09 Dec2008


I haven’t eaten dalag or mudfish in at least a decade. And neither has Mrs. MM, though it is one of her favorites, but only if cooked the way she had it as a kid/teenager. Her yaya (nanny) turned cook, then major doma, who worked for their family for some 50 years or so retired many years ago, used to cook a mean version. She inadvertently took with her a treasure trove of comfort food recipes, as nothing was ever recorded in writing, when she returned to the province. So when N visited us a few weeks ago in Cebu city, and said she was willing to come to Manila for a month-long “vacation” cum informal training course for our “younger” crew, of course we said yes faster than you can say yes… Mrs. MM quickly assembled a list of favorite childhood and young adult recipes and we hope to cover many of them in the month ahead…


At nearly 80 years of age, N does not read or write recipes, and cooks by memory and feel alone (often not tasting dishes she does not personally consume or enjoy, like beef or kinilaw)… it is a skill that is totally impressive, but which vexes the younger crew in the household as they can’t follow without clear and precise instructions. It is fantastic to watch N cook, and despite years in retirement, she still has the gift, if you know what I mean. Soon after arriving, and inspecting our larders, she smiled and gave us a two thumbs up equivalent as there were bones up the wazoo, stocks, and all manner of other supplies on hand with which to experiment with. I suppose for some artists, a full range of paints is always rather inspiring…


So first off, a soup with dalag or mudfish and miso. I have never purchased dalag in the markets as they always seemed so mean looking. Besides, the term mudfish is less than appealing. One large dalag is all you need… gut it and cut it perpendicular to its body. Next make the miso “relish” by sauteing some garlic, onions and tomatoes and miso. Then as with sinigang, make a soup with dalag, tomatoes, vegetables, chillies, upo (N’s version) and a bit of miso in the soup as well. Serve the soup with the miso mixture on the side. Also add patis or fish sauce and some sliced kalamansi to adjust the saltiness and sourness to your preference.


It was delicious! Exactly as Mrs. MM remembered it. Except that the dalag had a lot of bones and when I quizzed Mrs. MM on this (she of the I never had to deal with bones stance), she smirked and said that N used to debone segments of dalag for her so she only got the meat and the soup. Ayayay… So off went the soup tureen or bowl and the fish was de-boned. Yum. I am hoping we will recapture several of these types of comforting home style recipes in the weeks ahead. As for proportions, forget about it this early in the game. We will have to repeat these recipes with measuring cups and spoons at the ready…



  1. pinoycontests says:

    Perfect for a nippy December day! Here in La Union, we also add dahon ng sili. :-)

    Dec 9, 2008 | 10:37 am


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  3. Maria Clara says:

    Real comfort food and also pesang dalag. We prepped our dalag for soup, sarciado or burung isda in a wicked manner. A good vessel for cleaning dalag is a rough concrete surface or hollow block. On top of the roughness of the cleaning vessel we throw into the dalag some sand and keep scrubbing the dalag until no specks of dark and slimmy skin is visible. I believe at the wet market they prepped the dalag the way I described it above. Dalag makes a good burung isda and the bones are edible. No bones picking necessary. For grilling we just grill dalag with the scales on. N, I believe belongs to a wide group of home schooled cooks still around that trust they instinct and feel of the food they cooked which always comes out good! The old school of our cooking genre. Sounds N has very good genes at her age looks everything is still intact and up and running.

    Dec 9, 2008 | 11:28 am

  4. chrisb says:

    Your story about the bones is amusing. Maybe next time you can have your kitchen crew fillet the fish before cooking, but use the bones to make the soup stock so it still gives its flavor =)

    I guess it is refining these age old recipes that will push our cuisine further into the world stage.

    Dec 9, 2008 | 11:41 am

  5. fried-neurons says:

    It’s really great that you have this opportunity to have a month-long TOI session between N and your present crew. I wish I had such a chance with my dear “Manang Pacing”, who was my yaya and later became our cook. I still try to find her and restart contact once in a while, even though I’m in California now and she’s somewhere in Abra (address unknown).

    Dec 9, 2008 | 12:43 pm

  6. BigGame James says:

    That looks scrumptuous! thanks for the inspiration…sinigang sa miso will be perfect soup for these cold nights in SFO. cheers!

    Dec 9, 2008 | 1:25 pm

  7. Jun says:

    The key to this is the freshness of the fish and of course your passion and love for cooking. I have a nanny that no matter how much I teach her the food she cooks seems to come out different from the way I cook it. In the end my kids and my wife always ask me to cook or we outside.

    Dec 9, 2008 | 1:45 pm

  8. Jun says:

    eat outside I mean :)

    Dec 9, 2008 | 1:46 pm

  9. dragon says:

    Cooking ouido–just like Nanay (my late grandma). Like your N, Nanay “hated” beef. Nanay would cook anything beef, without tasting it herself or having anyone taste in her behalf, she would get the timpla perfect–neither salty nor bland. I, in my mid-life discovery (of the delights of food, cooking, etc) age, am ‘learning’ to cook by ouido but baking is definitely with precision.

    BTW MM, just came back from a foraging jaunt: from the Italian grocer, some sopressa & salami; from the butcher, some VG Aussie beef ribs (for kalbichim) & placed my order of ham and whole chook for roasting as well; from the Arabic shop, mixed nuts, dried fruits; from the greengrocer–what else, fresh fruits & veggies. I had to stop myself from spending all my money buying what cannot be consumed (by just 3 people) right away…

    Can anyone from Melbourne guide me to where I can buy ‘wholesale/bulk’ baking ingredients like chocolate, cocoa, flour–without having to establish myself as a commercial consumer????

    Dec 9, 2008 | 1:55 pm

  10. Quillene Petite says:

    In our home, the miso is added direct to the soup and we use dahon ng mustasa, washed in salt and rinsed, as the leafy green for the soup.

    I love this dish!

    Dec 9, 2008 | 3:10 pm

  11. alicia says:

    Will have to try this version… am liking the addition of upo (another childhood favorite of mine!), we love pesang dalag with ginisang miso . This will be good to have in between the rich holiday meals. I serve a lot of fish in December to balance off the large amounts of red meat and lechon we are served at Christmas gatherings.

    Dec 9, 2008 | 4:43 pm

  12. marissewalangkaparis says:

    Miso is one of my favorites. Since my brood doesn’t like it so much,i always cook just a little for me ,hubby and my yaya. Yaya now knows how to cook it the way I like it.
    Mmmmmmmmm…..comfort food…

    Dec 9, 2008 | 4:51 pm

  13. Marketman says:

    quillene, yes, the inspiration for this was eating a bowl of sinigang na salmon belly with mustasa leaves that was stunningly good…so we thought to ask N to do the dalag version…

    Dec 9, 2008 | 5:00 pm

  14. Maki says:


    it made me hungry… i want one.. hehehhe

    Dec 9, 2008 | 5:07 pm

  15. carina says:

    N reminds me my Lola. And sinigang na dalag is a staple food in Candaba. My Lola sometimes use santol if they are in season.

    Dec 9, 2008 | 5:21 pm

  16. corrine says:

    Hey, thanks for reminding. I haven’t cooked this for the longest time. Tamang-tama I have guests this weekend… 1 Indian and 2 chinese. Sinigang is a hit among foreigners. :)

    Dec 9, 2008 | 6:27 pm

  17. Mimi says:

    Fortunately my brother’s yaya-now-turned-cook, who has been with us for over 30 years, is still cooking. She also does not measure and just adds ingredients at will. Good thing with her is that she shares her secrets. So while I am abroad, when I want to make a recipe, I call her and she dictates the steps to me via long distance. The odd thing is that I believe a dish tastes better when she makes it and all I have to do is eat. My favourite dishes which she makes are: tinolang daing na kanduli, binayabasang alimasag, pancit molo soup, sinigang na kanduli sa miso, pesang dalag with miso, biya sa gata, adobong hito and tochong bangus. Lots of hugs to your N, I do miss our own N and most especially her wonderful food. The great thing is that when I go home to visit she makes them a day at a time and I still get to enjoy them…

    Dec 9, 2008 | 6:33 pm

  18. toping says:

    Since I’ve already met Mrs. MM, I’m in a much better position to visualize her with the I-never-had-to-deal-with-bones stance. Priceless! ;-p

    Dec 9, 2008 | 8:33 pm

  19. maria says:

    wow! i’m so excited with the new post entries courtesy of N. i truly believe that cooking without using the exact measurements, all by memory, and can still whip up a very excellent dish is what makes a cook, the best cook in the world. Thank you N, for visiting mm and family. :)

    Dec 9, 2008 | 9:15 pm

  20. maddie says:

    this post makes me remember our tiya maria and my “miss” (yaya who was also the major doma of sorts and who cooked excellently as well). gone are the days of these “heroes” in the household with fierce loyalty, excellent talent, gigantic hearts. they stayed in our house forever, some till their last days (i kid you not).

    re this dalag fish though, i can’t seem to bring myself to appreciate it in any form. i guess the slimy, scary looking black thing doesn’t look so appetizing. but i’m sure it tastes good because “unagi” tastes good.

    Dec 9, 2008 | 10:20 pm

  21. rose says:

    i dont like dalag that much.i remember the slime when my mom asks me to clean it. rubbing the skin with rocksalt helps remove this.but, the smell is left on my hands… we usually cook it pesang dalag…i love the sauce that goes with this dish.. sauteed garlic, onions, lots of tomatoes, taure,blackbeans.i end up eating the soup, repolyo, and the sauce not the fish…..I love sinigang sa miso na ulo ng isda! or salmon belly.yummy

    Dec 9, 2008 | 11:46 pm

  22. ted says:

    So what is the american or english name for Dalag? I know that kanduli is catfish. I’ve done sinigang na kanduli in miso before but not Dalag. If someone can tell me please. Thanks.

    Dec 10, 2008 | 6:43 am

  23. ted says:

    btw, it’s the first time i’ve heard/seen the name mudfish, or i would have remembered that name.

    Dec 10, 2008 | 6:46 am

  24. Maria Clara says:

    Ted: they are called snake fish and they sell them at Thai market provenance from Vietnam in whole ungutted and gutted or sliced. They sliced ones are cleaned well no specks of black skin. They taste nasty though — do not even waste your money buying them. Tried in deep fried, sinigang sa miso and pesa all equates to horrible taste. I believe freshness is a contributing factor when it comes to this fish.

    Dec 10, 2008 | 7:12 am

  25. millet says:

    i think they’re called snakehead fish, and are largely considered pests. apaprently, several years back, some cambodian (or was it vietnamese) migrants released some dalag in a US lake so they would have a ready supply. the dalag multiplied so fast and gobbled up all the local fish, so now they’re the subject of pest control.

    Dec 10, 2008 | 7:50 am

  26. Marketman says:

    ted, it’s mudfish, as far as I can tell, but if it helps, the scientific name is apparently Ophiocephalus striatus bloch… :)

    Dec 10, 2008 | 8:01 am

  27. ted says:

    If they are called snake(head) fish, then i won’t be able to get them here then. It’s importation live is banned here in the US. I even saw the documentary regarding that fish on discovery i think. And yes millet/mc they are pests according to the documentary.

    Dec 10, 2008 | 8:44 am

  28. edel says:

    ted, hito is catfish.. kanduli is a white fish (inside and out) and matinik.. hito is black and slimy :)

    Dec 10, 2008 | 10:33 am

  29. MarketFan says:

    agree, yes, hito is catfish…it has whiskers like a cat

    Dec 10, 2008 | 11:55 am

  30. alicia says:

    I have not had kanduli in such a long time! Any suggestions where I can get in Metro Manila? I
    also remember my grandmother made this dish with dalag, it had peanut butter in the sauce and slices of red and green peppers. It was my favorite fish dish in her house.. on top of hot rice!!

    Dec 10, 2008 | 3:32 pm

  31. marissewalangkaparis says:

    Hito is catfish. Dalag is mudfish. You can get a lot of kanduli in Tanay (lakeshore town of the Laguna Bay). They even have restos there that specialize in Sinigang na Kanduli. I know you can get them at some markets but they seem to be rarer now.
    To go to Tanay you can take the Marcos Highway (Marikina-Cainta route. Up through Antipolo and you will pass thru the towns of Teresa etc etc..there are signs telling you the way to Tanay.
    When we were young my dad would bring us to this resto (cant remember the name) and we’d eat sinigang na kanduli (really fresh). I dont know if they still are as fresh now.But they were really good.

    Dec 10, 2008 | 4:57 pm

  32. ted says:

    I think Hito is what they call “yellow catfish” here in the US(small, black skinned, with yellowish slime), while the kanduli is called just “catfish” but whiter skinned and larger in size (smallest would be a kilo each and i’ve seen some as large as 3kilos), they are always available at oriental wet markets, which i use for sinigang with miso. The yellow catfish (hito) is very rare and whenever i can find them, i always just grill them till their skin chars, with dipping sauce made of vinegar, patis, and diced ginger.

    Dec 11, 2008 | 5:02 am

  33. Divine G says:

    Yes, thanks to our yayas who became our cooks, too. They gave us all very valuable gifts, the gift of cooking. We are not chefs but in more ways than one we learned something from them even when we are not really good cooks we remembered somethings from the old days. Are’nt we lucky that even if we are considered a third world country we had househelps who had really helped and inspired . I miss BURONG ISDA they use dalag in our province. I also miss the ayungin (small fish) cooked in kamatis and kalamansi.

    Dec 12, 2008 | 6:46 pm

  34. brenda says:

    i love Pesang Dalag and sinigang na Kanduli sa miso

    Dec 13, 2008 | 7:37 am

  35. betty q. says:

    Ted…I think Kanduli is what they call BASA fish…immediate relative of catfish(hito)….they are usually sold frozen fillet though here in Asian fish stores, they sometimes sell fresh Kanduli (Basa)!

    Dec 13, 2008 | 11:05 am

  36. Mimi says:

    alicia: In Mandaluyong, we get our dalag, kanduli, hito and ayungin, and the fresh tagunton for ukoy from Ka Linda at the old Kalentong market. Wala talaga siyang puwesto, pero may bilao-bilao siya nakapatong sa hollowblocks during early morning weekends dun sa eskinita between General Kalentong extension. She says that her husband does the fishing from Laguna Bay and she does the selling. Our N orders fish from her.

    Dec 16, 2008 | 4:23 pm

  37. Gary says:

    ted says:

    If they are called snake(head) fish, then i won’t be able to get them here then. It’s importation live is banned here in the US. I even saw the documentary regarding that fish on discovery i think. And yes millet/mc they are pests according to the documentary.

    December 10th, 2008

    Well, first off, where do you live??? If you live in Southern California near L.A., then I can direct you to certain Asian markets where these fish are sold. These fish, when sold here, are already dead so you wouldn’t have to worry about the fishery laws that pertain to releasing exotic fishes into the wild.

    Dec 18, 2008 | 2:50 pm

  38. Mercy says:

    Where can I buy mudfish in the orange county,CA area,I will appreciate any informatiom.Thank you

    May 27, 2009 | 6:19 am

  39. el_jefe says:

    pinakamasarap na luto sa dalag ay pesang dalag o kayay nilaga at ang sawsawan at alamang na pinigaan ng dayap!!!!yum!

    Oct 29, 2009 | 4:28 pm

  40. taga ilog says:

    all these replies are making me hungry. anyway about the hito, yes its catfish in English. there are many types of hito, the variety on hand really depends where on you are in the world. kanduli is just one type of hundreds of catfish species. as mean as it may sound, dalag is called snakehead. to many that are not familiar with it, the name alone portrays a gruesome, monstrous, ugly thing. but in reality its one of the best tasting fresh water fish around.

    Jun 20, 2010 | 6:01 pm

  41. Gary says:

    I know a few Asian markets that sell dalag (“mudfish” or “snakehead”), and they’re also willing to fry it for you upon request and free of charge. Island Pacific Supermarket located on Van Nuys Blvd. just after the Roscoe Blvd. intersection is one. Seafood City located along Nordhoff Ave. near the Woodley Ave. intersection is another. Both are in the San Fernando Valley area..

    Dalag is also sold in another Seafood City market in Glendale, CA. The market is located inside the mall and the mall itself is beside the Target store along Colorado Blvd..

    The only problem is that sometimes these Asian markets don’t have dalag for sale since these fish have to be imported from Vietnam or Thailand. It is illegal to raise them here.

    Nov 18, 2010 | 7:08 pm


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