Two days ago, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Rizal Chapter, and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI-Rizal) staged a Pangasius Food Festival. The objective was simple — promote Pangasius, or cream dory as it is more popularly known, as a viable everyday food, a versatile gourmet food and a profitable business. Chefs and restaurants were invited to showcase their cream dory dishes and — surprise! surprise! — although I have no claims at being a chef, I was among those invited to participate. How?
Speedy has a friend (a classmate from Ateneo grade school, to be more precise) who is a PCCI member. He knows about my blog, asked if I’d be interested in joining and, just for kicks, I said yes. Heck, why not? I refuse to attend media events meant to get endorsements for corporate brands but I love promoting industries that can help the Philippines grow — economically and culturally. Moreover, I am a fan of cream dory and I thought it would be fun. And it was.
I cooked, with a lot of help from Speedy, herbed cream dory fillets with spicy lemon and orange sauce. I’ll post the recipe next. Let me tell you about Pangasius and the food festival first.
Cream dory belongs to the catfish family. I am aware of the bad press that cream dory has been getting. Back when Pangasius was being marketed as “river cobbler”, I got into a scuff with a catfish farmer who was lambasting cream dory as an unsafe food as all fish dory was allegedly fished out of the polluted Mekong River in Vietnam. But that’s not really true because Filipino fish farmers have been raising cream dory for years.
Even more recently, emails circulated about cream dory being bleached white because white fish is more attractive to American and European importers. Well. At the Pangasius Food Festival, a whole cream dory was grilled right in front of me, the flesh was cut before my very eyes and let me tell you that the flesh was white. And you can’t bleach a whole fish without the skin discoloring as well. And the cream dory they grilled had dark gray skin. So there.
I love cream dory because of its mild taste, because it isn’t bony and because the fillets are large enough to get creative with. If I thought I had been creative with cream dory before, I was astounded by what real chefs could do with this fish.