Sometimes tinkering with something you have grown up with and have taken for granted yields scrumptious results. Take tortang dulong. Something my mom used to make when she got back from the market as the dulong were at their freshest. She would fry up little fish cakes after mixing in flour, egg, salt and pepper with the slimy mass of juvenile or baby fish. The smaller the fish fry, the more solid were the resulting fish cakes. The only distinct body parts once fried were the dozens of eyes on the surface of the fish cake. If the fish fry were bigger then you could distinguish whole fish and the mouth feel was notably different. At any rate, I had forgotten about this childhood staple until recently when I saw some incredibly fresh miniature dulong at the market. I bought Â¾ of a kilo, rushed home, and decided to do some experimentationâ€¦
First, I mixed in some flour and an egg into about Â½ of the dulong that I purchased. I guess you can just tell when it is about the right consistency for frying. Add a generous amount of salt and some cracked black pepper. Our cook says the most common way to prepare it in their home town is with some chopped green onion and some chopped tomatoes so I did this as the base recipe. This version was good. The tomato bits gave it some moisture and the onion added flavor and color. I decided to try two other variations and I was pleasantly surprisedâ€¦first was a version with chopped siling mahaba (long green chilies) incorporated into the batter. I added some of the seeds hoping to give it zing. This version was good, though the chilli didnâ€™t seem as noticeable as I wanted it to be.
A second variation was one with chopped tomatoes and some chopped wansoy (coriander or cilantro). The fragrance and taste of the cilantro was nice and powerful and seemed to go really well with the fish and the tomatoes provided moisture. Fried to a crisp at the edges, this version was my favorite of the three. All three versions were delicious when dipped in homemade chili vinegar. The crispness of the edges of the fishcake, the taste of the dulong and the other ingredients, the compatibility with vinegar and the comfort of rice was just a really good food moment.
One of the benefits of this website for me and my family is the added incentive to re-visit old favorites and to try and see if they can be improved uponâ€¦ this tortang dulong is an excellent example. I hadnâ€™t had it in years but now I canâ€™t wait until I find some really fresh dulong at the market so I can enjoy them once again. I would be curious if any of the readers have other versions of this dish that might be worth trying the next time I am in test kitchen modeâ€¦ With the leftover dulong, my crew added lots of salt and allowed it to ferment until they had guinamos or this salty, brownish delicacy that one must grow up with to appreciate fullyâ€¦