01 Feb2006


“Gone fishing” in Marketmanila-speak means I went away for the weekend to the Batangas coastline, woke up early on a Saturday or Sunday, carefully selected my ickiest pair of canvas shoes, loaded my pockets with “bait”, and got into the four wheel drive for the 18 minute trip to the local market… heehee. Seriously. Hello?! Me get into a bangka and bob up and down on choppy sea waters handling smelly bait and waiting for some cross-eyed reef dweller that is larger than 5 inches to bite? The last time I sent my dad out from our beach house to fish (an avid fisherman with over 40! tackle boxes laden with the latest doodads and several boats and fishfinders to his name), I had to hire a large bangka, several alalays to carry his gear and keep him amused, transport coolers with blue ice, arrange for jumping live shrimp for bait, all at a cost of PHP3,500 without tips only to have him return 8 hours later with just three fish, each about 6 inches long. For PHP3,500 I can get over 25-28 kilos of stunning fish at the market, my gas and depreciation on vehicle included, in less than 1.5 hour…now, you go figure. And don’t give me the it’s the process that counts argument that I have heard several times before. I can drop a hook, line and sinker from a nice fishing rod into the swimming pool, sunbathe and simultaneously read the latest National Geographic and be very mentally satisfied with my market catch, thank you…

Frankly, the only way I would like to go fishing is with a aafish2speargun. So violent, so satisfying, so one-sided and brutal…particularly on those days you just want to throttle the nearest silly service person that has managed to upset your equilibrium. At any rate, today is Marketman fish day and here are four common fish that also taste delicious. First up, alumahan or Long jawed mackerel (Rastrelliger kanagurta) that inhabit coastal waters and reefs in much of Philippine waters and elsewhere in the region. They travel in big schools so that’s why when there is a lot in the town market, there really is a lot…probably the same boat got a motherload in their nets. At about PHP80-110 a kilo, these fish are a staple in many Filipinos homes. They are commonly eaten fried (to a crisp), but are also prepared with sweet and sour sauce, in sinigangs or tinowa and paksiw. They belong to the same family (Scombridae) as tanguigue, bariles and tunas.

Also common in aafish3Batangas are maya-maya or snappers. I am not certain which type of snapper is in this photograph but likely an Emperor or similar fish from the same family. They have nice white meat that is delicate and tasty. Relatives of this fish in Western waters are highly prized though ours are less vaunted on the fish scale. Maya-maya are still relatively plentiful though they seem to be getting smaller every year. They are delicious in sinigang or soups, and baked with onions, tomatoes, and herbs. Western recipes often call for snapper fillets and they are great with the skin on. These were also in the PHP90-110 per kilo range at the market.

Third on the fish list aafish4today is matangbaka or oxeye scad (selar boops) that have very similar characteristics to alumahan but come from a different family of fish and they have the most humongous eyes, hence the name “cowseyes.” They likewise inhabit coastlines and reefs and travel in large schools. Some of our staff prefer this fish to alumahan though when pressed for a qualitative description, they just say it tastes better… This fish is best fried, sarciado and in the province, sometimes dried before being fried. The best thing about matangbaka and alumahan is that they are a convenient serving size…hence you often see them fried and sold by the piece. Together with a cup or two of steamed rice and some vinegar or soy sauce, they are a typical meal…

Finally, I got this photo of samaral or rabbitfish or spinefeet (S. javus) that are also good eating. From aafish5the same family as danggit, these fish tend to prefer sandier bottoms, coastal areas and brackish waters (half fresh/half saltwater). They are extremely common in the Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. When fried the meat is delicious but the skin can have this slightly bitter tinge to it and a slightly strange texture or mouth feel as well. I love danggit, but I have to admit I am not as fond of larger samaral. Others like to fry this, prepare it paksiw style with vinegar or serve it with a sweet and sour sauce. The scientific information on fish in this post come from Gerry Allen’s Marine Fishes of South-East Asia and Genevieve Broad’s Fishes of the Philippines.



  1. millet says:

    MM, alumahan would be caballas or caraballas in these parts (Visayas and Mindanao), and samaral would be kitang/kitong?

    Feb 1, 2006 | 11:30 am


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  3. oscar says:

    Samaral skin feels like sandpaper.

    Feb 1, 2006 | 2:52 pm

  4. ShoppaHolique says:

    MarketMan, are you familiar with piguik? Im not sure how it’s spelled, but it’s pretty popular (and expensive) in Mindanao. I heard it goes for over two grand for a decent size. I can’t seem to find it here, then again Im pretty bad with naming fish.

    Feb 2, 2006 | 2:13 am

  5. Marketman says:

    millet, I think you have those local names right. Some fish hae as many as 12-15 different local names so it gets pretty confusing when you are trying to figure out what they are. oscar, sandpaper is a great way to describe the skin. Shoppaholique, I am not familiar with the fish you mention piguik…manybe millet or someone else from the south can help?

    Feb 2, 2006 | 5:57 am

  6. sha says:

    the kind of fish I see when I go diving

    Feb 5, 2006 | 8:07 am

  7. rina says:

    hi MM/millet, the samaral (rabbitfish) is different from kitang (spadefish). the kitang looks like a spotted hunchback as opposed to the samaral’s danggit like features. scientific name of the kitang is scatophagus argus if you’d like to google it to see what i’m referring to.

    Feb 6, 2006 | 1:49 pm

  8. Marketman says:

    rina, thanks for that clarification, I have learned something today… it’s really confusing figuring names out for local fish…sometimes the same fish has 10-12 local names in the Phiippines alone, not to mention neighbroring countries…

    Feb 6, 2006 | 7:57 pm

  9. Duds says:

    How to tell the obvious difference of Maya-Maya vs look alike maya-maya e.g. imelda, betilya…? Maya-maya is not so “matinik” unlike what we bought in the market… they say it is maya-maya but @#$%!^… TY

    Mar 6, 2006 | 9:11 pm

  10. Bay_leaf says:

    looking at these fish pictures make me want to have one for dinner tonight. some fried alumahan would be grand, with a vegie soup on the side like bulanglang. do i sound homesick, or what? lol.

    my husband and i were in Mindanao in the first week of February and feasted on the ‘panga’ of the giant tuna, bariles. done in the sinugba style with suka, toyo and siling labuyo for sawsaw, with warm rice on the side, it was just delicious. now i’m hungry! :)

    Mar 17, 2006 | 7:50 pm

  11. wyatt says:

    Millet I tasted Pigik when I was in Davao. Yes it’s a rare and expensive fish from the waters of Cotabato. It’s sold 500 – 1000 a piece.

    Aug 9, 2006 | 9:43 am

  12. Hamad ali says:

    i,d like to know when i visit manila about the place of fishing equipment and fish markets …..i am a fisherman from dubai ….thank you there

    Feb 21, 2007 | 8:15 pm

  13. Marketman says:

    Hamad, I am sure there are some fishing stores for hobbyists around. There use to be one in a Makati Mall called Park Square 1 but I think it moved…they sometimes sponsored trips for big-game fishing. Also, there are several markets with fish for sale…at least go to the Seaside Mart in Baclaran to see a wide selection. I have an earlier post on it…use the search function to look it up.

    Feb 21, 2007 | 10:42 pm

  14. dhayL says:

    I for one never tried fishing before, i guess because whenever we go on a boat ride i get sea-sick. My husband…that’s another story, he loves to fish, live bait or not, rain or shine, on the boat or just by the marina, alone or with company he’ll be there! He’s good, well he raves about it, and i admire those people who enjoys fishing, coz for me i find it boring (sorry)! Now that we go up the cottage every weekend, i guess we’ll be having fried and inihaw na isda all the time!

    May 28, 2007 | 5:33 am

  15. che real says:

    what is the scientific name of matangbaka?? and its exact location??

    ‘coz i pass a specimen of matangbaka and its scientific name is required…tnx!!

    Feb 2, 2008 | 10:30 pm

  16. Marketman says:

    che, READ and UNDERSTAND the post above instead of firing off an email asking someone to help you with your homework. Maybe if you READ properly you wouldn’t have to ask such a dopey question. Asking a food blogger to do your homework is a bit much, don’t you think?

    Feb 3, 2008 | 6:44 am


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