Dulong or Anchovy fry (Gobiopterus lacustis? or Family Engraulidae?) are part of a very large group of different species of gobies or anchovies. Tiny fish that can rest on your smallest fingertips, these little morsels of flavor and protein are either served totally raw, cooked in vinegar (kinilaw style), cooked in banana leaves, battered and fried into fish cakes, or simply dried (pictured here) then fried. There isnâ€™t a whole lot written on this fish and even the proper scientific name was hard to nail conclusively. Some sources say it part of the Gobiidae family (very common, 1 out of every 10 fish is a goby) while other sources say Engraulidae familyâ€¦ so I canâ€™t say for certain. If I had to make a bet, I would lean towards the Engraulidae, mini anchovy path as these appear to be the smaller version of anchovies that are used in the making of patis.
A freshwater dweller at this early stage of their lives, dulong must eventually work their way back to the sea and grow up to be the anchovies we know from Caesar (Cesar) salads and mashed up in Worcestershire sauce. Like Salmon that find freshwater by fighting their way upstream to have their young, the anchovies are supposed to be safer in freshwater until they are ready to enter the fish-eat-fish world in the open ocean. While they may be safer from fellow sea creatures, they are harvested by humans in staggering amounts. In the Philippines, government statistics suggest that we harvest somewhere between 200-300 metric tons of dulong per annum. That must mean billions and billions of fry!
A few weeks ago I saw some dried dulong (daing na dulong) and debated with the seller whether I should get the more familiar dried dilis or the tiny dulong. She suggested just lightly toasting or frying the dried dulong in a pan with a smidgen of oil. I bought a small package for P40 and promptly brought them home and forgot about them. A few weeks later, searching for salty breakfast food, I fried up the dulong for just a few minutes in a hot pan (note there is very little oil) and served it with hot rice and a chopped tomato relish with chilli vinegar. The fried egg hadnâ€™t made it onto the plate yet. The dried dulong was really good, and not all that salty – it’s probably just literally dried and not heavily salted… Terrific crunch, slightly salty flavor, and that unique daing experience (bitter taste that comes with munching an entire being, brains and guts and all) that is truly an acquired taste. The little bag of dulong easily served four; look for it in the markets or provincial specialty stalls.