed, pulled and moved around to separate the skin from the meat. Then, the spine is snapped near the tail. Pressure is exerted where the spine had been snapped to push the meat until it comes out whole between the head and the body of the fish.

The not too experienced fish mongers will split the bangus open and scrape the meat off the skin. That will require you to sew up the skin before stuffing. Too much work. Besides, the visible strings don’t look attractive at all.

Back home, I steamed the meat and marinated the skin in a mixture of lemon juice and light soy sauce (below, left). Then, I flaked the cooled meat and mixed it with stuffed vegetables and beaten eggs (below, middle). Finally, using a spoon, I stuffed the skin with the fish and vegetables mixture.

casaveneracion.com marinating the skin of the bangus (milkfish)casaveneracion.com flaked steamed meat of the bangus (milkfish)casaveneracion.com the stuffed relyenong bangus before grilling

But that’s not the reason I’m calling this dish my “special relyenong bangus“. The surprise is inside the cooked relyeno. Click on the link to page 3 and see the photo of the cooked dish to see why all the work I did in making this dish (when I could have bought ready make relyenong bangus in the supermarket) was really worth it.

A 1.5 kilogram bangus is big enough to hold whole hard boiled eggs inside. I inserted two through the neck opening while stuffing it. I debated over adding a third, decided against it, but later on realized that three would have been better then two. See, after cutting the cooked relyeno, there were slices that did not have any hardboiled eggs at all. Oh, well, next time…

Next time…?!? Will I cook relyenong bangus again considering how tired I was by the time I finished washing all the cooking and mixing utensils I used?

Relyenong bangus is considered a party dish of sorts–a special dish. Not because any of the ingredients are prohibitively expensive but because of the amount of work involved in cooking it. Bangus is a very bony fish. And some of those bones are very small and fine. That’s why it cannot be filleted like other fish by just cutting out the spine and pulling off the visible bones. A pair of tweezers (as in the ones used for plucking stray eyebrow hairs) is used to debone a bangus. And the process takes patience and a lot of caution to make sure that the bangus does not get soggy before it finally reaches the dining table. Hence, to properly flake the meat of the fish, one has to pick out all those bones. A lot of work, really…

Then, there’s the fact that the actual cooking involves several processes–steaming, marinating, flaking, chopping the vegetables, stuffing and, finally, frying or, in my case, grilling.

So, what was the special occasion that drove me to cook relyenong bangus? Nothing, really… just that the thought of stuffing in those whole eggs was so irresistible. I wanted to know if it could actually be done. Now I know it can be. :)

Ingredients :

1 whole bangus (1.5 kg. or more)
1 large carrot
3 shallots
1/2 c. of sweet pickle relish
salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten
2-3 eggs, hard boiled
juice of 1/2 lemon or 6 kalamansi
1/4 c. light soy sauce or 1/8 c. dark soy sauce
vegetable oil

Cooking procedure :

I am assuming here that the bangus had been properly deboned, as earlier described, for cooking relyeno.

Place the fish skin (with the head instact) in a large shallow bowl and pour over the lemon or kalamansi juice and soy sauce. Work the marinade into the skin. Cover and place in the fridge.

Steam the bangus meat over simmering water for 30 minutes. Cool. Pull out the bones while flaking the meat. Place the bone-free meat in a bowl.

Finely chop the carrot and shallots and add to the flaked fish meat. Add the sweet pickle relish, about a teaspoonful of salt and half a teaspoonful of ground black pepper. Pour in the beaten eggs and mix until well blended.

Using a spoon, stuff the bangus skin with the mixture. When about a fourth of the mixture has been stuffed in, gently push a hard boiled egg into the fish cavity. Add more fish-vegetable mixture then push in the second egg. Repeat if adding a third egg. Just remember to end the stuffing with the fish-vegetables mixture. And firmly pack in the stuffing.

Brush a baking tray with vegetable oil (I covered the baking tray with aluminum foil to ensure less mess). Brush the bangus skin all over with vegetable oil. Grill in a moderately hot oven (180oC) for 20 minutes or until the top is browned. You can flip the fish to brown the other side but I didn’t do that anymore (my kids were hungry).

Cool the grilled relyenong bangus for about 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with catsup and hot rice.


  1. says

    i usually fry mine, but then before i do, i usually roll (??) the fish in flour+pepper for added crispiness, the skin tastes better and my really maarte brother who doesn’t like to eat the skin eats it. hehe.

    i have never tried stuffing the relleno with eggs. good idea. =)

  2. schutz says

    I like it too, actually na-try ko rin po is dredging the fish in the flour with some peppers on it, yummy din po. Pero I wanted also to try this one with hard boiled eggs inside i think that would also be good. thanks for this site.i really like this one. God bless!

  3. Nadia says

    oh my…i swore off making relleno because of all the prep work, but those eggs peeking out look so irresistable. relleno just got a lot fancier. my youngest’s son is celebrating his bday this saturday, perfect excuse for making relleno! Thanks for the insipiration…:razz:

  4. peterb says

    My wife really likes relyenong bangus. I guess, now is a good time to try this. Thanks for sharing! :smile:

    I once used japanese bread crumbs on fried tilapia. Really crunchy! :lol:

  5. abby says

    oh wow i’m so glad i found this site! i love rellenong bangus and we recently had a store-bought one and it was just awful.

    now i can “try” doing this at home!

  6. darlene says

    I love your website, even when i am at work i check your website (only on breaks though :smile: ) and sometimes, i tease my friend in tennessee who lives far from asian stores..i copied and pasted some of the pictures…and she can’t wait for me to visit her next month..i will be bringing some filipino ingredients (as we have some asian stores around here in ohio)..Thank you for all your cooking tips..both of my kids love filipino dishes..GOD BLESS

  7. says

    schutz, the eggs make them look even more appetizing, ‘no?

    happy birthday to your boy, nadia! and have fun!

    peterb, wow, gives tilapia a tempura texture, huh? i think my kids will like that.

    great, abby, there’s nothing like home cooked food.

    gerald, you can buy fully deboned (seasoned or unseasoned) bangus fillets these days.

    happy cooking, darlene. :)

  8. gina says

    what a blessing!! how i wanted 2 cuk rellenong bangus but all the recipes i saw was, well, hard to follow. finally, you posted one. i can now treat myself with dis one, tnx.

    Q: aside from oven, what are other possible alternatives to grill this rellenong bangus? tnx.

  9. cryz says

    your rellenong bangus is really good. i tried it last weekend and my kids simply liked it especially having that egg stuffed inside. that’s great!

  10. joan esplanada says

    its a lot of work to take all those bangus bones,what i do is i include it with the meat,bellpeper,carrots,garlic etc have it all grind sa palengke thats it no more peeling of the bones

  11. Ira says

    Try not to steam the milkfish before deboning. Then saute the stuffing except the beaten eggs. After sauteing, add the beaten eggs. Lots of hardwork but well worth it. Relleno taste better and jucier.

  12. says

    This is always our traditional meal every party we have in the Philippines. Now, I move in Celtic (Ireland) – I haven’t eaten this for 5 years now.

    It takes a lot of patience and love to make this thats why it is so special.

    the only difference we made in this recipe is we add raisin. You are right put this in oven is more healther than deep frying.

  13. Lynne says

    how come the relleno i made came out soggy and the skin wasnt crispy? iwas testing how it turned out before i dared make one for a party. i marinated the skin in soy sauce n calamnsi juice then stuffed it then fried.did i do something not right?help…

  14. theresa says

    stove top oven yung pinagiinitan po ng pizza yung cheap prices po na pizza like sa palengke or sa mga schools meron po kasi ako nabili sa marikina

  15. theresa says

    na try ko na po pwede po sya thank you very much ang sarap po. bitin nga kain namin sabi ng husband ko sana daw 2 ginawa ko gutom pa daw sya he he he luto daw ulit ako bukas. he he

  16. christinne says

    hi! this is my first tym to visit your site and i liked it. I’m just wondering if I can use a small salmon rather than bangus ‘coz I live in rural Alaska and it costs a lot to buy bangus here. They are not even scaled or deboned. thnx!

  17. Meili says

    Ha! This one dish I always used to ask for but could never get. Too much work even for Christmas. Thank goodness we can buy it in the supermarkets now.

  18. carolina says

    Hello Connie,

    I have been in America since my teens. Karon mag singkuenta euno na karong Augusto. paborito sad nako ang rellionong bangus.thank you for sharing the recipe. kong puede duna ba moy recipe sa chinese chorizo mao gayod nang akong mas paborito sa gamay pa ko. dili tam-is pareho sa tagalog nga langunisa. ang flavor my garlic ig sugba sa charcoal humot kaayo. chorizo sa Cebu gyod.

    daghan kaayong salamat, carolina

  19. lucy says

    grabe masyado syang matrabaho hehehe… di ko alam if may tyaga me mag debone sa bangus baka mamaya eh pritohin ko nalang haha.. tnx connie.

  20. maria cristina marcelo says

    i luv eating relyenong bangus that’s why i want to know how to cook it. Can you please teach me how to deboned the bangus easily, then i want to try it by myself.

  21. Jpol says

    Hi Connie,
    Ilang beses ko na sinubukan ito, Fry at Oven. Sa Oven Set ko ng 210C in about 40 mins. Hindi nag kulay brown ang balat na halatang Hilaw pa pero dumikit sa ibinalot ko na Foil ang skin nito. Inulit ko ganun din. Try ko naman i fry dumikit naman sa kawali ang skin nito. Malapit na ako sumuko… Nilagyan ko naman ng Oil ang Foil na ibinalot ko sa bangus. Ano ba ang dapat gawin para maluto sya sa Oven na ndi dumidikit sa Foil ang balat?

  22. Jpol says

    Yes ibinabad ko sya sa toyo na meron kalamansi mga 30 mins siguro at nilagyan ko rin ng oil ang foil pero dumidikit talaga sa foil. Naka 5 beses na ako ng try lahat ganun ang resulta hu hu hu Pero subukan ko ulit. Thanks sa reply.

    • says

      You brush both the baking tray (or foil in your case) AND the fish with oil.

      Actually, pwede ring ipino-promote mo lang yang nakakakilabot na forum mo at di mo naman talaga sinubukan gawin yung relyeno. Kaya ide-delete ko na lang ulit URL mo.

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