This has to be the most premium of the premium dried fishes, or at least one of them. A roughly two kilo live weight grouper or lapu-lapu, split open and bathed in a salt solution then rubbed with organic sea salt and left out in the sun to dry, just. Still a bit moist in the meaty parts, this was a feast for the eyes when still wrapped in heat sealed plastic. A few days before our long beach holiday, I was in Cebu on business, and I wanted to bring some dried fish back to Manila for the lenten holiday meals. So I sent Victor, my expert “food acquisition specialist” off to the Tabo-an market in downtown Cebu with a list of things to purchase. He came back with this beauty (and 3 more like it), among other dried fish wonders. The Tabo-an market has one of the best selections of dried fish I have ever seen and it is a pleasure to visit, but you will walk away with an incredibly pungent aroma on your clothing and body… But back to the Daing na Lapu-Lapu. At PHP490 per kilo, this seems like an incredibly pricey purchase, but a little goes a long, long way…
Victor purchased 2 kilos of the fish, or roughly 4 pieces, the one in the photo here being the largest piece. He couldn’t resist this specimen, because it had just arrived and looked so darned fresh, and I have to agree. From afar, if I didn’t tell you it was a dried fish, you might think it was fresh… the eyes just seem so real despite being dehydrated to the max! I am a bit wary of buying large semi-dried fish because I once bought one and a day later, the most humongous worm crawled out of it, just as I was prepping to cook it. I am told this is normal (?!) but I was a bit turned off, if you know what I mean. I suspect they were maggots or some other “I care not to know from where they were born” creatures. But what I can’t see, doesn’t bother me as much, and this dried lapu-lapu seemed incredibly pristine and no creepy crawlies anywhere, as far as I could tell.
Because they are semi-dried, I didn’t want to leave them out and have some flies find a new maternity ward, so I actually put these in the FREEZER as soon as I got home and that is where they stayed until we thawed them at the beach… Next up, two recipes that we did with this incredible dried lapu-lapu.