You aren’t going to find many posts/photos of this rare delicacy on the internet dated prior to this one. I searched aggressively to see if I could dig up more information, and only my old post on fried saguyon kept popping up on search engines. Imagine my surprise and delight when our office Manager announced that her relatives in Agusan had not only managed to secure another month or two’s supply of dried saguyon (a seasonal and difficult to obtain delicacy) for our restaurants, but they were also sending a kilo or so of fresh saguyon airfreight in a cooler packed with ice!!! Yahoo! Needless to say, I took these photos as soon as they arrived and we cooked them immediately for our office lunch.
The fish fry at truly tiny, say 5mm or so in length, and those “larger” fish left in for scale, are aroughly an inch and a half in length! These fish fry, with clearly visible eyes, are similar to ipon, dulong, and dilis fry found all across the archipelago, but these ones thrive in lake Mainit, Agusan del Norte and are protected by the DENR. They can only be caught at certain times of the year, and in limited quantities, to ensure their population in the wild remains sustainable. This is the first time I have ever seen them fresh, and I was excited to experiment. Natives from Agusan suggested they just be simply sauteed with garlic, onions, tomatoes and salt and pepper. Though they also menitoned you could cook these in omelets, etc.
Into a saute pan I added some olive oil, sauteed some chopped garlic and onions, then tomatoes and then the fish and stirred this gently to ensure that the fish cooked evenly. I added some good fish sauce, salt and pepper and yet the liquids at the bottom of the pan evaporate. The whole process didn’t take more than a few minutes to do.
The sauteed fish fry were utterly delicious. They had a rather mild flavor born of their freshwater provenance, I am guessing, and they had a wonderful texture as well. They reminded me of dulong and to some extent, even angullas or tiny eels from Spain. It’s hard to describe why they are so appealing, but they are. Two platters were pretty much wiped out by the crew, and that’s a mean feat given we had 4-5 other dishes served that lunch for someone celebrating their birthday.
Because the first taste of the sauteed saguyon conjured up images of angullas or other Spanish type preparations, I decided to cook a second batch with a more European slant. It doesn’t show in the photos, but these were significantly different treatments and resulting dishes. For the second batch, I added nearly a cup full of finely cubed homeamde bacon to a hot pan. Once it started to sizzle, I added copious amounts of olive oil and when the bacon had browned slightly, added in lots of garlic, onions and less tomatoes than in the first dish we prepared. Some salt, freshly cracked black pepper, homemade chili flakes were added next. Just before taking them off the flames, I squeezed the juice of two lemons into the dish. It’s a bit odd that the photo above doesn’t seem to show any bacon, but it was chockfull of it (albeit pale and not reddish pink since it was homemade)… it had the fish, a burst of salty bacon, a bit of spice and some acid from the lemon. We had this with rice, but it would have been equally good on some bread or toast points. Yum. :)