18 May2014

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Bantayan island is not only famous for incredibly fresh seafood, but also for its abundant and high-quality dried seafood as well. I guess that makes complete sense, but honestly, I have NEVER seen more amazing looking dried fish! It seems counterintuitive that something (often gutted and salted) then mercilessly dried in the searing heat of the sun would look “fresh” but actually they did. And thankfully, the photos seem to mirror my eyes…

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The dried seafood section was just a few paces away from the fresh seafood market, and at first glance, far less filled with goods than say the downtown taboan market in Cebu, the largest dried fish market in the country I think. But what was on offer in Bantayan LOOKED phenomenal, and after buying and trying several varieties, I can assure you they tasted better as well.

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Dried fish is often one washed out and parched color. Here, there was a vibrant hue of color, with natural oil content of fish playing a role in making things look better than they usually do.

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In this member of the mackerel family, you can see the natural oils making the dried fish look a little wet (which it wasn’t), and the colors looked so incredibly appealing.

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Even the fresh (as in days old) lightly salted danggit still looked like fish and these particular ones tasted terrific when fried up. But a word to the squeamish. If you buy low-salt danggit, you run the risk of growing some mold if you keep it too long, or in a moist environment. So only buy a little bit and cook it up quickly. Otherwise, you’ll have to brush off the mold and dry it under the intense heat of the sun again. That’s the reason most dried danggit is way over salted in my opinion, to avoid the mold, but the under salted version is a far superior product.

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Small dried lapu-lapu were also a wonderful find. We mostly use dried lapu-lapu in our daing fried rice at the restaurants, and while it is more expensive, I find it makes a great fried rice. I have always wondered why fishermen and women might dry this premium fish, but the local vendor said sometimes, when fishermen from the smaller islands get home with their sometimes modest catch, they can’t be bothered to run to town to sell them fresh, and choose to dry them instead and build up a stock before coming to the market to sell them. That made a lot of sense to me.

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Shiny dried dilis, again days out of the sea…

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…and 250 grams of dried peeled shrimp or hibe… now if only they had dried scallops, I would have been tempted to make up a batch of betty’s stunning XO sauce.

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A kilo of salted bihud or fish roe from large danggit or rabbit fish. In Bantayan, they prefer the roe of danggit, as opposed to the larger sacs of bipod from other fish. These are HEAVILY salted and cooked into a side dish with tomatoes, onions, etc. They remind me a bit of bottarga, and I suspect could be used in a pasta or some sort, but they would have to be rinsed to remove some of the salt. I have never seen “baby” bihud sacs like this, and I am highly intrigued by the possibilities of this ingredient.

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More wonderful dried fish…

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…and still more (with some cut up dried squid in the back). But here’s a disturbing bit of trivia — the small dried squid that are flattened and sold in the Bantayan markets aren’t from the surrounding seas — they are actually imported from China?!? That’s almost as disconcerting as the tidbit I learned many years ago that the vast majority of our fish for tinapa (galunggong) comes from Taiwan in frozen containers!

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And how can you tell a local from a tourist? The locals who buy dried fish buy just enough for say a meal or two. And they inspect and pick EVERY SINGLE piece before they have it weighed. We, on the other hand, bought nearly PHP5,000 worth of dried fish, roe, squid, etc. filling a huge styrofoam cooler, and bought this by weight, not really bothering to look at each piece as everything just looked terrific to us!

 

COMMENTS:

  1. bearhug0127 says:

    MM, the photos look alive.
    This is a must on my visit list when I come home. And I am gonna fill my luggage with these.
    Looking forward to your post on what you did with your loot.

    May 18, 2014 | 9:51 am

     
  2. Ariel says:

    I wish we can get the same variety and freshness
    Here in California. On the big ones somebody told me
    He quickly soaks it in water then drip dry. Then
    Fry the fish. It makes it less saltier

    May 18, 2014 | 10:04 am

     
  3. Natie says:

    I love the dried fish sections always…beautiful pictures!

    May 18, 2014 | 1:59 pm

     
  4. Corrine says:

    MM, hope u can sell some in ur restaurants. These are realy good finds!

    May 18, 2014 | 7:55 pm

     
  5. Betchay says:

    Thanks for that info on low salt danggit. Makes sense… So that is why when we bought a big loot of danggit/squid some of it developed molds even though I refrigerated it! Maybe I should have frozen them instead.

    May 18, 2014 | 8:11 pm

     
  6. Footloose says:

    Looks like Bantayan is one island I would not mind getting stranded in like Robinson Crusoe; don’t have to wait for Friday to eat fish nor need Friday to fish for me.

    Dried seafood is the easiest to take back home, no need for refrigeration (while in transit) and much lighter than live fish, except of course, the dried shrimps which are always hibe.

    PAL would rather have you carry them in checked-in luggage instead of into the cabin though. They blare their embarrassing announcements to this effect in no uncertain terms in English and Filipino. I was waiting to board for a Cathay Pacific flight and the repeated announcements made be cringe to the core of my being.

    May 18, 2014 | 8:51 pm

     
  7. Adobo Diaries says:

    Hi MM.

    Very informative post. Seems like Bantayan Island would make an interesting trip one of these days.

    May 19, 2014 | 12:01 am

     
  8. Gej says:

    Ha ha Footloose! “always hibe”!

    May 19, 2014 | 8:31 am

     
  9. jay p says:

    i’ve had the bihud before. cooked with onions tomatoes and some vinegar.
    its served ala taba ng talangka over rice.

    wonderful stuff.

    darn it. now im hungry and its a long way from lunch.

    May 19, 2014 | 9:17 am

     
  10. ami says:

    I get it when you say fresh dried fish. Dried fish conjures up images of greyish or brown bits and strips of what looks like fish. The photos above really do look like fish in silvers, pinks, orange and reds.

    Is it unusual if I say I’d rather trust the galunggong that came from Taiwan than the squid that came from China? If they can think of mixing chemicals into infant formula (remember the tainted milk scandal), who knows what other shenanigans the mainland chinese are capable of.

    May 19, 2014 | 9:18 am

     
  11. Gej says:

    The bihod is made into a womderful bottled product by Asiong’s in Cavite City. The fish roe, I understand is taken from the blue marlin brought to the market when in season. The Cavite Market there, where Asiong’s is located, is very much worth visiting, I hear, MM.

    May 19, 2014 | 9:55 am

     
  12. Khew says:

    The dried prawns look great!

    May 20, 2014 | 5:06 pm

     
  13. dhayL says:

    Yummy! I actually managed to sneaked about a kilo or so of different varations of dried fish in our “alis-bayan box” coming back to Toronto. They would stink up the entire house, but boy oh boy they’re so good with your garlic fried rice, and along with your 3-in one coffee for breakfast! :)

    May 22, 2014 | 12:10 am

     
 

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