My deft fingers combed through its spiny flesh, picking its bones with a skill I learned when I was little, with a precision I painstakingly mastered through the years.

The smell of vinegar, crushed garlic, and cracked black peppercorns thrilled me. I know, it sounds like a tired cliché but it brings back so many memories. So many meals, so many mornings. The clatter of spoons and forks against amber plates. The crackle of fish in hot oil in a deep kawali. My dad riffling through the morning paper with his first cup of black coffee. My mom juggling the morning chores while watching over my niece, feeding her arroz caldo and a pinch of fish for breakfast. And my sleepy self watching the morning slowly unfold, combing through the same spiny fish — bangus [bah-ngoos]; cut the same way — daing [dah-ing], which means split open; marinated the same way, cooked the same way — always tustado [too-stah-doh], fried until it is toasted golden brown.

I let go of my spoon and fork and ate with my hands like my dad always did. I saved the best for last, of course, like I always do. Its belly melted in my mouth. I licked my fingers clean and savored the taste of vinegar and spices. For me, it is one of life’s simplest pleasures.

 

Daing na Bangus

 

Daing na Bangus Recipe, makes four servings

4 medium bangus (milkfish), butterflied with skin and scales on, about 2 pounds
sea salt
1 cup white vinegar
12 whole black peppercorns, cracked
8 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup canola oil

Generously season both sides of the fish with sea salt. Marinate milkfish in vinegar, garlic, and black peppercorns in a sealed container or ziploc bag in the refrigerator overnight.

Before cooking fish let it rest at room temperature for over an hour. Heat oil in a wok or deep pan over medium to high heat. Slide fish down the side of the wok, skin side down, and fry until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Carefully flip fish using a flat spatula and fry the other side until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain fish in a plate lined with paper towels and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Serve with fried rice and a sawsawan of tomatoes and salted eggs.

 

Daing na Bangus

 

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  • http://arthur-in-the-garden.com/ Arthur in the Garden!

    Amazing. For some unknown reason I am intimidated by fish?

  • http://driftersblog.com/ JRinAsia

    I had some of this when I was there in the Philippines. It was great! Once you get past all the tiny bones, you find a delicate, flavorful meat that is tasty and addicting. Kudos to beautiful memories!

  • Row

    Oh wow… it’s been a while since I’ve eaten this. The sharpness from the vinegar, the crispy skin. We both save the best part for last! I’ve never bought a whole fish before, but after seeing this, I’m going to try something new. :)

  • m.gayas

    nakakatakam nman.,!!!!thanks jun for sharing your recipe of daing n bangus.,!!

  • http://twitter.com/kitchconfidante Liren Baker

    Sarap! Where did you find your bangus, Jun? This is one of my favorites, especially with lots of tomatoes and rice. Back in New York, I would take the easy route, as it was so easy to find the bangus pre-marinated. All I had to do was fry it. Now I need to make it from scratch :)

  • Anonymous

    One of my first food memories involves fried fish and rice and the incredible joy of eating it with my hands! It is the ONLY way to eat a fried fish breakfast! Thanks for the post Jun!

  • Norma Torres

    Something new to me and I love stories of being a child and having fon memories of food and family….

  • http://www.facebook.com/shweepea16 Natalie Therese Bisnar

    Jun, I was wondering if this recipe would work with frozen bangus? We don’t get a lot of fresh fish in my neck of the woods… thank you. :)

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Yes, Natalie. Frozen bangus will work as long as you completely thaw the fish before marinating it in vinegar and spices.

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