Bangus / Milkfish

Fried Bangus with spicy vinegar and/or a freshly made bangus1batch of acharra is serious comfort food around these parts. Bangus or Milkfish (Chanos chanos) are an extremely prolific breed of fish. Apparently one mature milkfish can produce as many as 3 million eggs at one time according to Genevieve Broad in her book Fishes of the Philippines. That is nearly as many eggs as the entire human population of Singapore! The adult fish are large and can measure up to 1.5 meters in length!!! Though most of the ones you see in the market are between 1-2 feet long. Seems the adults out at sea spawn these gajillions of offspring from April – July that are then collected near the shores and brought to fishponds throughout the country where they are raised and eventually make it to market, often peaking in size about 8-12 months later, depending on the amount and quality of feed.

Bangus or tilapia should really be the national fish rather than lapu-lapu as it is consumed in vastly larger quantities by a broader range of the population. I simply love bangus. bangus2I have it fried, steamed or in sinigang nearly once a week. My daughter adores it in her school lunchbox and I order it at restaurants as well as prepare it at home. I like it slightly marinated/dried for breakfast, and I eat it for lunch and dinner as well. I frankly haven’t experimented with it much as a fried bangus is just incredible comfort food for me. The steamed alternative has soy sauce and lots of green onions. I always wonder which poor soul has de-boned my bangus (I have seen it done from scratch and it is a royal pain in the rear) but if I can buy it at about PHP110 a piece without bones (Sarangani Bay) it is a bargain indeed! To date, the best bangus I have had at a restaurant is at LZM on the way to Tagaytay and at their extremely reasonable prices, they are a personal favorite. Bangus is now available in the U.S. (frozen) and in many other parts of the planet. Since it is such a local favorite, I am curious how Marketmanila readers prepare it…care to leave a comment? Do you use lard or vegetable oil? Do you coat it in flour or crushed cornflakes? Do you de-bone it yourself? Do you ever turn the fish over when frying or just leave the inside facing up? Eat the belly or loathe it? Please let me know…


57 Responses

  1. I love crisp fried bangus with the heads made into sinigang mixed together. The sour tang of the soup cuts through the fat quite nicely.

    A lot of people complain that bangus is too ‘matinik’ but it’s so easy to debone. All the tinik is lined up neatly so all you have to do is locate one and you know where the rest will be.

    I also like to eat it very plain- seasoned properly with just salt before frying. Then I eat it with plain steamed rice, no sawsawan or anything. All you taste is the flavor of the bangus. That’s my ultimate comfort food!

  2. Hi MM,
    Here in Davao, we get them at 1.2-1.5 kilos each, and I have trained the help to de-bone the bangus before they hit the freezer. Easy, takes them about 3-5 minutes each. And at these sizes, you can imagine how thick the belly fat is. My best bangus would be one of these 1.5 kilo guys, done tinapa-style. Yes, in these parts you can buy the biggest bangus in the morning and bring them to the tinapa people nearby, and pick them up all smoky and glistening and oozing delicious in the afternoon! The rest of the family likes inihaw na bangus -stuffed with onions, ginger, tomatoes and slices of itlog na maalat. Oh, my…have to get my bangus fix soon…..

  3. hi MM

    Bangus paksiw with ampalaya. sometimes okra or talong. love the head best.have eaten very tasty bangus relleno in pangasinan once. real bonuan bangus.the one with one tail tip shorter than the other.

  4. Hi Mr. Marketman,
    It’s been almost two years that I last tasted marinated bangus. My friend who used to live in NJ, fried some for dinner one Sunday night and we ate it with pinakbet. It was pure heaven! We had to close all bedroom doors, and opened all the windows in the middle of winter because it was smelly. But I guess that’s how it smelled in heaven! I like the baby ones from Sarangani and we could buy it here in the US easily. I wish I could sink my teeth into one right now especially the belly part, so rich and flavorful. I don’t think I can cook one right here in my dorm kitchen. Although I’m in a school where everyone’s psyche is imbued with food,unfortunately, not all CIA students will welcome the smell of fried marinated fish and the bangus smell tends to linger for quite some time. I grew up in Cavite and my mom
    gets the freshest ones she could find (baby ones) and cook sinigang using green mangoes as souring agent, with kamote tops and sliced baby labanos. We ate it with patis and smashed
    siling haba that she added in the sinigang. I thought I died and gone to heaven! And I remember this bangus dish with tahure(a soy product). As far as I can remember, the fish are sliced, seasoned,fried, and reserved.Then julienned ginger, chopped onions, tomatoes and minced garlic are sauteed. Water is added and a small amt.of vinegar, julienned red bell peppers, the tahure and then the reserved fish is added last. I guess a little sugar is added bec. it has a sweet, salty and sour taste to it. I’ve eaten this dish sooo long ago and I hope I did justice with the recipe. Another one is paksiw that my mother used to simmer in palayok, with very good vinegar, sliced ampalaya and eggplant. I should stop not because I’m drooling!!!!

  5. Hey Marketman,
    My gf Ellen is a frequent visitor of your blog and loves the postings, and is now in the phils going to many of the places you suggest for food. So, I thought I’d have a look today at your blog and could not believe that your entry was Bangus. It is MY FAVOURITE dish, thanks to my gf introducing it to me. I love it fried the best, and we buy it already marinated from the local filipina shop. He debones it himself (i too also think about the poor person who has deboned it and wonder!) and marinates it with vinegar, pepper, soy and its delicious. Or we can buy imported frozen bangus belly / or bungus and ellen marinates it herself with the same ingredients. I love it fried, especially the belly. Its my favourite part. When i was in Manila last October, i tried stuffed bangus (i dont know the name in tagalog) and also sinigang and loved it too. i love ellen’s sinigang – sooooo tasty and clean! I’m not filipino, and from exposure from my gf, I have really grown to love alot of the filipino food, and now bangus is my favourite food ever!!!! thanks for your post. :-)

  6. I forgot to say that I live in Melbourne Australia, and you can get bangus from all of the filipino shops in Melbourne frozen and marinated.

  7. MM my uncle had a bangus farm.. I grew up watching the whole process of the bangus farm.

    I never learned how to de bone this fish. I love it soup and the one you cut into half (smoked)

    I cant stand it when its too crispy fried…
    My last bangus was I made sinigang sa miso

    But Swiss cheese told me not to buy bangus anymore
    since there is no marked on the packet when it was produced etc…..I paid almost 6€ for less than a kilo of bangus.

  8. Fried! And the belly’s the best part.
    I’m just amazed by the factoid you added re: size of the fish. The largest bangus I’ve ever had was in Davao, where it was easily twice the size of the ones we see in Manila, but I can’t imagine a 4 to 5 foot bangus.

  9. Ever since boneless bangus became commercially available, we rarely eat fresh bangus because of the bones. Marinated boneless bangus is a lifesaver to busy moms who have to do their own cooking. I usually fry the bangus (as is, no flour) in canola oil but when I am really pressed for time, I just pop this in the toaster oven. Among the brands I have tried, Saranggani bangus is the most reliable when it comes to deboning.

    There’s also smoked bangus (tinapa) which is another favorite and another easy one to prepare. Again, I just pop this in the oven for about 30 minutes and I serve this with tomatoes and salted eggs.

    And lastly, there’s rellenong bangus, from Saranggani, I believe.The stuffing is “puede na” but the fish looks special enough to bring to potluck suppers.Again, this is another stick-in-the-oven dish.

    Because the bangus is so bony, we prefer other types of fish for sinigang and usually it’s halibut or salmon belly and collar. Sinigang with miso and mustasa is a family favorite.

    In British Columbia where we live, we are fortunate to have so many Asian stores that carry filipino groceries, including all types of bangus, so there are few filipino dishes that we really miss.

  10. A postscript—many decades ago, when the bangus was first deboned commercially, my erudite professor told me that the boneless bangus was a special breed, that this type of fish was actually boneless and spineless. And this man, who had a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago, really believed that.

  11. HI MM,

    I love Sinigang na bangus in bayabas. Or santol. When grilled, we put usbong ng sampalok, tomatoes and onions inside the belly, but i dont adore the belly much. :)

  12. MM, call it funny but I was helping my daughter prepare her assignment yesterday, and from the chart of national symbols that we bought in a bookstore, the national fish is indeed Bangus. I can’t recall what was taught during my days hehehhe, they may have made some changes. Oh well, I digress….

  13. Oh Lei, that’s too funny…well, that seems more appropriate to make it bangus anyway. I just assumed it was the Lapu-lapu what with its name and all… Carina, me too, I forgot to mention the bangus sinigang with guava, it is superb and I have a post on in somewhere in my archives actually. CWID, that story re your professor is too funny…maybe he was a brainless Phd, heeheehee. Mila and lee, I understand why the belly would taste so good, I just have a slight problem with the gelatenous stuff on top…probably the same reason I wince with tripe… I am so glad this is one Filipino favorite now available around the world…in just 15 comments above I have responses from Melbourne, Athens, British Columbia, California, Poughkeepsie or thereabouts all saying bangus is within easy reach…

  14. Btw, after my Mom has cleaned and split it open, she just marinates it in vineger, pepper, and lots of garlic for several days. Whenever she fries them to a crisp, I swear, I only end up with the fish tail on my plate. I didn’t eat the belly when I was younger, but the moment I tasted it, there has been no turning back. We also have this other recipe wherein after cleaning the whole fish, we just make a considerable size of cut on the side of the belly about 3 to 4 inches long, just enough to fill the fish’s cavity with lots of fresh tomatoes and onions. We then fry this entire bangus and set aside. No need to worry about some of the filling going out of the fish, because after frying, using the same pan, we add soy sauce with some water and bring it to boil. We put this in a separate bowl so that when you serve, the fish is still crispy and you just pour the sauce on top of your rice very aggressively. Yum!!! Ãœ

  15. The breeding sized bangus is called “sabalo” among the Tagalogs. Very rare and I believe it is unlawful to catch them. Dad says they are really very tasty though I don’t remember ever tasting them.

    Another way to cook it is called “Pinais na Bangus.” The bangus is seasoned with salt and then stuffed with chopped onions, tomatoes, and as an option ginger and alagaw leaves. It is then wrapped in banana leaves but instead of broiling it over hot coals, the bangus is placed in a pan with just enough water (about 1/2 c)to cook it . It is then cooked until all the water evaporates. The bangus will turn out moist and more flavorful because of the banana leaves. Best dipped into patis and kalamansi over steaming rice.

  16. Lately, my mother and aunts have cooked this ala bistek filipino style, with the onions and soy-kalamansi based sauce. Not too shabby at all!

  17. Hurray for LZM! Lucky for me, I work just a few kilometers from the place and we have their tasty boneless bangus every so often for lunch. Even golfers at the exclusive golf and country club acroos the highway would rather eat there!

  18. haaaay, reading all the comments ‘nakakagutom’ na talaga! but please explain how to properly debone bangus, ‘coz i’m dying to learn how to do it myself, the boneless bangus sold here from the phils where too pricey! MM can you help me?

  19. Ann, I have never de-boned a bangus myself. All I know is the cook used to use tweezers, find the main line of bones and started plucking away…it didn’t look to hard, just tedious… you may want to just give it a try. The bones are a nuisance in your mouth but not as deadly as more common fish bones… Maybe some other readers can explain the method better… Chef Chris, are you out there?

  20. Re Maricel’s Pinais na bangus…when I was still new to Canada and I was still doing a lot of things the traditional way, I used to debone bangus (although it took me hours and the bangus flesh would look mangled). I would put lots of diced tomatoes, minced onions and salt on the split bangus, close it and wrap this in banana leaves (if available) and then wrap the whole thing very tightly in foil, making sure there are no holes where the juice or the steam would escape. I would bake this in the oven for about an hour at 350 degrees. When done, the fish would turn out very moist with a lot of juice from the tomatoes and onions. Really yummy especially with toyo and lemon or calamansi as dipping sauce. This recipe is also very good with salmon.

  21. hi MM, i used to do product development for a seafood exporting company and the speed that the workers deboned bangus is just unbelievable! i guess the dexterity came from all the practice (just think – they shipped out container vans of the stuff weekly). I do remember that once the fish is butterflied, 4 shallow cuts are made crossing the main line of the bones, with the cut revealing part of the bone, it is easy enough to take these out with a pair of tweezers.

    i tried it out myself a couple of times but ended up with nearly “fleshless” and not boneless bangus : ) i can assure you my handiwork did not get to the export market!

  22. Hi MM, this is one of my comfort food. Im lucky to have fresh Bonuan bangus delivered at my doorsteps from time to time. I like it as daing, marinated in sukang Iloko, lots of garlic, pepper. The vinegar has a distinct flavor that makes the fish more tasty. Luckily our maid used to work at a fish factory exporting deboned milkfish,she debones it for us with tweezers just like you said. And Sinigang na Bangus in Bayabas is pure heaven too minus the smell of course. hehehe. I have also tried making Bangus sardines, its quite good too,try it no moew deboning!

  23. I love pesang bangus with miso dip. I saute garlic, onion and ginger then add water. I let it boil then I add the fish, pechay, cabbage, and onion leeks. Simmer until cook. In another pan, saute garlic, onion and tomatoes, then add the miso.


  24. Hi MM!

    I’m from Pangasinan and of course, my bet is the Bonuan bangus. It’s the best there is. Although, I haven’t been eating it for a while coz we’re having too much of it! My favorite way to have it is grilled with tomatoes, ginger, onions and garlic tucked in the belly. As simple as that. But don’t overcook it as it tends to get dry. Our favorite part of course is the belly. Love that fat! My siblings and I even fight over it when we were younger. We don’t usually buy deboned bangus. We buy deboned when we want the smoked ones. But I think my mom knows this place in Dagupan or Urdaneta where to have it deboned.

    My next favorite would be sinigang (spicy please) and then maybe fried. I guess we just like it simple. Oh yeah, if you fry it, may I suggest that afterwards, take out the skin and fry it a second time. It’s just like some kind of chicharon.

    Now, I’m missing my bangus…

  25. well daing na bangus boneless are common but i remember my mom doing fried fish lumpia from bangus ang yes its good. . . also kilawing bangus and relleno, well, not sure about the recipes but these are what i remember that my mom does to bangus. . .

  26. Gosh, I am overwhelmed by this response to the request for bangus preparations! I have to get out of my fried bangus rut and try some of these suggestions, they sound superb. Hmmm, I am actually having sinigang na bangus for dinner tonight!

  27. i’m not extremely fond of bangus bec of the bones. but i love the smoked bangus from sarangani bay. just pop it in the turbo broiler and serve with tomatoes, sarap!!

  28. Hello Marketman! We have bangus in Boston as well at 88 store in Chinatown. You probably visited this store when you were here before. The bangus is sold whole which is good but I miss the Sarangani bangus I ate in San Francisco. Sadly, they do not have it here.

  29. Hi MM. I never actually debone bangus myself since you can buy boneless bangus practically anywhere. But if the bangus does have bones, I prefer to debone it after cooking- it’s easier. You won’t need tweezers or anything, just use your fork and knife (or spoon) or even your hands.

    There are three types of bones in a bangus, one is the vertebrae- the thing that attaches the head to the tail (heheheh… I know that isn’t its purpose but this is just for illustration) You can easily remove that by snapping it at the point where it joins the skull and at another point down near the tail. Use a small flexible knife to detach it from the flesh.

    The 2nd type is the one that lines the stomach. These are big tinik that are easy to see and remove, just use tweezers to latch on to them and pull. You may use medical tweezers that lock (or are they clamps?) if you have trouble getting a grip.

    The third type is found all along the back of the fish neatly lined up. You’ll notice in a butterflied bangus that you can basically divide the fish into two parts, the belly in the middle with the black stuff covering it, and two long strips of flesh running from head to tail on each side ( so there are four in total). Now this is a little difficult to describe but bear with me a little. Debone one side first. Of the two major strips of flesh, focus on the one that’s on the outer edge, that’s where all the small soft bones are. If the fish is cooked, just break this strip in half along its lenght and pull the two pieces apart. You’ll expose the bones neatly lined up ready to be ‘plucked’ away. If the fish is raw, you’ll have to find the division that naturally occurs just off center towards the outer edge. Run your finger through it to widen and expose the bones. Then pluck with tweezers.

    When you’re done with the other side, you’ll have a boneless bangus. It pays to familiarize yourself with bangus anatomy because when you do, it doesn’t matter if the bangus is whole, butterflied or cut into pieces, you’ll know where all the bones are.

    Phew! It’s 3 am and I’m a little sleepy so I don’t know if I made sense at all! Hope this helps.

  30. Bangus from Iloilo is the best I’ve tried. It has a sweet, clean taste. Love it just plain fried (salt only, no marination) with the top crispy. Plus vinegar with bawang. If I want to indulge, I’d have chopped tomatoes, onions, and salted egg on the side with it. Fried daing na bangus is also good as well as sinigang na bangus belly that’s a bit anghang! yum!

  31. wow, 33 quick posts on bangus. well, i love bangus as well. it’s much better than salmon if you ask me. salmon gets ‘nakakasuya’ after a while. and you can only have it like once a week max. otherwise it gets boring fast.

    i love bangus in sinigang, daing, fried, smoked, relleno…actually any recipe works for me. i even tried making it ‘gindara-style’ once, haha. Btw, bangus is also massively popular in taiwan, where i believe it’s called ‘shi-mu’. I wonder how they prepare it over there. if anyone knows more about taiwanese bangus recipes i’d love to try them out..

  32. MM,

    The best bangus I ever had was at Dagupan. Yum yum yum. Sinigang is my favorite. But since I’m lving overseas now, if I get my hands on bangus I marinate them with vinegar, salt, LOTS of garlic and pepper. Then fry it in canola oil. I seems like I’m back home when I eat it like that. If I’m lucky I can get them fresh, the filipino store sells them frozen lang.

  33. In Taiwan you see bangus belly (butterfly cut) in supermarkets, in local restaurants its deep fried. Its really good, they are masters of deep frying, browned but with soft meat under. There was even a place where they’ve deboned it, sad to say its closed. I’ve been to a stall where they serve bangus belly in soup and deep fried. Made me wonder what they do with the other parts… well it could be that they make it to bangus fishballs, I see it also in supermarkets and the bangus belly food stall I mentioned earlier. I have not seen it cooked any other way here. Maybe its so tasty simply fried that they don’t cook it any other way. Like this fish (I only know the chinese name) that they only prepare steamed or in soups.. looks similar to bangusbut its uglier… hahaha… thats how I saw it.

  34. Sizziling tiyan ng bangus – tried this about ten years ago, somewhere in Megamall. Now that I am coming for a vacation, I’ll go and hunt for this heaven-on-earth food.
    What we do with the Saragani brand Bangus is baked it with Mayo sprinkled with garlic fried on olive oil hmmm sarap.

  35. i’ll eat milkfish whichever way it was cooked. Although, i seldom cook it here in Canada, when i do i overeat rice and fish and it is not good on my weight control. Especially if it is eaten with ginisang mongo. Oh Yummy on my tummy!

  36. Hi
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  37. Hi guys, our company Regional Foods marketing has been in deboning and distribition of Bonuan Boneless Bangus since 1994 and we were the pioneer in Boneless bangus distribution in major supermarkets and groceries nationwide. We now have diffirent kinds of bangus products that we offer and we are presently looking for distributors/agents for it. You can also buy it in SM, Makro , Robinsons and Eunilaine Supermarket. My contact number is 09228106217 and email is we can have it delivered for free for a minimun order of 3000 Php within metro manila we also accept orders for export.

  38. Hulsey, I don’t normally allow “advertisements” per se, particularly from first time commenters, so that is the reason I have edited your comment, particularly the long product list. This is not a commercial site in general… but I have left critical contact details in case anyone would like to contact you. Good luck with the business…

  39. i love bangus simply because bangus is our national fish here in phillippines and also you can cook it into different dish like paksiw,sinigang and also relieno

  40. Market Manila ay magandang tittle ng negosyo, but instead of putting those wordings or conversations try to change it with your products and how people can order from you.

    Howag lang png magagalit, okay?


  41. Leonida. This is a food blog. Not a commercial site. If you bothered to read the About section you would understand that. Not everybody wants to make money for the sake of making money. Imagine a world without fiction books, artwork, classical music that was created before it was a BUSINESS?

  42. Hi! I just chanced upon this Feb 2006 article on bangus in your website just now (Oct 2008). The author wrote “…Bangus or tilapia should really be the national fish rather than lapu-lapu as it is consumed in vastly larger quantities by a broader range of the population.”

    Kind corrections – Bangus or milkfish is the national fish of the Philippines, not lapu-lapu. Incidentally, we have a hero named Lapu-lapu (a native Filipino who resisted and killed Magellan, Portugese sailor in 1521). Could this be the cause of confussion? A hero and a fish by the same name? Whatever… I reiterate, the Philippines’ national fish is indeed the bangus or milkfish which received positive ratings in your website. Thanks for your appreciation of bangus which has been a key research item for us at SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department in the Philippines. Good day everyone!

  43. I am almost drooling here. Plsssss tell me if you know of any outlet shop for real deboned tinapang bangus in Antwerp (Belgium) or nearby.. I can easily buy bangus (frozen of course) but I don’t have the patience to debone it.. the task always goes to my Belgian husband. The poor soul loves bangus (does not mind the smell of the tinapa), – but nearly chokes each time he eats with the bones and all, so he debones.. but I would love to let him enjoy the food minus all the hard work- even just once. By the way, thanks for this delicious website.

  44. hello, tukaya, my name is also the same as yours, i want to know where are you from? i just tried googling my name and i didn’t know that there is somebody who has the same name as i do. could you please send me your response?

    thank you,


  45. we have a hatchery for milkfish fry in bali indonesia, we would like to hve a mutual benefit for the farmer outside indonesia, for competitive price for milkfish fry please contact us at



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