“M” is Chief of Stuff’s wife of many years. She is an accomplished cook in her own right, and their family was with us at the beach over the Christmas holidays. When a trip to the local Nasugbu market just after a storm AND a full moon yielded an almost empty basket, I ended up buying several bangus that I had Manang Puring prepare for rellenong bangus, a stuffed milkfish. COS mentioned that “M” knew how to make this rather well, so I thought I would spend a couple of hours experimenting with a dish I had never made myself before…
M’s recipe is quite traditional, and she sautes onions, potatoes and carrots then adds the steamed, deboned and flaked bangus meat and mixed this up gently. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside to cool. Because this was an unplanned exercise, we had several ingredients missing, including some raisins, that I gather are meant to bring sweetness and a bit of moisture. I always think of plump cooked raisins as garapatas or engorged ticks, but let’s not go down that path now… :) Some folks add ground pork, others more herbs, etc. But you get the picture, deboned and flaked meat, a bit of extender and starch in the potatoes, sweetness from the onions and color from the carrots. And enough volume to stuff back into the fish skin.
After cooling for some 15 minutes or so, a couple of eggs were added as a binder…
…then the filling was stuffed into the fish casing, and quite aggressively stuffed at that. M wanted it to be “bus-ok” or very plumply stuffed, and it was. Think of one of those young kids that is truly a bit overweight but out of politeness you would never say anything to their parents. I thought the filling might expand when fried and burst through the skin, but it didn’t.
M used a long wooden spoon to get the filling all the way down into the fish skin.
And while this angle doesn’t make it seem that the fish was that generously stuffed, take my word for it, it was hefty for its size. :)
I forgot to mention, the fish skin was briefly marinated in kalamansi or calamondin juice and a bit of soy sauce, to ensure that it didn’t smell fishy?! Then it was sprinkled with a bit of flour and deep-fried in vegetable fat (would have used lard if we had it on hand). Doesn’t it look wickedly good?
Wait several minutes (which we didn’t) before slicing, and voila!
Remember to season with salt and pepper very generously, it needs it. This was delicious, and brought back childhood memories from eating out at other people’s houses. My mom didn’t fuss with this type of dish often, so I ate it at friends houses more often than not. This was still quite juicy and a great “base” recipe from which to experiment further. Thanks to M for showing me how to do it. Next up, two Marketman variations on the rellenong bangus theme…