Continuing to the extreme on the theme of salt and fish, first a relatively mild concoction of anchovy fry with some salt that was left to intentionally partially ferment/decay in guinamos, post here, and now, fish that was sun dried and literally buried in salt in the form of tuyo. With quite an abundance of fish in the Northern Cebu waters around Bantayan, Malapascua and Bogo, there was also an abundance of dried fish, presumably preserved to be enjoyed at a later time, or exported to other parts of the country, or consumed when there was less access to fresh fish or other foods. Salt is considered a brilliant preservative because it appears to be the enemy of many types of bacteria that just so want to attack recently deceased animals or organic materials… the salt draws out moisture from the fish, thereby reducing the ability of bacteria to thrive. It is absolutely the same concept that is applied to many types of hams… have you ever wondered how a salt-cured ham, made from a fresh bloody ham leg simply treated with salt and left hanging in a cool barn for a year or so can taste so good?
Unlike guinamos, which I approached with some trepidation, I have ALWAYS loved tuyo from the earliest memory I have of eating it with vinegar and lots of rice. Oddly, I even like the initial whiff of it when it is frying, though I have to admit the smell is a bit cloying. I like to soak my fried tuyo in chilli vinegar and eat it with rice, fried or scrambled eggs and chopped tomatoes on the side… definitely one of my Top 10 Pinoy comfort meals. So it wasn’t a surprise that I found this crate of freshly delivered tuyo at the Bogo market and was AMAZED by the AMOUNT of salt surrounding the fish. I have always seen the fish when the salt was already brushed off… seeing it in this state was new to me. It was literally packed and buried in lots and lots of salt… The salt not only draws off moisture and heads of bacteria, I think it also intensifies the flavor of the fish. The extreme saltiness requires vinegar to temper its flavor… a trick used often in Filipino dishes… So, if you live outside the Philippines and manage to fry up some tuyo and the neighbors complain, just say with authority “if you can’t imagine eating dried fish, do you think eating a salted dried pig’s leg is any less bizarre?” Hahaha. :)