When we are at the beach, I rarely miss a Saturday or Sunday trip to the seafood section of the Nasugbu town market. Although we often bring food from Manila, we almost always rely on market finds for at least 1 or 2 meals during a weekend. We have the drill down pat and simply bring the fresh and canned ingredients that we are most likely to use in the event that the market yields superb shellfish or fishâ€¦otherwise, we improvise. One of my brilliant crew members is the resident fish expert. He grew up in Palawan and is pretty good about identifying fish species and can tell if it is wicked fresh or a likely victim of dynamite fishing. Even if he canâ€™t name a particular fish, his visual recollection is quite sharp that he can point it out using one of my reference books when we get back to Manila. Yesterday morning, we spotted this stunning, but I mean stunning, looking fish while trolling the marketâ€¦
I had never seen it before and my photos belie its rather impressive size. At just under 2 feet in length, it weighed over a kilo. Though I had rightly guessed it must be a close relative of the talakitok or tulingan (the former is the closer answer), I had no clue what it tasted like or how to cook it. What was striking about it was how fresh it looked; as if it had just leapt out of the sea and into my market basket. A beautiful bluish grey, it had multiple fins or finlets at the top side of the body and it looked as polished and sleek as a marine Ferrari. It was also impressive in that the scales and bone structure made the skin look quite unique and interesting. It is actually a Finny Scad (Megalaspis cordyla), according to my book on Marine Fishes of Southeast Asia by Gerry Allen. It can grow to about 30 inches in length so the one we purchased was quite large. At PHP100 a kilo, it cost just PHP130 and could easily feed 8 hungry folks.
Back home, the crew decided to simply grill it naked above a hot charcoal fire. While the results were less than photogenic, the charred skin yielded a fleshy fish that was excellent with just about anything you dipped it inâ€¦soy sauce, patis, lemons, kalamansi, siling labuyo, vinegar â€“ take your pick. The meat was paler than fish of the tuna family, and less oily, but it made for very good eating. And since we served it with another delicious seafood based rice dish that I finally got right (recipe up soon), we had a superb lunch that dayâ€¦ Please leave a comment if you know the Visayan or Tagalog name for this fishâ€¦kubal-kubal is what they call it on the island of Coronâ€¦