19 May2010


Eyes wide open. That’s how I have learned to hit the wet markets. We often head out to the grocery or markets with a list of items to purchase. And being creatures of habit, that list can and often is rather predictable. I suspect most folks in the city only eat 6-8 types of fish for say 80+% of their fish consumption, yet there are hundreds of edible species from the deep dark seas. Since I started maintaining this blog, one of the BIGGEST personal benefits has been a change in the way I look at market produce. Now I have a greater appreciation for the variety on offer, and am curious about unusual finds. So while it is inevitable that vendors provide the “common” and what people buy a lot of, it’s still very interesting to see the “uncommon” items that are on offer. So like this incredibly fresh espada curled up on a tile counter, use your eyes to spot your prey, or hunter, whatever the case may be…


These photos were taken at several wet markets in the Tagbilaran City area in Bohol. The freshness of the fish on the counters was stunning. Gosh, I cannot imagine these buyers being at all satisfied with a Manila grocery’s seafood selection when they are used to this quality and variety. Here some talakitoks, maya-maya’s, etc.


The fish literally glisten with a film (laway) of freshness. They are firm to the touch, and press back a little. Their eyes are clear. Their gills dark red. And they have no off smell whatsoever.


Some unusually colored dalagang-bukid or “mountain maidens”…


An octopus that stretched out to maybe 2.5-3.0 feet in length, this one was still alive and the markings on its skin surface kept changing to try and camouflage itself. My photo using a flash must have definitely shocked its eyes/camouflage system.


We came across the first of two unusual varieties of wild caught hito or catfish, these ones with a pink tinge and selling for PHP120 per kilo.


These smaller and slightly different type of hito or catfish at PHP60 per kilo. I had not seen these two varieties of hito before in my market forays.


Here are two fairly large “tiki-tiki” or sunugan or lizard fish. I believe a reader from India or the Middle East had asked me about these a few weeks ago, and here they are! Apparently they make great dried fish. But I personally have not yet tasted this type of fish. They are uncanny marine doubles for land lizards! If these fish had hidden legs, I could see them crawling out of the water and onto shore!


In another market, these three newly delivered tanguigue or spanish mackerel were FANTASTIC. If we had access to a proper kitchen and enough folks to consume the kinilaw that this would have yielded (say good for 15-20 people), I would have purchased it without hesitation. Particularly since I found 5 kilos worth of biasong or dayap or limes in another market earlier and bought all of them to take back to Manila where real limes are rather scarce and expensive when available.


At an open street market in downtown Tagbilaran, I took this photo of seaweed and clams, but what stopped me in my tracks was the small added effort the vendor took to make her wares look more appealing, garnishing the goods with some sliced tomatoes. This little added effort really did make her tiny table stand out from the crowd.


Some garlic, some white wine, chopped italian parsley, these clams and a package of linguine… yum.


The guinamos vendor had pungent pails of fermenting fish in salt. Some 4 weeks, others as much as three months! Honestly, up close and with so much to choose from, I have to say the smell was overpowering and a bit of a turn-off. I love the flavor a bit of guinamos or bagoong brings to food, but seeing it in bulk can be a bit much for the sense… :)


An unusual find (for me) were these rather large fish, also salted and slightly fermented, that are fried or used in other local dishes.


Salted parrotfish slightly decayed in a red pail.


And finally, don’t shoot the photographer, I was really sad to see this cut up ray for sale at a dockside market. I asked the vendor if it was stingray or manta ray and “wasn’t that illegal to sell?” and you can imagine the truest meaning of “dagger looks”. Not such a smart thing to ask when you are in the midst of hundreds of local fishermen, vendors and customers who don’t think there is anything wrong with eating these endangered/protected creatures of the seas…



  1. F says:

    I’m not a big fan of the fried or grilled versions of Espada, but dinaing na espada, fried egg, sinangag and a salad of salted eggs, kamatis and bagoong on the side is breakfast heaven.

    May 19, 2010 | 9:44 am


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  3. rachel says:

    everything look so wonderful. thanks for the post MM, i love fried belt fish (espada).the salted parrot fish looked kinda gross but the seaweed looked yummy.can’t wait to go home and try these.

    May 19, 2010 | 9:45 am

  4. junb says:

    nice stunning freshest of the fresh seafoods there….I am also not aware that sting ray is a protected species as there are thousands of them available here in singapore in every market, grocery, seafood house and coffee shop. It is a normal delicacies here cook either grill with sambal or assam (sour soup).

    May 19, 2010 | 9:57 am

  5. Libay says:

    I love fresh espada (scientific name:Trichurus haumela). We cal it liwit in Iloilo. My mother cooks it tinola style, just very fresh liwit, tomatoes, onions and malunggay. Yummy!

    May 19, 2010 | 10:10 am

  6. Mike says:

    In his book “Civilization and the Limpet,” Wells makes the arguement that the sea, covering 4/5’s of the globe, has a more endless, varied, and diverse, source of protein than land (basically just limited to fowl and mammals for the most part, and the occasional insect and worm), and here’s your proof, yum.

    May 19, 2010 | 10:16 am

  7. Jenny says:

    that is one scary espada!!!

    May 19, 2010 | 10:50 am

  8. miclimptrp says:

    The smaller catfishes are called striped eel catfishes. Don’t know how they’re called locally.

    Have half a dozen of them playing around in my aquarium right now. Can’t imagine them smoked over a grill though…

    Their anterior and dorsal spines contain a toxin that can deliver a painful sting that can be bit toxic and fatal to some – one reason to wear thick gloves when handling them.

    May 19, 2010 | 11:17 am

  9. millet says:

    we love the big (at least 1 kilo each) espada (“diwit” here in davao) fried. the white meat is succulent and delicious, and i always ask the vendors not to remove the fins as they turn crunchy after frying.

    am not sure if stingray is endangered.

    May 19, 2010 | 11:52 am

  10. Gerry says:

    I have been recently eating mackerel on a regular basis so I did a check on the health benefits of the fish. Turns out that the larger mackerel have a higher chance of having elevated levels of mercury. Luckily I’ve only been consuming the smaller mackerel served in Japanese restaurants.

    May 19, 2010 | 1:15 pm

  11. natt says:

    oh i miss my tulingan(inun-unan sa merkado then pirituhon), tinabal nga molmol, labayan ug ginamos!

    May 19, 2010 | 1:34 pm

  12. ryanclaw says:


    I was a bit curious about the size (fish size) of the espada on picture? is it took close up or the espada fish is indeed big?

    May 19, 2010 | 1:50 pm

  13. frenchadobo says:

    they really look stunningly fresh ! i can already imagine myself cooking dalagang bukid escabeche, paksiw na bonito, sinigang na maya-maya and clam soup with ginger,lemongrass and malunggay !

    May 19, 2010 | 4:03 pm

  14. Ley says:

    I don’t know if this is true but I heard that seafoods increases virility, thus, fisherfolks who have these fresh sea produce as common fare have numerous children.:)

    May 19, 2010 | 6:42 pm

  15. Mimi says:

    I love ‘window shopping’ through wet markets, a must-see in any country to truly experience local life…now if only my kids would share my enthusiasm. Last time my older child complained throughout it was ‘stinky’ and ‘gross’ and I have not taken him to any wet market since then.

    May 19, 2010 | 7:17 pm

  16. natie says:

    i enjoy your posts on wetmarkets best of all, MM…..one highlight of vacations home is a wetmarket shopping spree, where the dollar goes a loooong way..after such treks, we get so unenthusiastic buying seafood here…

    May 19, 2010 | 8:18 pm

  17. globalnomad says:

    Thanks MM for your great work. Maybe a point or two from a foreigner living here:
    1. Yes, I come across butchered mantas here in Bohol on a daily basis;
    2. I would love to have seafood on my menu very much more frequently but cannot relate to the fish as I haven’t come across their English names (with a few exceptions);
    3. And when I would ask a fish vendor for a recipe for a certain fish, answers are mostly like to be fry, boil or sabaw; a funny encounter was when I asked a vendor how to prepare a sole (I think pad-pad here) and she recommended, while chopping it into pieces: inun-unan :-)

    May 19, 2010 | 8:54 pm

  18. Marketman says:

    globalnomad, good points. I have, over the years, named many of the local eating fish with their scientific names and english names, where I could find them. Actually, in my disorganized notes and files somewhere in my crazy den/office/home, I have a list of some 30+ fish and their english names… Here are some that I recall, and they would then translate into more western recipes…

    apahap = barramundi cousin (same looks, just slightly less delicious flesh)
    bangus = milkfish
    dilis = anchovy
    lapu-lapu = grouper, rock cod
    talakitok = trevally, jacks
    galunggong = round scad (I think)
    kubal-kubal = finny scad (I think)
    sapsap = ponyfish
    bilong-bilong or chabeta = moonfish
    maya-maya = red emperor or snapper
    bisugo = bream
    mol-mol = parrotfish
    samaral = spinefoot
    tulingan = skipjack tuna
    tanguigue = spanish mackerel
    alumahan = long-jawed mackerel
    Bariles = mackerel tuna
    dapa or palad = sole but a bit different from atlantic sole
    malasugi = swordfish

    One book you might pick up from a large city bookstore is “Fishes of the Philippines” by Genevieve Broad, a decent compilation of local fishes with local and english names… a result of graduate research she did in the country, if I am not mistaken.

    Another book I rely on is “Marine Fishes of Southeast Asia” by Gerry Allen, though translations seem to be biased to Australian nomenclature, which can differ from American and European names, for example. Gosh… WHERE is my list?!

    Finally, you may wish to check out Alan Davidson’s ” Seafood of South East Asia – A comprehensive guide with recipes”…

    This blog has at least 50 posts on fishes themselves over the past 5 years, and many recipes both local and international as well.

    I hope that helps.

    May 19, 2010 | 10:34 pm

  19. joyce says:

    thanks mm! feels like we have front row seats to your market forays. never knew there were such things as pink tinged hitos! imagine that. the octopus looks fascinating. just visited the newish wet market that’s a quick walk from my flat (one of the cleanest and most organized ones i’ve seen with people wearing “uniforms”) during the weekend and saw a guy selling three live snakes and trying to wrangle them into a mesh sack. egads. didn’t even attempt to ask how he would cook those.. hehe.

    May 20, 2010 | 1:23 am

  20. Jack Hammer says:

    Yeah…MM…that is Lizard Fish…but the one we get in Bombay, India has a jaw which opens up to three times the size of the fish, aka Great White Shark.

    I guess they are cousins i.e. Family Harpadon


    * Harpadon erythraeus (Klausewitz, 1983)
    * Harpadon microchir (Günther, 1878)
    * Bombay duck, Harpadon nehereus (Hamilton, 1822)
    * Harpadon squamosus (Alcock, 1891)
    * Harpadon translucens (Saville-Kent, 1889)

    Some are only found in the Indian Ocean, while others are found in the Indo-Pacific area, China, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, and ofcourse Philippines.
    That one in your photograph I guess is Harpadon Microchir.

    May 20, 2010 | 1:40 am

  21. Jack Hammer says:

    @globalnomad, You need to peel both sides of the Sole from the mouth to the tail without scaling it. This sole is rather thinner than the Dover sole, so you cannot fillet it.
    It is best fried crispy on the bone with sunflower oil, so that you can even eat the fins on the sides. If the fish is too big you may cut it in two, to faciliate turning the fish in the pan.

    Unless you have a Fishpan like MM, *grin, grin*

    May 20, 2010 | 2:10 am

  22. NYCMama says:

    My kids and I remember seeing that “dalagang bukid” (now we know what it’s called) while snorkeling just off the shore in Batangas at my dad’s beach house. I think the cove where my dad is (Calayo) is not far from your own beach house. Do you also have the fish vendors walking along the beach with their wares? We love that, esp the kids. In late afternoon, the women with their shrimp baskets come along to sell their catch, and early morning, the wives of the fishermen come with palangganas of freshly caught fish. We also love the puto/kakanin vendors who come in the afternoon.

    May 20, 2010 | 2:52 am

  23. Marketman says:

    NYCMama, when we first moved into our Batangas home, there were occasional ambulant vendors, usually landing with bancas, but not so today… Jack, thanks for the info, as with many fish, they have close relatives in several seas… joyce, how would one kill the snakes is what I want to know, do you chop off its head, cut off a major vein… hmmm. Mimi, as a kid of maybe 7-8 years old, my mom dragged me through the meat section of Farmer’s market in Cubao and I literally fainted. hahaha. I kid you not. But probably not because of the meat, but low blood sugar levels as I would later discover after fainting in several other situations. :) Ley, but they have tons of kids per family in the Mt. Province as well. :) ryanclaw, it is a closeup, but these were also rather big espada, say 3-4feet long or more. millet, some types of rays are endangered, but I don’t know enough about them to know if these in the photos are or are not. miclimtrip, yipes, poisonous? No wonder I have never cleaned one of these catfishes…

    May 20, 2010 | 7:28 am

  24. Footloose says:

    I’m sorry but there’s just no way I’m going to bring to the dinner table cooked lizard fish with it’s head intact. They look like gorgonopsians. Check here:

    May 20, 2010 | 7:57 am

  25. Marketman says:

    Footloose, hahaha. Of course I had to look up gorgonopsians!

    May 20, 2010 | 8:50 am

  26. Mila says:

    Re: snakes, the way I’ve seen them do it here is they chop off the head, then cut a long incision from “neck” to tail, remove the entrails, remove the skin, and chop into pieces for braised dishes. You might also see some restaurants serving snake blood with wine, too bitter for me.

    May 20, 2010 | 9:00 am

  27. Crissy says:

    Thanks MM, for the “fish-onary”. Always wondered what the equivalent or related “english named” fish were. That espada gleams like titanium off of a Frank Gehry creation.

    May 20, 2010 | 11:18 am

  28. miclimptrp says:

    Fortunately not all catfishes have poisonous spines. The non-toxic ones would still give you one hell of a painful stab if your not careful.

    Here’s a wiki entry on those striped eel catfishes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plotosus

    May 20, 2010 | 12:20 pm

  29. joey says:

    Gorgeous photos of gorgeous fish (ok, except for the illegal ray and the, yikes!, gorgonsapien lizard fish)…making me want to go straight to the market and experiment!

    May 20, 2010 | 12:54 pm

  30. Clarissa says:

    There’s one fish that I always ask my mom to buy me whenever she’s in Tarlac or going through the market in Blumentritt in Manila, KALASO. I have no idea if it’s the real name or it’s a preparation of the fish like daing, since when it is bought, it’s already cut in the middle and cleaned, and marinated with salt, vinegar and some pepper. But it never reaches the acidity of the daing na bangus which has almost the same ingredients. I haven’t seem to found it anywhere else, supermarkets and wet markets (except for the one in Tarlac and Manila) alike. Maybe you would have an idea? :)

    May 20, 2010 | 3:47 pm

  31. gerry, makati says:

    Thanks for featuring espada. It’s one among my favorites. It has very fine and soft flesh/meat. In the house, we deep fry it (or not fried) then cook it with tausi, ginger,garlic, onion, etc. chinese style. We also cook it paksiw style. Its heavenly.

    May 20, 2010 | 4:24 pm

  32. Jack Hammer says:

    @Footloose and Joey,

    Hahahahah…..Believe me, we dont bring the Lizard Fish with the Head intact to the Table, in fact even in the wet market the Fresh fish (Bombay duck, Harpadon nehereus) is sold with the Head removed because of the Tyrannosaurus Rex type teeth and to avoid injury due to handling. Also the Lizard Fish inhabiting the Indian Ocean does not look so monstrous. Even I was shocked to see a pic and could therefore understand MM’s remark of the Fish being Bizzare, when he first replied to my comment, asking him whether he has seen this fish in the wet markets in the Phils.

    Yes it maybe a living fossil, and prove the theory that we evolved from Fish.

    And also simply by force of sheer numbers not eaten out of existence. Good for me and the Billions of Chinese, Indonesians, Japanese and Filipinos who enjoy the unique texture and flavour of this Fresh and Dried Fish. It is so popular with the Indian Diaspora, that they even lobbied at the British Parliament and had the Ban import to UK on Dried Bombay Duck lifted.

    If Filipinos are dying to eat Daing, the Indians will fight to eat Bombay Duck, even if they are Fo’rein’gers in another country.

    May 20, 2010 | 5:06 pm

  33. globalnomad says:

    Very helpful MM, and thank you very much; I have really been enjoying your blog for some time now. By the way, tilapia = tilapia :), but what is the difference between a mol-mol and a lamon-lamon?

    May 20, 2010 | 8:33 pm

  34. globalnomad says:

    @Jack Hammer – Thank you, and that was basically how I prepared it the next time around; but the peeling is a tough job with those thin and slimy buggers. The soles here are one of the cheapest fish to be had…

    May 20, 2010 | 8:51 pm

  35. KUMAGCOW says:

    i don’t like espada, for me its too matinik… i ate this several times and I always end up coughing whilst something always stuck in my throat… no banana could solve that dilemma..

    May 21, 2010 | 12:16 am

  36. ykmd says:

    Of all your pictures, it’s the guso that made me hungry most of all !!!! How I miss eating that :(

    May 21, 2010 | 2:01 am

  37. meh says:

    @globalnomad: http://www.fishbase.org/ is an excellent, excellent resource for common names, scientific names, and a wealth of other information on fish species. Coverage of Philippine common names is particularly comprehensive because they are based out of the Philippines :)

    May 21, 2010 | 11:46 am

  38. meh says:

    what’s up with the slightly decayed salted parrotfish??? didn’t know people eat parrotfish (or other large fish, for that manner) in that way!

    May 21, 2010 | 11:52 am

  39. Jack Hammer says:

    @globalnomad … what I do is cut the very tip of the head with a knife and with my thumbnail just peel a tiny bit of the skin back…then I take a cotton cloth grip the tiny bit of skin firmly with my fingers and the whole skin peels off in one go along with the scales. Repeat the same procedure with the other side. Since as you say they are the cheapest, Practice makes Perfect. And they are delicious to boot.

    The ones we get in India and the Middle East are actually tonguefish soles, which I also saw on an Hong Kong official fisheries website. Always try to get the biggest ones they are most fleshiest of course.

    May 21, 2010 | 5:02 pm

  40. quiapo says:

    The lizard fish looks very similar to” flathead” – a popular and tasty fish in Australia. Ray flaps are freely sold here, so it mustn’t ba an endangered species at least in

    May 22, 2010 | 1:29 pm

  41. garret says:

    Great post. Too bad most of these will be gone in 50 years. I wonder how much of these were caught using dynamite or cyanide.

    May 22, 2010 | 8:10 pm

  42. Tuna Chaser says:

    re the pic of the “Lizard Fish”. Here in Australia they are called Flathead and come in a variety of species. The ones in your pic look similar to what we call Dusky or River Flathead. This speceis in my State now have size regulaions of take put on them i.e minimum and maximum sizes to protect breeding. They are a popular recreational catch and caught by several methods of line fishing. Other types of flathead here are not so tightly regulated such as the different trawl caught species and ” sand flathead “. Most are delicious eating when fresh caught .
    Surprising how many varieties of fish are similar to those in AUstralian waters.

    May 23, 2010 | 7:10 pm

  43. Tuna Chaser says:

    May 23, 2010 | 7:11 pm

  44. wil-b says:

    awww. . . Mantas are such amazing creatures, I’ve been diving in Maldives, and after the first time i saw manta rays, it felt like my next dives aren’t complete if i don’t see one again, or a lot. . . It’s just so good to watch them whirl around the coral reefs swimming just inches beside you. . . . really really amazing. I’ts sad to see that they still catch these creatures illegally.

    May 24, 2010 | 11:30 am

  45. Libay says:

    MM, here’s a site that can provide you the common name. english name and scientific name of almost all of the commercially important species in the Philippines: http://www.fishbase.org

    May 25, 2010 | 9:48 am

  46. zippo says:

    The best find in Bohol is TUYOM. It’s a fermented type of bagoong made exclusively from Sea Urchin Roe.


    Try cooking pinakbet with this. Unforgettable!

    Jun 16, 2010 | 6:00 pm

  47. Grace says:

    _To all sugpo and alimango lovers_
    Looking for crabs and prawns buyer/s!!
    We will harvest this coming November, so anyone interested please contact this number.
    Our small fishpond is located at Sorsogon City.
    We will deliver the seafood here in Metro Manila.
    Thank you!

    Oct 7, 2010 | 11:16 am

  48. Ludwig says:

    About the stingrays… Okay, first of all, I live in Tagbilaran City. My family is in government service. And, yes, it is illegal to catch, kill, and sell rays. The reason why people still do these things is because they’re still very popular among local customers. As for why, I don’t know. I run a campaign against eating endangered/protected species, but some people are just utterly incorrigible. Sad, but true. When will they realise?

    Aug 11, 2011 | 8:13 am


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