All flatfishes are referred to locally as dapa or palad. Since there are over 7 families of flatfishes with over 540 separate species, according to the book Fishes of the Philippines, by Genevieve Broad, it is hard to pinpoint the correct specimen that one picks up at the markets. The dapa depicted here is most likely from the flounder branch. It is a left-eyed flounder, with both eyes on the left side of the head. I kid you not but there are also right eyed flounders… why, I do not know and am not curious enough to find out. Maybe the left hand flounders should only be eaten by those who drive on the left side of the road…
Bottom dwellers, these fish lie flat on soft seabeds, awaiting their prey. Over eons, they have evolved so that one side faces up and both eyes are on that side. Imagine if I slept for a few thousand years on my stomach, would my eyes move to the back of my head?
This beautiful specimen was purchased at the Seaside Mart in Baclaran. It was P200 a kilo and it yielded four nice fillets on a fish that was about 1.5 kilos. Thus each fillet was roughly P75. Many foreigners, particularly Europeans look for whitefish fillets such as sole and have sometimes never seen the whole fish. While dapa (whether flounder or more sole like forms) is not as buttery as European sole, they are a good substitute. I find that the meat is very white, flaky and delcious. It is an excellent foil for a lemon butter sauce. If you purchase several dapa at the same time, you can fillet them then either cook immediately or freeze for up to several weeks..
Dapa with lemon butter sauce. Dry dapa fillets with a paper towel and lightly dredge in flour with salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat up a pan and add lots of butter (I prefer unsalted). Fry the fillets briefly until just slightly colored and turn over. When the fish is cooked, remove to platter. Put pan back on the flame, add the juice of 2-3 lemons, add more butter, chopped Italian parsely and pour over the dapa fillets. Serve with boiled new potatoes or steamed rice. Fast, easy and delicious.