Gentle sea gliders, grilled endangered manta rays and nearly endangered sting rays seem like such an unlikely accompaniment to a cold beer or a rhum and coke. But in Bohol, grilled manta/sting ray meat is a sought after pulutan or appetizer to have at happy hour. I donâ€™t normally feature things I donâ€™t eat or havenâ€™t eaten but I donâ€™t think I will ever knowingly eat manta or sting ray as I object to eating anything that we are about to obliterate from the face of the planet due to greed, ignorance or ambivalence. I feature it because it was something truly unique for me to see at the Tagbilaran market. First, the large slabs of hanging sanga or endangered manta ray. These gentle creatures are differentiated from sting and other rays by their characteristic â€œhornsâ€. These can get rather enormous and when caught, their skin can be tanned into a leather and the meat is dried and sold in the markets. People buy it by the kilo, take it home and soak it in water and grill it for a chewy and pungent snack or appetizer. Apparently you have to get over the stench before you can appreciate the taste. Durian of the sea, you might say.
This second photo is of sting rays or pagi which although not yet on the endangered list, could very well be in the near future. I am not sure what the difference is in taste but of course the locals felt the larger manta rays made better eating. As with all foods that are slightly unique, this is something of an acquired taste. Bacalao, that Spanish dried fish that is reconstituted in water is a similar kind of dish. Apparently, in the Bicol region, pagi is served stewed in coconut milk with chillis and with malunggay leaves added. At any rate, eating sanga is illegal but there were dozens and dozens of dried hides openly displayed and for sale in the Tagbilaran market.