09 Jan2006

Talakitok on the Grill

by Marketman


There is nothing easier than grilling an incredibly fresh talakitok (trevally or jack) on a charcoal fire and serving it with vinegar, soy sauce, bagoong or other dipping sauce. So I figured I would tinker and try some different variations and attempt to do it en papillote (baked in paper) on the grill. I should have known that paper and a super hot charcoal fire were not a particularly brilliant idea but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? The fish I bought at a Batangas market were perfect, about 4 pieces to a kilo or roughly 250 grams each, they were still alive when purchased, with gills still desperately gasping for air…or is it water? Why can’t they live in the air if in the water they use their gills to get air from the water? Anyway, they couldn’t get any fresher than that at a local market.

I got caught up in the flavor variations so I put one fish into a large jack2sheet of baking paper (NOT wax paper whose coating melts and makes your food taste waxy) and added soy sauce, dayap juice, pepper and coriander. Wrapped up with edges folded, this is cooking en papillote or in paper… In another packet I put olive oil, lemon, red pepper flakes or long thai red peppers and flat leaf parsely. And in a third variation I tried soy sauce, sesame oil and limes with thai chilli peppers. Wrapped into nice tight pockets, the concept was to steam the fish in their own juices and they would emerge from their wrappers like humans emerge from a steam bath… The fish were supposed to be brilliant looking, steamed to perfection, soft and flavorful…

Not quite. The paper nearest the flame got singed but never burst into flames. jack3So most of it turned jet black (why is the saying jet black and charcoal grey???) and looked dangerously carcinogenic. Unwrapping the packages revealed the not-so-disaster like fish within. The side facing the fire were a bit brutal looking but otherwise the taste was very, very good. The fish were tender and the juices extremely tasty. I just couldn’t serve the fish in the paper, which is normally the case when baked in an oven, because it looked scary. I also decided to grill a few fish directly on the fire, just seasoned with salt, olive oil and some lemon juice. In the first photo above, the fish en papillote is at left and plain grilled fish is on the right.

What to serve with the fish to jazz it up? jack4Some incredibly tart green mangoes that I found in the same market and a sweetish bagoong that came off as almost a bagoong jam. Our guests loved the bagoong and mango combination and it went really well with the grilled fish. I also tried some of the fish with the habanero sauce I made a week before and it was incredibly good as well. The sweetness and firmness of the fish paired well with the slow burn of the habanero sauce. Which was better – plain grilled or en papillote? I have to admit I liked the plain grilled better…



  1. ajyoung says:

    That is one really appetizing fish that you featured Marketman! Im gonna ask manang nilda to buy some talakitok,lato,green mangoes,and tomatoes! Inggit ako! hehehe!

    Jan 9, 2006 | 5:38 am


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  3. anna gan says:

    re fish needing water to breathe air: something about being in water regulates the pressure put on the gills that allows them to take in oxygen. out of water, the gills ‘collapse’ and suffocate the fish

    Jan 9, 2006 | 9:46 am

  4. kulasa says:

    Try placing the wrapped fish in an old baking tray then put the tray on the grill. Maybe it’ll still have that smokey flavor and the paper will not burn. This works when I do grill fish but I use aluminum foil. Haven’t tried it with paper though.

    Jan 9, 2006 | 1:05 pm

  5. JoAnn says:

    Hello Marketman! Where did you learn to cook? Did you have any formal training? Are there any excellent culinary schools in Metro Manila?

    And of course, I love all the things that you write here.

    Keep it up!


    Jan 9, 2006 | 1:32 pm

  6. Alicia says:

    Your guests must be in heaven in your home MM.
    Last week I was given two beautiful fish from Tagaytay, Maliputo. I have heard they are seasonal fish (??) but not quite sure why. Are you familiar with this fish? I grilled them up and served them with a dipping sauce and some chopped tomatoes. Wish I had some of your “almost” bagoong jam .. that sounds wonderful since I am a big fan of that savory/spicy/sweet combination. A recipe maybe in a future post?

    Jan 9, 2006 | 3:00 pm

  7. schatzli says:

    I would not attempt papillote in grill MM
    oven will do but hmm am missing my fave local hang out in South of France.

    out of topic I did well with my first attempt of leche flan not yr version as I cant find carabao milk here ;-)

    Jan 9, 2006 | 8:12 pm

  8. Marketman says:

    Alicia, maliputo are very closely related to talakitok, in fact I think they are the equivalent of freshwater spawned and or raised talakitok from taal or other lakes… will have to confirm that and write on the fish at a later date. JoAnn, I have no formal cooking training whatsoever, so don’t take me seriously. anna gan, thanks for that explanation…I have learned something today.

    Jan 9, 2006 | 8:30 pm

  9. ShoppaHolique says:

    MarketMan, have you tried using the good ol banana leaf?

    Jan 10, 2006 | 2:17 am

  10. Marketman says:

    ShoppaHolique, not lately but you have given me ideas…thanks.

    Jan 10, 2006 | 6:17 am

  11. alice says:

    I saw a chef do what you tried to do on a TV cooking show — but with a twist. He took several sheets of newspaper (!!), put in a cleaned fish, added herbs, tomatoes, salt, etc. Folded the paper tight…. then dunked the whole package in water before putting it on the grill! While the outer layers were a mess, the inner papers were quite presentable for a picnic. I haven’t had the guts to try it out myself though…

    Jan 12, 2006 | 3:00 pm

  12. erleen says:

    The newspaper stuff is a good idea. Its uses the same principle when we grill corn.

    We strip the corn of the husk but leave at least 2-3 layers of it. Then we will soak it in water(in the timba of course, while waiting for the charcoal)before grilling. It prevents the corn from burning and from drying out.

    Mar 27, 2006 | 2:04 pm


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