The flavor is in the bones. I always say that. Yet, you can’t make me eat bangus (milkfish) these days that hasn’t been deboned. I’ve had enough of that hardship as a child when boneless bangus was not the norm.
Today, boneless bangus is everywhere. Seasoned, unseasoned, belly only, back fillets only or the whole fish including the head and tail.
When we cook sinigang na bangus, we use belly fillets. It’s been that way for years. We don’t need to pick bones. I don’t know of any fish with more bones than bangus. Except, perhaps, President fish which is popular in Taiwan — a favorite of the late Chiang Kai Shek, hence, the name. I’m visiting Taiwan soon after ten long years. I hope that, in those ten years, they have figured out a way to serve a boneless version of President fish.
But, anyway… About boneless bangus sinigang… I have noticed that even in restaurants, belly fillets are becoming the popular choice. Anix’s and Kanin Club come to mind.
But isn’t bangus belly sinigang less flavorful than whole bangus sinigang? Because without the head and bones, the broth will be bland.
Of course, if you talk to cooks who grew into adulthood before boneless bangus began flooding the markets, they will be scandalized. Whoever heard of sinigang na bangus without the head and bones? How can the soup be flavorful at all? It might be sour and salty but it will lack the richness of broth made with fish bones.
Aren’t we sacrificing flavor (and, yes, nutrients!) for convenience?
Well, there is a way around it. Much like eating your cake and having it too.
The solution is fish broth, of course. Unless bangus is the only fish you eat at home, then, at one time or another, you will buy some other variety of fish.
If you’re buying whole fish just so the meat on the sides can be filleted, save the head and bones. Simmer them to draw out the flavors and nutrients, cool, strain and freeze. Next time you cook boneless bangus belly sinigang, use the fish broth.
Now, the recipe.
Well, you see, we cook boneless bangus belly sinigang in pretty much the same way we cook salmon belly sinigang.