20 Apr2011

A spectacularly fresh fish grilled and enjoyed near the sea shore. Few things get better than this. Do yourself and the fisherfolk a favor if you are heading out of town to the beaches this weekend and DON’T bring all your food from Manila. Forget the hermetically sealed chickens, the shrink wrapped pork chops, the frozen cream dory fillets and hit a local market and buy whatever looks best instead. Bring a few staple ingredients instead like olive oil, kalamansi or lemons, soy sauce, etc. and just count on serendipity… You will probably save money, eat better, spend less in gas, and make the locals happy. Forget that prices are high for seafood this week, the premium is minor compared with the increased pleasure…

I was at the market this morning and was thrilled to find a bounty of seafood on display early in the morning. Of course prices were high, expectations all around were that seafood was the protein of choice this week, and fishermen were out in full force last night despite the bright moon. I spotted this large 2.4 kilo Maya-Maya that was so fresh, it was still gasping for air (or do they gasp for water?) so we bought it, along with a cooler full of other fish and seafood. Technically, this could be yellowlip or other related emperor fish, not strictly a red snapper, but a close relative. At PHP320 a kilo, it was say PHP40-50 more than usual, but do you really think it’s worth a quibble to save say PHP100 for a meal for 6 or more?

With a fish this fresh, locals suggest you do NOTHING to it before grilling it. They didn’t even remove the guts as they tend to just throw this on the flames and avoid the innards when they eat it. I was a bit sceptical about this totally low effort approach, so I nodded in agreement with my suki, and I took it home whole, and still alive. Back at the house, I had it de-gilled and de-gutted. Stuffed the cavity with sliced lemons, salt and pepper and some olive oil. We kept the scales on because the scales protect the skin and fish from the harsh heat of the charcoal grill.

Ideally, you want to have coals on both sides of the fish, with none directly underneath the fish, but we had so much charcoal in the Weber grill that I couldn’t do that easily. So we just plonked the fish onto the grill, covered it and waited some ten minutes before flipping it over. It looked like a fish that just swam through hell, black as sin, and scales peeling off like the tiles on a space shuttle on re-entry to the earth’s atmosphere. :)

To be honest, I was a tad worried, and wondered if we had enough other food in case I completely screwed up this lovely snapper. But another 10-15 minutes on the grill and we transferred it to a serving platter, hoping for the best. It turned out great. White meat that was flaky and delicious, though perhaps just a little drier than some might like. Perfect with a dipping sauce of your choice, or enjoyed in forkfuls of fish paired with homemade acharra of green papaya or singkamas pickles.

Remember, try to buy fresh, buy local and cook it simply. :)



  1. lee says:

    i love the photo with the charred scales and cooked flesh beneath. I would love to have the fish head and jaw with toyo and a touch of sinamak (spiced vinegar).

    Apr 20, 2011 | 6:23 pm


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  3. Karina says:

    Oh gosh. My dad would devour this with pinakurat from Iligan, he loves the stuff.

    Apr 20, 2011 | 6:30 pm

  4. ShackelMom says:


    Apr 20, 2011 | 6:38 pm

  5. Footloose says:

    Photogenic fish, a joy to the holder and beholder alike.

    I still marvel at Spanish temerity and the power of “me too” appeal to Filipinos of imported novelties when they successfully introduced to these group of islands practically swimming in fish, a none too fresh and truly peculiar smelling imported fish as the blameless food to eat on Good Friday. But I have grown accustomed to its flavor and actually seek it anywhere I find myself this time of the year. Any bar in Brazil will serve you a basketful of crunchy crusted salt cod croquettes that goes down really well with a squeeze of lime and swigs of beer. Bliss hardly appropriate for Lent.

    Apr 20, 2011 | 7:40 pm

  6. cumin says:

    You’re right about buying local — exploring the market is part of the holiday adventure.

    MM, is that the camera angle or are your hips/thighs really that narrow now? That diet is amazing!

    Apr 20, 2011 | 8:03 pm

  7. monique ignacio says:

    I can almost taste it!

    Apr 20, 2011 | 8:04 pm

  8. T says:

    i totally agree that few things get better than grilling seafood by the shore. and really, with such bounty, it’s almost a crime not to eat fresh and buy local.

    Apr 20, 2011 | 8:16 pm

  9. KUMAGCOW says:

    Goodbye diet

    Apr 20, 2011 | 8:23 pm

  10. Joel says:

    I like what you said about not bringing all the food to wherever you’re going but to try the local market instead. This is a great suggestion. I imagine it can be really fun and exciting!

    Apr 20, 2011 | 9:14 pm

  11. mel ojeda says:

    best with toyo, calamansi and labuyo. iced coke and pandan cooked jasmine rice and guimaras manggo. eat the budul budul way with family.

    Apr 20, 2011 | 9:16 pm

  12. aprilful says:

    Love your suggestion of buying local to save on gas and supporting the local economy. Earth Day is April 22.

    Apr 20, 2011 | 9:19 pm

  13. Lissa says:

    That fish looks fabulous

    Apr 20, 2011 | 10:50 pm

  14. Willie Cruz says:

    What a beautiful fish, but I would scream hell too if I see that many charcoal,,so hotttt,,,,a little grilling tip MM–its ok to use that much charcoal on 1 fish==but place a holed foil wrap (pea size holes) beneath the fish to avoid scorching, maybe you have more lined up on the grill thats why you tossed in the whole bag,,BTW are those ipil ipil uling?? I admire you for using a Weber,,their the best,,i have 1 myself and been using it for years,,,,the tip,,use only a quarter of the amount of the charcoal you have on the picture but push them all to one side then place the fish on the other side of the grill== with or without a foil, cover the grill but open all vents top and bottom sides,,this will smoke and grill at the same time,,,10 mns one side then lesser time on the on the other,,, you’ll find the fish smiling at you when you take that cover off,,OR,,, grill it on a plank,,water soaked a plank of dry wood for about half hour–any wood==should be the length of the fish,,place the plank on the grill then the fish and grill away………..i love all your blogs,,keep up the wonderful work…..

    Apr 21, 2011 | 1:18 am

  15. quiapo says:

    Eating local your way is wonderful!!!

    Weber have metal charcoal containers in the shape of half moons which can be moved to the periphery once alight. Another useful accessory is a tubular metal fire starter for charcoal.
    Fish-shaped grill baskets are also useful particularly for turning the fish, but may not be available for that size of fish. They prevent the fish from sticking to the grill.

    Apr 21, 2011 | 4:48 am

  16. kim e says:

    beach and grilled fish = one happy camper (me!) :)

    Apr 21, 2011 | 5:56 am

  17. betty q. says:

    Off the tangent, MM! I have a lot of catching to do on your previous posts, mahina ang kalaban na…your sans rival…looking better. I know that the weather there is now a scorcher. Ergo, it takes no time at all for the dacquoise to get chewy since the buttercream has sangkatutak na eggyolks and melts as fast as you can count to 3 though your kitchen is air conditioned! If I were there, I would resort to meringue buttercream..more stable…and maybe heart friendly! ….or half French Buttercream and half Swiss buttercream. Spreading the buttercream, I noticed yours was quite thick? Maybe a thin layer would suffice. This is what I do para hindi nakakasawa kainin. The meringue consistency…it would turn out to be a nightmare spreading it if your meringue is way past the shaving cream stage….way easier to spread if it is just like the meringue stage in making chiffon cakes. If you go past that stage, that is where the problem lies with the holes kasi it is not smooth. I bake mine at a low temp. 275 degrees and knowing I have hot spots in my oven, I shift teh trays front to back. For me, the disposable aluminum trays works best for me lightly smeared first with oil dabbed on a paper towel, then wax paper and again lightly smeared with oil dabbed on same paper towel. I spread my meringue layers only abouot 2 mm.thick. Once in the oven they will slightly puff giving me the right height I wanted.

    Hope this helps! Oh…if oyu weant to try the Meringue buttercream or half and half…maybe do leche flan first so yu haave sangkatutak na eggwhites!

    Apr 21, 2011 | 5:59 am

  18. Footloose says:

    Umm BettyQ three days early? Happy Easter to all.

    Apr 21, 2011 | 6:18 am

  19. FestiveRebel says:

    @Footloose – yes i heard that story too. In Cavite Viejo where Spanish Galleons have an over supply of salted dry cod they made the friars “persuade” (more like command), the locals that this is what they should be eating during lent. Thus, the traditional “bacalao” dish that I grew up with and which my taste buds are craving for during this season. But yes fresh is way better, great article and a very photogenic fish MM!

    Apr 21, 2011 | 6:27 am

  20. bearhug0127 says:

    “swam through hell, black as sin, and scales peeling off like the tiles on a space shuttle on re-entry to the earth’s atmosphere”

    Happy Easter to all!

    Apr 21, 2011 | 8:40 am

  21. ariel nievera says:

    I like those fried and then escabeche. My wife’s favorite fish. Tilapia is cooked one way, barbecued dark and then have a side of kalamansi/patis. Eating it on banana leaves is optional but makes it perfect. My wife likes atschara or salted egg/tomatoes/onions combo.
    Just thinking about this dish is bad for the diet.

    Apr 21, 2011 | 9:18 am

  22. moni says:

    MM, what if you wrapped the maya-maya in banana leaves, then a lot more moisture would have been retained and the scales less scorched. Or do you prefer to grill it that way. Hubad. Happy Lenten season.

    Apr 21, 2011 | 9:22 am

  23. Maria Isabel Rodrigo says:


    Apr 21, 2011 | 12:00 pm

  24. Bijin says:

    the big one that didn’t get away….what a beauty!

    Apr 21, 2011 | 4:45 pm

  25. quiapo says:

    Kung hubad, masarap ang lasang usok .

    Apr 21, 2011 | 5:18 pm

  26. Junb says:

    Yes do not remove scales!!! There’s a fat underneath those scales that enhanced the flavor of the fish while grilling. Just sprinkle a generous amount of salt on those scales, grill on a medium heat and serve immediately.

    Apr 21, 2011 | 7:54 pm

  27. nina says:

    this is how we do it too, charred scales to keep the flesh tender and moist. Best with sukang tuba, bit of salt and lots of sili.

    Apr 21, 2011 | 9:56 pm

  28. wisdom tooth says:

    Ms Betty q, missed your presence. I make it a point to save all your little tips of here and there in my flashdrive where I have a folder each dedicated for you, MM, sister and others. Happy Easter to all!!

    Apr 22, 2011 | 2:31 am

  29. rosedmd says:

    MM , are you still on a diet?

    Apr 22, 2011 | 7:42 am

  30. Marketman says:

    rosemd, no, I have reintroduced carbohydrates in moderation and started exercise. I am still eating less than I used to, but I think that’s a given if I want to maintain my weight within 10 pounds of the 164-165 low that I achieved a week or two back. moni, yes it would have been a bit more moist if wrapped in banana leaves, but also aromatic from the leaves. I was just trying to follow the vendor’s instructions to see if the minimal effort yielded a good result… and it did. :) bettyq, thanks! Willie, there was a lot of other food being grilled after the fish… but yes, there was too much heat for this particular fish. cumin, it’s a good camera angle… :) But men don’t generally have hip issues, they have stomach ones. :)

    Apr 22, 2011 | 3:58 pm

  31. Pam says:

    Love, love, love this post! My first time to see a tight shot of charred skin with cooked flesh of a fish. Yummy! Found it also funny that you took a picture of the “live” fish with the pool in the background. Hahaha!

    A bit off topic, MM, have you tried using the “Egg” grill? Was wondering if it’s as good as it claims to be.

    Apr 23, 2011 | 1:19 am

  32. quiapo says:

    The egg grill is based on the old kamado design: it results in a different flavour and increased moisture, hence better tenderness and succulence. It operates at a lower range of temperature from the Weber

    Apr 23, 2011 | 7:20 pm

  33. Paola says:

    I know the focus of this post is supposed to be the fish…but I can’t get over how FIT you are now.

    Apr 24, 2011 | 10:17 am

  34. rosedmd says:

    MM, you look great!!! keep it up!

    Apr 24, 2011 | 1:41 pm

  35. Weyn says:

    That is one large fish! I agree with you on supporting local fisherfolk with their living. My family and I usually go to remote beaches during summer and buy from fisherman nearby for the fresh catch of the day. Last year we were lucky to get several kilos of crabs which we seasoned with only salt and steamed properly. Apart from the size, you would notice the difference in taste. Fresh catch always reminds you of the sea.

    Apr 26, 2011 | 5:19 am

  36. Weyn says:

    Also, I can’t help but notice the pool on the last picture. :D It looks so pretty.

    Apr 26, 2011 | 5:25 am

  37. TheProtector says:

    Poor fish! But that’s one of his roles in this universe, to be grilled ( and steamed and fried and broiled ) and eaten by us. Nice photos and even better writing. This site is superb and helps me learn some things I have never read. Keep writing po and keep inspiring others using the web and the blog.

    By the way, I feel that you love to eat..do yourself a favor by hitting the road and jog yourself to exhaustion, nay, just run slow and sweat it out. Calories in, calories out.

    Mabuhay po kayo!!!

    May 6, 2011 | 9:08 pm

  38. Lobster farmer says:

    Hi! Live lobster anyone? If by chance the breeze carry you to Davao, post me a note and you can feast on lobsters at farmgate price. Here is my link to my post http:///www.flickr.com/lobsterphilippines

    Jun 16, 2011 | 11:36 am


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