10 Sep2007

tin1

Very early in the life of this blog, I had a very poignant exchange of emails with a reader based in the Middle East. The jist of those emails was that the life of an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) was tough, he had to seek work elsewhere to feed his family, and that he and his family would survive the often gut-wrenching experience, despite the challenges. But if there was one thing he wanted a taste of from home, it was some beloved tinapa (smoked fish). So his request at the time was for me to teach him how to do that somewhere in the middle of the desert. I didn’t know how to make tinapa then and asking around provided some vague descriptions of the steps, but the next best thing I could suggest was for him to head to a delicatessen or food hall at an English Department Store with branches all over the Middle East, and ask them for some kippers, a smoked fish that if microwaved and served with vinegar, could substitute for our own tinapa rather nicely. To this day, I recall those emails and it is one of the primary reasons why I have such a soft spot for the millions of Filipinos who almost have no choice really but to toil wherever they are on the planet, on land and on sea. I have since received at least two dozen similar emails from all corners of the globe for a way to replicate the unique smoked taste of tinapa. So you can understand why I have wanted to track down someone who would be willing to show me the ropes, making tinapa from scratch, and last week I finally got my chance…

tin2

I have been purchasing tinapang galunggong from Manang Nery Manalo at the FTI AANI Taguig Market for many years. Our crew at home love the tinapang galunggong and I have a fondness for the tinapang bangus that she sells. Every other week, we stock up on several kilos of goodies and she has always given me a very good price. I featured her name in about the second month of this blog, and that particular post has since gotten a tremendous amount of hits (several thousand page views) and brought Manang Nery several customers. Her daughter, a student, was even able to download the post and their family were thrilled to “see” themselves featured on the World Wide Web.

tin3

I have often asked Manang Nery if she would be kind enough to show me the ropes of tinapa making and she has always graciously offered to do so. But one thing always led to another and somehow we never got our schedules in sync until last week. Their manufacturing operations are located in Rosario, Cavite, a small old coastal town roughly 30 kilometers from Manila. We started off at about 6:30 a.m., and got there just before 8 a.m…after stopping several times to check on directions and calling Manang Nery for reassurance that we weren’t lost. On the way there, we saw the historic home of Emilio Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite (why isn’t it Cawit, Cavite or Kawit, Kavite???).

tin4

After greeting us roadside and helping us secure a parking space, we walked to the site of the tinapa production. Housed in the home of relatives of Manang Nery, when asked what name I should give the operation, they said to call it “Betty’s Tinapahan” though there were about 18 people working there and they were all related to each other, many of them members of the Torres family, in-laws, cousins, etc. A relatively modest sized lot at say 800 square meters, most of the area was used to dry fish. The first step in tinapa manufacturing starts with the fish. In this case, I will describe a start to finish procedure for galunggong, though they make many kinds of tinapa and daing. I have never seen this process detailed on the web/net, and frankly I will not give away too many details, so that Manang Nery doesn’t bop me on the head, though she gave me clearance to observe the process in detail, take notes, interview the cooks, and ask extensive questions about the process.

tin5

Here I found out my first relatively shocking discovery… I would have figured that they were located near the coast in Cavite because the galunggong were landed on bancas straight at the factory, but it turns out we don’t have enough consistent supply of locally caught galunngong anymore, so what many if not most tinapa makers today use is FLASH FROZEN galunggong imported from Taiwan and purchased in Manila! I suspect these are the catch of large fishing trawlers in the South China Sea, but still, Taiwanese fish???

tin6

The fish are then defrosted, rinsed and dried in the sun on rattan/reed mats for roughly an hour or two. Once they are ready (a touch and feel procedure done by the experts), they are plunged into a large kawa or kawali (pan) filled with water and about half a sack of sea salt. This enormous kawa is boiling romantically over wooden embers and the whole process is both primitive and utterly fascinating. Utterly fascinating. Cooked salt encrusts the kawa and it is a powerful food sight.

tin8

After some boiling in salt water, the fish are carefully removed and laid out on racks while they are still hot, taking care not to smush the fish while they are being arranged. These are then rinsed with fresh water before they are stacked and readied for the huge smokers… The smokers are made of cement and look like huge ovens with a compartment below for the wood chips or shavings that are used to provide the smoke. Once the process gets going, it is like a fluid assembly line, constant boling of fish, arranging on racks, smoking, etc. This tinapahan uses hardwood shavings and with a bit of red ash from the fire under the kawa, they start a smoke alarm 9 fire in the smokers and shut the lids. They keep checking to make sure the fire hasn’t died out but isn’t too strong to burn the fish either and after a period of time, the fish are ready to be removed.

tin10

What emerges rom the smoker is a rack filled with characteristically burnished golden brown tinapa and the transformation from frozen fish to market ready tinapa takes maybe 4-6 hours total! Once the fish have had a chance to cool, they are packed into baskets and sold to dealers/traders who line up at the factory past lunch and who take them directly to neighborhood markets to be sold immediately. Oddly, tinapa doesn’t keep for more than a few days unless you freeze or refrigerate them.

tin11

I tasted the freshly smoked tinapa (fish), and it was superb!!! Still moist, but nicely smokey, and not overly salty… I should point out that this method of making tinapa (if it is similar across the Philippines) is a bit unusual when you compare it to traditional western hot or cold smoking methods that do not boil the fish first and instead rely on really long smoking to effectively cure the fish flesh and permeate it with a smokey flavor. I had a wonderful morning at “Betty’s” Tinapahan in Rosario, Cavite and I cannot thank them enough for sharing the way they make their tinapa. Oh, and to tie this post up, at least 3 of the men in the tinapahan had spent 2 to 10 years working in the Middle East and at least one said he was able to make a version of tinapa in Saudi Arabia so it isn’t an impossible dream…you just need to experiment. Use the oilier types of fish, boil with lots of salt, smoke the fish and fry it afterwards… Oh, and not only was everyone at the tinapahan so welcoming, they even provided a nice breakfast and coffee! Many, many thanks to Manang Nery and her husband, Rogelio who manned the fish boiling station, Rey who did the smoking and the wonderful ladies and gentlemen who toiled at everything else, they are in the first photo up top. A more detailed description of the entire morning is something I am saving in case I ever write a book…

 

COMMENTS:

  1. thebee says:

    Am I the 1st to comment? Yay!

    I love tinapa. Aside from frying and eating it straight up with rice, I also put it in pasta. Yum. You certainly went to great lengths to do this post, MM.

    How do they manage not to break the fish into pieces with all that processing?

    Sep 10, 2007 | 5:07 pm

     
  2. portugalbear says:

    Thanks MM for sharing with us this experience. It’s so enlightening and something you will not find in any book. I’m always learning something new in your blog.

    Sep 10, 2007 | 5:24 pm

     
  3. annette says:

    Yay! You beated me thebee. . .well all I can say is tinapa is still the best for breakfast together with vinegar full of garlic and labuyo . . .hmm what else . . .ah sinangag syempre and fried itlog.

    Sep 10, 2007 | 5:26 pm

     
  4. zeph says:

    In Bataan, they use a fish called halugasin. I don’t know if it’s the same as galunggong. Nowadays, they also use tilapia to make tinapa. Perfect breakfast delight!

    Sep 10, 2007 | 5:31 pm

     
  5. Blaise says:

    I saw once how ti make to tinapa n Batibot.. hehe.. That tinapa looks sumptuous.. ;P

    (Side comment) Sana all Filipinos would be at least understanding of our OFW’s, and not degrade them, like someone we all probably know about already..

    Sep 10, 2007 | 5:42 pm

     
  6. leila antonio says:

    What an experience! Maybe next time, we can form a group, those who are interested and go there like having a field trip? Daya naman MM, hindi nagyayaya, hehehe.

    That’s why tinapa are so delicious because of the intensive labor that’s involved in making them. I just love tinapang galunggong, and we have a suki in Baclaran. Every Wed after the novena, we never failed to pass by her station to buy tinapa. Her tinapang galunggong is so good and so is her tinapang salinas. But for big orders to be sent for our balikbayans, we go to our suki in Rosario Cavite. For the Smoked Bangus, I get it from Davao City, courtesy of a friend who lives there and has a suki who makes yummy smoked bangus. The label in the plastic packaging is Bonito.

    Sep 10, 2007 | 5:52 pm

     
  7. Em Dy says:

    I love tinapa too, best paired with sinangag, fried egg and atsara. I like the small fish better than the big ones though.

    I seldom order fish in restaurants because I dread getting one that’s malansa and then having to pay for it. But Pancake House serves good tinapa so I end up ordering it when craving for the dish.

    The hospital cafeteria used to serve Filipino Fried Rice which was one of their house specialties. The fried rice sits on the middle of the plate surrounded by tinapa flakes, diced tomatoes and salted eggs. Masarap and a favorite of the hospital staff. Their lumpiang tinapa was also good. Tinapa flakes and glass noodles wrapped in lumpia wrapper and fried till golden brown. Too bad the restaurant has closed shop to give way to new management.

    Sep 10, 2007 | 5:59 pm

     
  8. Adam says:

    Fascinating reading

    Thanks a lot MM.

    Sep 10, 2007 | 6:08 pm

     
  9. gerri says:

    That was a great read MM, I have parents who worked abroad for close to 20 years. When they recently retired, I got to taste again my Mom’s cooking especially my favorite ginisang monggo with tinapa & amargoso.

    Thank you for sharing this, considering you were quite sick earlier that day.

    Sep 10, 2007 | 6:47 pm

     
  10. Apicio says:

    Easily the most endearing in the crowd of my favourites of MarketMan posts. If ”Let us now praise famous men” is about the American experience of the dirty thirties, this is THE enduring Filipino theme: food, longing and separation. Bravo!

    Sep 10, 2007 | 6:52 pm

     
  11. consol says:

    Thank you, dear MM, for sharing with us the labor of love that goes into making the lowly but utterly delizioso tinapa!

    Sep 10, 2007 | 9:18 pm

     
  12. linda says:

    I love tinapa with calamansi/patis sawsawan.We only eat the frozen ones here,but,masarap pa rin. Thanks for sharing this experience with us your readers.

    Sep 10, 2007 | 9:31 pm

     
  13. tulip says:

    You’re lucky to witness all of that! I frequent a smoked bangus factory in Pangasinan to buy it freshly smoked and I always wanted to peep at how they do it. Hiya naman ako lagi, I just sit and wait for the newest smoked goodie. Next time I really need to watch.

    Sep 10, 2007 | 9:41 pm

     
  14. kaye says:

    this is one of the many reasons why i always drop by MM’s site almost everyday (honestly, 3x a day!) to check on new finds and things i only get to know by reading them here. it’s nice to know how one of my favorite breakfast paired with fried rice is made.. i love tinapa with tomatoes, onions, calamnsi and toyo..

    thanks MM for sharing this with us.. you really are a blogger worth getting addicted to! teehee!!

    Sep 10, 2007 | 10:19 pm

     
  15. danney says:

    There is so much to do with the food and culinary in the Philippines. There is so much room for development and improvement.

    We can make smoked duck, chicken, pork, beef, sausage and more. Hindi lang tinapang galunggong, bangus at tilapia ang kaya nating i-develop.

    I visited many local markets and stores in the United States and in Europe and saw smoked meats from pork, venison, reindeer, and birds. I hope we can adopt the same sa Pilipinas.

    We should not limit our minds to our traditional food. Nowadays I see restaurants in the Philippines enhancing food presentation and quality and adding the so called fusion. And the best part is, the Filipinos are adopting easily to this new food presentation. Basta masarap kakainin nating mga Filipinos.

    Think of smoked salmon. I love it but I’m sure we can make smoked hito, dalag, kanduli and more.

    Think of smoked sausages, I tried smoked sausages in Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Estonia and they are so good and it is part of Balkan’s staple food.

    We can always stock and serve those smoked food for the whole year, rain or shine, and it is pang masa. We just have to educate Filipinos on how to enjoy smoke sausages, birds, meats and fish. Kasi typically kapag may mold o amag ang ham or cheese, akala natin e bulok na and no longer edible. Di ba?

    Sep 10, 2007 | 10:52 pm

     
  16. shalimar says:

    such an observant blogger that makes you such a favourite… the way you connect to the people!!!
    this posts reminds me somehow that everytime `i open a tuna I check where it came from.. bec there is a canning factory down in the indian ocean full of filipino workers…. and I have seen the process too. since its a huge commercial operation unlike here.. the smell so bad.

    Sep 10, 2007 | 10:53 pm

     
  17. Rowi says:

    What an interesting piece of food culture you have written, MM! It reminds me of my college days when I was doing practicum in one of the fishing areas in Navotas – how to make Tuyó. It was quite an experience to see the whole process.

    I do enjoy tinapa and have had longings every now and then, especially when I make garlic fried rice. Funny enough, I haven’t tried the versions available here with fried rice. There are smoked salmon, mackerel, trout and a fish similar to bangus, sans bony parts. But because of the relatively short shelf-life of these fish products, the cold-smoked method is commonly used. Hence, the fish is vacuum-packed to ensure that it could be sold with less risk for spoilage. Then, there is warm-smoked salmon,also vacuum-packed and has to be consumed within 2-3 days from purchase. This smoked fish I like but its quite expensive, compared to buying fresh salmon. It is very delicious, eaten with hard bread (Wasa bread) topped with chopped red onion or with boiled new potatoes with a sauce of creme fraiche mixed with salmon roe and chopped spring onions!

    Sep 10, 2007 | 11:32 pm

     
  18. Chris Davis says:

    Thanks so much for sharing, MM. This blog entry gets its very own bookmark.

    A month or so ago, longing for a taste of home, I tried making tinapa with some frozen galunggong my sister got me. Thawed and dried the fish, I smoked it at about 250 degrees Farenheitfor a couple of hours.

    The fish was edible (my niece actually liked it) but it wasn’t tinapa so we deemed the experiment a failure. I then thought that maybe I used the wrong kind of wood for the smoking step (hickory wood chips) and that there was some sort of special Philippine wood that imparts that distinct smokiness that is tinapa… but it looks like we skipped a necessary step. :)

    Will definitely try boiling it in salt water before smoking it next time. I guess this is akin to brining and keeps the fish moist and yummy.(Mine was a bit on the dry side.)

    A bit of a shock with the Taiwanese galunggong. I grew up in Olongapo and took fresh seafood for granted ( my mom knew when the fishermen came in and bought their catch right at the beach). To think that we do not have enough of our own fish makes me sad.

    And thanks for the kind words about OFW. My dad was among the first I think. He started working in KSA in ’77 0r ’78. They had decided early on that I was slated for med school and it is thanks to my parents sacrifice that I am where I am now.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 12:30 am

     
  19. Ted says:

    MM, were the galungong rinsed and dried with their innards intact? How long did it take to boil the fish? I’m asking because i have a smoker and would like to try it. I use my smoker mainly for ribs and sausages and use wood chips from branches of my own apple tree. It would be great if I can make tinapa. And don’t worry i won’t be competing with Manang Nery ;-)

    Sep 11, 2007 | 4:12 am

     
  20. Raneli says:

    Aside from the Danggit, eating Tinapang galunggong or Bangus is a one of my favorite breakfast treats. When i was still working in the Middle East, the only tinapa fix I could have was purchasing those vacuum-packed kippers sold in mostly high end groceries. I can never forget the day when my knowledge of Smoked fish cut short a very tackless English colleague off her tracks whilst she criticized the Filipinos for eating rice for breakfast. One day, I made some baon of Longanissa and rice for work, and during my meal break and eating with gusto, this English cow (yes,she was NOT A LADY) kept on harping about ” How can you eat rice for breakfast?? At 9am?Rice…its so disgusting you filipinos! I paused for one bit, took one heavy look at her and replied.half in jest and half sarcasm.”I think you’re very rude for telling me that and “Yes” the English do eat rice for breakfast and it is eaten that way with kippers..your lack of manners and english culinary history is so appalling”. That shut her up!!!

    Sep 11, 2007 | 4:26 am

     
  21. Myra P. says:

    Raneli, well said. Isnt it amazing that there still exist such ignorant, small-minded people from supposedly ‘first-world’ countries? Like many non-asians, she snootily forgets that the majority of the world’s population are rice eaters — for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and even snacks between meals.

    Im with Em Dy about Pancake House and their tinapa breakfast; it’s always good and I’ve never been inconvenienced by a stray fish bone. Pretty fair price too. I also love the tinapa rice at Masas… so good it’s a meal in itself.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 7:13 am

     
  22. alicia says:

    That was extremely interesting. What a great experience. Have always loved tinapa. I make my daughter tinapa spread from tinapang bangus with cream cheese and green onions and she loves it. I prefer eating my tinapa the traditional way, with rice and tomatoes and red egg, problem is I could easily eat two plates full so have to watch it. I like the small fish, are they called Salinas?

    Sep 11, 2007 | 7:21 am

     
  23. paolo says:

    I think, eating smoked foods should be limited to the same level as eating nitrites preserved foods such are Corned Beef, sausages and Hotdogs.
    It’s contaminant Polycylic Aromatic Hydrocarbon, a known carcinogen of Colon Cancer.

    Sorry, I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news but just to caution posters not to overindulge often in this delicacy.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 7:47 am

     
  24. Mila says:

    Tinapa, eggs, garlic and a sawsawan of suka and siling labuyo. Happy breakfast memories. :)
    Thanks MM for taking time to go to Cavite, photograph and write up about this. Hope that cold of yours has disappeared.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 8:42 am

     
  25. dhayL says:

    Thank you for sharing us your wonderful experience. I hope someday, i’ll be as lucky as you are, and be able to visit a tinapa factory too!

    Sep 11, 2007 | 8:45 am

     
  26. Tilman says:

    This is great culinary anthropology. Thanks a lot. I wasnt aware that there were smoked foods in the Philippines, and always blamed it on the tropical climate. Then again, smoking should be an effective means of preservation foods, that should work here too. Hmmm.

    Anyway, are there any other smoked traditional foods in the Philippines? Another poster mentioned the smoked sausages, hams etc, and since I am from Europe, I grew up with it. It is not a particularly healthy way to preserve food, but it sure tastes good.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 8:51 am

     
  27. Lei says:

    Just after reading the title, I immediately remembered Manang Lima and her budbud kabog recipe(yes, her name is already ingrained in my brain cells Ü ). And now, we have another manang who so generously shares her knowledge. What a great way to start my day!

    Kudos to you MM for going out of your way to document this. I really appreciate it when someone actually does document and preserve how these native delicacies/food are done.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 9:05 am

     
  28. lee says:

    To thebee and fellow ilonggos: tabagak ang isda nga tinapa sa pics?
    I love tinapa.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 9:20 am

     
  29. bernadette says:

    Thanks for the very informative post, MM! I am also moved by your intention of going all out to document tinapa-making for the readers abroad. All the years when I get to go back home from abroad, I’d always eagerly wait when the OFWs clap their hands when the plane makes its landing on the runway. It always gives me a lump in the throat. But just early this year, when we got to come back once more, there was no one clapping. I asked one OFW as we were disembarking. He said it’s usually those who come from Saudi who does that and not those who work in Europe. Is that so?

    Sep 11, 2007 | 9:32 am

     
  30. The Steak Lady says:

    What a great post MM! thanks for the very interesting read =)

    Sep 11, 2007 | 9:44 am

     
  31. Roberto Vicencio says:

    While I was in Japan, I resorted to making my version of tinapang bangus. Never even got close to what they are doing here. The Americans living above our room asked me to give them a heads up if and when I was planning on smoking fish. I did and we had a great relationship. I smoked, trout, bangus, tilapia, and salmon. I even did chicken, turkey and ribs.

    I am an avid fan of the tinapa from Batangas. With fried rice and some salted eggs, life is good.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 10:01 am

     
  32. danney says:

    Oh my God!! I hope we are not leading into a Malu Fernandez disaster!! Lets enjoy life and love our fellow OFW’s

    Sep 11, 2007 | 10:02 am

     
  33. wits and nuts says:

    This site is really amazing! I am learning a lot from here. Thanks for sharing, MM!

    Sep 11, 2007 | 10:16 am

     
  34. corrrine_p says:

    My favorite is tinapa with tomatoes and onions with wansuy. I always love “the making of” features. It shows the hard work put into something whether movie, tv show and most of all food. Now that we know the labor that goes into it, hopefully, we don’t waste food. I see this wastage normally in parties. “Takaw mata” as we call it.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 10:42 am

     
  35. Fabian M says:

    Nice memory from my old place of work was one of our office mates who would sell tinapa sandwiches! Cream cheese, tinapa, tomato on three slices of bread — a differnet kind of club, if I remember right. :)

    Sep 11, 2007 | 10:43 am

     
  36. tina says:

    thanks for sharing this with us MM. i love tinapa, especially tinapang bangus. and just wanna say i love reading your blog. keep writing!!

    Sep 11, 2007 | 10:54 am

     
  37. connie says:

    Very well done, MM. I was also suprised to know that they use frozen galunggong. I thought tinapa makers get their supply from local fishermen. The Asian Market here have a good supply of frozen galunggong, maybe I’ll try smoking some. Na’h, too much work, will just go for the frozen tinapa. *laughs*

    I could only imagine how much pain in the neck it would be to make tinapa during those unexpected downpour. I wonder how do they make tinapa during the rainy seasons? Don’t tell me they stop making some, because rain or shine, tinapa vendors never run out of tinapa to sell.
    Nothing beats freshly made tinapa, back home we have a suki that have on occassions would have those tinapa trays freshly delivered and still piping hot. I miss the aroma that comes out from those trays once the lid is taken off, you never get that on frozen tinapas!

    Sep 11, 2007 | 11:13 am

     
  38. sonny sj says:

    MM,

    Thank you for the post. Tinapa give the distinct flavor of pancit luglog and palabok.

    I think the fish Manang Neri is making into tinapa is really Tamban and not Galunggong. As many of us is familiar with, galunggong has no scales except those found near its tail end. At least this is the case of the tinapa/fish in photos 7, 8 & 9; it has scales from head to tail.

    And referring to galunggong, just a small trivia: in some of the wet markets I have visited, galunggong is classified as either male or female. The round and pointed ones are the “males” while the “females” are the flat ones, an obvious play on the human anatomy.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 11:24 am

     
  39. MRJP says:

    Oh, so the galunggong is just boiled in salty water before smoked? When I was a kid, my mom asked our suki who used to deliver tinapa to us every weekend about the process of making tinapa, I remember that she told my mother that they boil it in salty water with some “lihiya” (is that lime in english? I’m not sure…) before smoking.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 11:36 am

     
  40. Lissa says:

    How interesting! Thank you so much for this informative post, Marketman.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 12:17 pm

     
  41. teth says:

    i love tinapa esp. those from BIcol… Bicol galunggong tinapa is different, it can be kept for a week or so since it is dry unlike the ones here in Manila, moist. Pair it with ginataang gulay, hmmmm, yum! Miss my BIcolandia!

    Sep 11, 2007 | 12:23 pm

     
  42. dee bee says:

    Wonderful stuff, MM. I’m learning a lot, not only from what you write, but from the comments fellow bloggers add.

    Hope to see this featured in your book.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 12:39 pm

     
  43. jb says:

    This was a really awesome post MM. We Filipinos are all over the world and it’s nice that you can use the internet to bring everyone together over something that brings families and friends together in real life – delicious food!

    Sep 11, 2007 | 12:59 pm

     
  44. J says:

    That’s where my mother is from. You should try the sinaing na tambakol! O boy hella good.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 2:31 pm

     
  45. DADD-F says:

    I love tinapa. So much so that I would alwoys buy smoked salmon when I was in Newcastle, the closest to tinapa of home I could get hold of.

    I used to takes dozens of pictures about similar happenings when I was still gallivanting around the country. I used to get my tinapa in Basilan from a dayong Pangasinan. She has a neat set-up there. Then, the making of dried fish in different places is truly amazing. And every area has its own special recipe.

    In Negros, up in the mountains, well, they didn’t make dried or smoked fish but they have such an ingenious way of fetching water. Great work out too!

    And I like what you did here MM. It’s about time. Hurrah!

    Sep 11, 2007 | 3:33 pm

     
  46. Nina says:

    My husband and I make our own tinapa here in the balcony of our small flat in Sydney because the tinapa sold in Filipino shops here are not good. I could tell you horror stories.
    Anyway, I use slimy mackerel,cleaned (you can remove head) soak these in brine for about 3 days (max) in the coldest part of the fridge. I then use an old stainless steel wok, line it with 3 layers of aluminium foil. I make a mixture of wood dust (blue gum or hickory), lapsa souchong tea, a tablespoon of bigas (gives a nice color) and place these on the bottom of the wok. Sprinkle a little bit of water over it. I place a wire rack inside the wok put the fish directly on it and cover the wok. The cover should ideally have an opening like a Webber kettle bbq to let the soot out (I heard the soot is carcinogenic) but I have a domed cover so that’s where all the soot goes and not on the fish. Place the wok on top of a gas cooker (I have a portable one). turn on the gas and keep it at medium-low and smoke for 30 minutes to 1 hour. When done, fish should have the typical tinapa tinge and the surface will be oily. Cool and individually wrap in aluminum foil and freeze until ready to use. If I want it flaked for pancit palabok, I defrost it and flake the fish and then toast it in a non-stick pan. If I want to eat it as ulam, I defrost it, zap it in the microwave. Or, if I want to eat it straight away (without freezing), I just zap it in the microwave to make sure it’s thoroughly cooked.
    You can smoke any fish but oily fish are better because they don’t dry out as readily as non-oily fish. Also, the fish should always be fresh, don’t use frozen fish or fish that’s angry (mapula ang mata)
    Try this and you’ll never buy tinapa again. You’ll always make your own.
    PS Yes, I have a lot of time on my hands.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 3:36 pm

     
  47. titashi says:

    hi MM! i’ve been very busy lately and was able to catched up on your postings only now. just wanted to say that i really appreciate your post on tinapa, i really learned a lot like other readers of your blog plus i love tinapa (my mom buys from farmers market but we also love the tinapa from Naga). Thanks also for the post about rosquillos : )

    i hope you are doing great and well on your way to being a healthier person ; )

    more power MM!

    Sep 11, 2007 | 3:52 pm

     
  48. Ley's Hubby says:

    How come tinapa is uncommon here in Cebu? In fact, I have not come across a tinapa that was processed here in Cebu. I have observed that those who are fond of tinapa come from Luzon.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 4:13 pm

     
  49. luckymomma says:

    oh!! i love tinapa! i’m quite a picky eater and i have a small appetite! But if you serve me tinapa with spicy vinegar, you can’t get me off of my seat plus i eat several cups of rice! my husband said during one of my tinapa eating days that he’ll buy a big basket full of tinapa so i’ll gain more weight! that post made me hungry!!! i want my tinapa!!! thanks mm for your interesting posts!! hope to meet you one day!

    Sep 11, 2007 | 4:30 pm

     
  50. RobKSA says:

    Thx MM. I have a smoker basically used to smoke beef and stuff. Can I use that to smoke the tinapa?

    Sep 11, 2007 | 5:34 pm

     
  51. Risa says:

    To NINA: “angry fish” (mapula mata)>> had me laughing out loud.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 7:48 pm

     
  52. Marketman says:

    THANK YOU ALL for a surprisingly strong response to this post…your comments reflect a lot of what I was feeling when observing the whole tinapa process… here are my responses to specific questions, in reverse order:

    RobKSA, I don’t know for sure, but I suspect a meat smoker would work for fish as well
    Ley’s Hubby, yes, I have always wondered why tinapa is rare in Cebu, but everyone I bring tinapa for LOVES it. Maybe I should start a tinapahan here…heehee.
    Nina, how fabulous, balcony tinapa…that should inspire pinoys all over the globe!
    MRJP, no lihiya in this version.
    sonny sj, yes, manang Neri made tamban, galunggong, daing, and many others…I took lots of photos so I may have confused some, but the description is for galunggong…
    connie, they continue to make tinapa during the rainy season, but instead of drying in the sun, they dry it near a fire…
    tilman, I am not too aware of other smoked foods beside seafood… but I am not an expert on that.
    Paolo, yes smoked fish in moderation.
    Alicia, yes salinas for the small ones, Manang made those too!
    Ted, yes, innards were intact, I asked that question specifically… Ugh, you think, but that’s how they do it!

    Sep 11, 2007 | 8:15 pm

     
  53. Mona_C says:

    Reading this, and looking at the pictures, reminded me of a food version of National Geographic… Culinary Geographic? Hehehe. The idea that it only takes 4-6 hours is astounding. Thanks for this :)

    Sep 11, 2007 | 8:23 pm

     
  54. Apicio says:

    Being close to the sugar central in San Fernando and some say for the unique flavour it imparts, spent sugarcane pulp (bagaso) is the preferred smoking agent in Bataan. Popular fish for tinapa is banag (mullet) and its smaller cousin kapak, both with large scales that easily clear off sweetish firm flesh with no fine bones. Truly rice intensive on rainy days and early mornings particularly when paired with one of the most visually daunting Filipino dishes there is, balao-balao, molting shrimps fermented in cooked rice oftentimes made pink with angkak. You ought to have been conditioned early in life to relish this.

    Ted, although it seems like boiling, the fragile fish are actually poached in salted water only to adjust the taste so you want it just cooked through but way before it falls apart. If doing small quantities or large fish, there is no fast rule that you should not gut them, in fact I think that you would obtain much better results if the fish are cleanly dressed.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 8:33 pm

     
  55. Marketman says:

    Apicio, it is interesting that you raise the sugarcane discards… as the smoking material. I discussed this with Manang and the cooks and they did mention that this was an option but they didn’t have easy access to the stuff, that results in a slightly different smokey flavor. Apparently, unscrupulous tinapa makers also use shredded cardboard, which results in a chemically tasting final product. As for gutting the fish, I think it is not done simply because the resulting product shrivels up a bit, not to mention weight loss…I’m with you, I would remove the guts for sure. I don’t want to give away too much, but Apicio is right on the poach versus lengthy boil, enough said.

    Sep 11, 2007 | 8:45 pm

     
  56. ykmd says:

    Fascinating post!

    Sep 11, 2007 | 10:45 pm

     
  57. Maria Clara says:

    I live very much the bottle lemon garlic tinapa from Blue Kitchen. Our tinapa does not travel well they go bad fast. This article ought to be in your book! Tell tale part is very compelling the work involved in tinapa making and cutting corners in making them produce an unsavory fish – the sad part is the fish use are not our own that does not surprise me even garlic in our market are imported from China! If you can feature three or four recipes using tinapa as an ingredient to go with your tinapa making article is a good cookbook material with short legendary story behind the recipes.

    Sep 12, 2007 | 2:08 am

     
  58. aggy says:

    i love tinapa and get cravings for it once in a while here in the US esp on top of pancit palabok. Smoked chubs from the international grocery store is an okay substitute.

    Sep 12, 2007 | 7:43 am

     
  59. MegaMom says:

    Another one bound for classic status! This is another super post, MarketMan! For some reason, it nearly brought me to tears – must be the smoke getting in my eyes? :) Maybe you think I’m sobrang kulit already about that book (those books?) you’re writing but it’s posts like this that define you. Just bouncing off thoughts, as usual.

    Sep 12, 2007 | 7:55 am

     
  60. connie says:

    Apicio, thank you very much for reminding me! Yes, absolutely! I grew up in San Fernando, as in amidst PASUDECO. When you walk or drive pass by it, the smell of bagaso is so distinct you’ll never miss it. The bagaso is also piled mountain high and anyone is free to fill their sacks for as much as they want as long as you ask nicely. They re-use the bagaso afterall for fuel. Kakanin and tinapa makers use this to fire up their pugon.
    Mind you flying tiny bits of bagaso(burnt or not) is a pain though, it’s like snow except it does not melt, more like gets into your eyes, you inhale it and it’s really a pain to clean once it gets in the house.

    Sep 12, 2007 | 8:10 am

     
  61. lee says:

    Apicio: I’ll ask the tinapa seller outside Bob’s Northdrive if they use bagaso here in Negros for smoking. (Smoking the fish and not rolling the cane leaves into cigarettes. duh! or the! if you read that e-mail)

    Sep 12, 2007 | 8:39 am

     
  62. sometime_lurker says:

    Brill! Another fab, MM.
    Pat your shoulder for me :)

    Sep 12, 2007 | 9:43 am

     
  63. suzette says:

    pass the sinangag, kamatis and itlog na pula please :)

    Sep 12, 2007 | 5:37 pm

     
  64. kulasa says:

    Very interesting. Your posts are really eye-openers. Who would have thought of posting about tinapa-making. This is just one of the reasons I read your blog regularly. Thanks MM.

    Sep 12, 2007 | 8:23 pm

     
  65. tei says:

    sorry if this is digressing a bit, has anyone tried PIXIE’S boneless bangus? they have a branch in qc near abs-cbn & also in pque. their inihaw na bangus is sooo good! meat is so succulent and always cooked perfectly, no burnt skin taste. makes you wonder how they made it ihaw.

    Sep 12, 2007 | 9:00 pm

     
  66. Bex says:

    If you happen to do a roadtrip in Balanga, Bataan – the wet market sells tuyo and tinapa which are known for its delicious taste :)

    Sep 13, 2007 | 10:54 am

     
  67. DADD-F says:

    Tinapa, while not entirely unknown in the Visayas and Mindanao, is not their traditional product. I would say that you won’t really find tinapa there but somebody in this blog once responded to me that they have tinapa in Davao or Cagayan(??). Whether “imported” from other provinces or locally made, I did not have the good fortune of finding it despite the many trips to Davao and Cagayan. Not in Cebu either where I did stay for almost five years straight nor anywhere else in the Visayas. I asked everytime. In Basilan, the only available tinapa I know of is that made by someone who came all the way from Pangasinan.

    At least, in Leyte, since fresh fish ia a lot more readily accessible, people prefer the fresh harvest from the sea, of course. And during the rainy season when fishers can’t go out to sea, salted dried fish certainly has a longer shelf life than smoked fish. I surmise that that is more or less the reason why smoked fish has not become a staple in the rest of the Visayas and in the Mindanao region as it has been in Luzon.

    One thing I also noticed in Leyte is that there are not many balut and red (salted duck) eggs to be found. Just as you, MM, are toying with the idea of starting a tinapahan in Cebu, I actually thought of engaging in duck raising (in rice farms)and balut/red egg production in our hometown. I asked my aunts and uncles about this and they just smiled and shrugged their shoulders. Leyte is really more into fish and vegetables and our own very delicious lechon. :)

    Nina, bless you for making possible home-made tinapa for us.

    Sep 13, 2007 | 4:27 pm

     
  68. dahlia says:

    oh wow!!!! tinapa with kalamansi, bagoong isda and sili… and talbos ng kamote, okra and nilagang talong… yummmmmmm
    nkakagutom… ramadan pa naman dito sa AUH :):):)

    Sep 13, 2007 | 7:15 pm

     
  69. jenny says:

    Hi!MM.I’m Jenny the eldest daughter of Manang Nery.Thank you for featuring my parents in this blog and how to make tinapa.I grew up with it and i still remember my childhood days that my mother always bring us with her in Divisoria to sell tinapa.And by selling tinapa I’m and my brother Jeff we are able o finish college.Thank you!!!!!!MM…….

    Sep 14, 2007 | 3:04 pm

     
  70. Marketman says:

    Hi Jenny, IT IS I that must thank your parents and whole family for making the visit possible, I had a wonderful time and everyone was so accommodating and helpful…

    Sep 14, 2007 | 3:09 pm

     
  71. Vennis Jean says:

    When I lived in manila with my cousin we would go to balintawak public market every other day and we never forget to get our share of tinapa..be it galunggomg(tamban yata un eh) or bangus…We’re both from davo and the first time we tasted tinapa was the time we lived in Manila.When I came back here in davao i would wander the palengkes and goceries looking for tinapa…but it seems that it isn’t available here yet. Now I try and experiment making my own smoked tinapa…once I perfect it I plan onm selling it here…it’s high time to let other Davaoños and Tagumeños have their share of tinapas whick abound the palengke’s,and even sidewalks of Manila.Thanx for the nice article MM!!!

    Sep 14, 2007 | 9:25 pm

     
  72. MR says:

    Hi! My husband and I had been living in Florida for quite sometime now. He loves fishing so much and most of the time he’ll have a decent catch. He was originally from Cavite but he doesn’t know how to make tinapa. Your article was very informative and really interesting. Now we have something to do with his catch; we were running out of ideas on how to cook it so what we’ll do is just to give it to our friends and neighbors. I just hope that you could help us with what kind of tree trunk is most appropriate to use. I don’t think we have much of resources here since locals use a metal smokers that look like a small drum and have it smoke for a long time as you mentioned in your article. I really hope you could still give us more detailed information.

    Thank You so much and hope you’ll still have more ideas to share.

    Good luck and more power.

    MR

    Sep 16, 2007 | 11:09 pm

     
  73. Ellen D. says:

    Thanks for doing a blog on my mom’s tinapahan. Yup, I am the daughter of Betty, the owner of the smokehouse you just visited. I’m glad you had a wonderful experience and thank you very much for saying such nice words about my relatives. They are indeed very hardworking and nice people. And of course, our tinapa is the best! I wouldn’t eat tinapa unless its made from our smokehouse. I have migrated to the US and would always request to have tnapang bangus and kabayas to be sent to me (frozen and vacuum packed of course).

    I am proud to have been brought up and my education financed by my mom’s tinapahan. When I was young, it bothered me that I would go to school smelling like tinapa because the smokehouse is right in our backyard. But growing up made me understand how I should be thankful and proud of what my mother chose to do for a leaving. Again, thank you for your kind words. God bless.

    Sep 20, 2007 | 12:40 am

     
  74. darvin says:

    ang haba!….
    hehe..pero nbsa qoh nman kht qnti..hehe!
    enjoy po ba pg gwa ng tinapa?..hehe..

    Sep 20, 2007 | 11:20 pm

     
  75. LEONARDO F. MENDOZA, JR. says:

    Thank you for your article. I think I will try making our own tinapang galunggong by following the procedure you have outlined. We have lived here in L.A., California for the last 20 years but I still long for those tinapang galunggong we used to buy along the highway in Tarlac every time we go to Baguio. Tinapang galunggong, bangus atpb are available in Oriental supermarkets here in L.A. but I prefer fresh ones rather than the packaged ones. If ever you are here in L.A., e-mail me and I might be able to serve you my own tinapa version.

    Oct 22, 2007 | 1:53 pm

     
  76. agnes says:

    hello, there! my husband and i are in the middle east and there’s still no substitute to our pinoy tinapa most esp if the fish is tamban. this morning we had tinapa for breakfast and i really wonder how tinapas are made.

    thank you so much for sharing your wonderful experience in cavite. na-homesick tuloy ako sa pinas!

    agnes garcia-santiago
    sta. barbara, pangasinan

    Feb 5, 2008 | 2:48 pm

     
  77. quiapo says:

    About 20 years ago some kababayans from Cavite started making tinapa from the cheapest local fish- the Mullet which was then about $1.80 per kilo retail; it was hugely popular, selling for $2.50 a kilo and featured in many local fish shops. However they left the area after a few years, and the product is gone. We can get frozen tinapang Bangus from Sarancgani Bay in Mindanao, which is really delicious (and boneless), but my Dad tells me that it is unavailable. It is only mildly smoked, hence the flesh is quite succulent nd juicy.

    May 29, 2008 | 1:23 pm

     
  78. quiapo says:

    My apologies: I should explain myself. My dad who is 91 years old, lives in te Philippines, and he has been unable to find Sarangani Bay Tinapang Bangus or any of their products.

    May 29, 2008 | 1:27 pm

     
  79. margarett says:

    Can you post also a video how to make tinapa?…please I’m interested how to make it one by one by watching a video in the computer, because it nis also a required project in our school in our T.L.E subject.

    Sep 4, 2008 | 8:19 pm

     
  80. zena says:

    Congratulations, MM! It is indeed a beautiful and meaningful post.

    Sep 23, 2008 | 9:37 pm

     
  81. carranglan says:

    hi good day.. i am ofw working in the middle east and i am entertaining this idea to start with tinapa making business when i get home since it is ideal in our place in nueva ecija. is there any book to buy in the market to find out the detailed tinapa making procedures? i hope somebody will help me..thanks a lot.

    Feb 18, 2009 | 2:03 pm

     
  82. rodel says:

    where can i find a business plan for tinapa?

    i would like to start a similar business.

    May 14, 2009 | 8:50 am

     
  83. stacey says:

    I love your photos. Where can I find this place in the Philippines?

    Aug 20, 2009 | 2:56 am

     
  84. Marketman says:

    stacey, these were taken in Cavite a nearby province to Manila. It’s exact location is difficult to describe, we were guided to the place by the owners. There must be several such places in provinces thorughout the Philippines.

    Aug 20, 2009 | 7:07 am

     
  85. Eleazer Nobleman says:

    Hi,.. tanong ko lang paano po magluto ng tinapa na hindi ma-smush un fish un maayos at matigas iyong isda.. please do help how to do this? at ano ba ang tamang procedure niya. slalamat po.

    Aug 26, 2009 | 10:40 pm

     
 

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