A whole deep-fried fish is one of life’s great culinary treats. Seriously. A stunningly fresh specimen (in this case one named after an ancestor, if my grandmother is to be believed, and she didn’t jest) of lapu-lapu or grouper, seasoned simply with salt, pepper and a dusting of flour or corn starch is then carefully lowered into very hot lard and fried just long enough to get a crisp skin while keeping the meat still very moist. I find most pinoy cooks overfry their fish, but that’s my personal opinion. Served hot, with a dipping sauce of your choice (I like vinegar, kalamansi and a touch of chili), this is a nearly perfect dish, as far as I am concerned.
I don’t eat fried fish anywhere near as often as I did as a kid and Teen, but I do get a hankering for it every once in a while. Good “first-class” fish has become so expensive (and in some cases overfished) in the Philippines in the past few years, with lapu-lapu ranging upwards of PHP300-350 per kilo, and tanguigue or talakitok just a little less than that, that most Filipinos don’t get to enjoy this simple and fantastic treat despite living in an archipelago of 7,100+ islands. Even dried danggit in Cebu costs between PHP600-700 a kilo these days, putting it out of reach for many folks… :(