Dapa (Flatfish/Flounder/Sole)

All flatfishes are referred to locally as dapa or palad. Since there are over 7 families of flatfishes with over 540 separate species, according to the book Fishes of the Philippines, by Genevieve Broad, it is hard to pinpoint the correct specimen that one picks up at the markets. dapa1 The dapa depicted here is most likely from the flounder branch. It is a left-eyed flounder, with both eyes on the left side of the head. I kid you not but there are also right eyed flounders… why, I do not know and am not curious enough to find out. Maybe the left hand flounders should only be eaten by those who drive on the left side of the road…

Bottom dwellers, these fish lie flat on soft seabeds, awaiting their prey. Over eons, they have evolved so that one side faces up and both eyes are on that side. Imagine if I slept for a few thousand years on my stomach, would my eyes move to the back of my head?

This beautiful specimen was purchased at the Seaside Mart in Baclaran. It was P200 a kilo and it yielded four nice fillets on a fish that was about 1.5 kilos. dapa3 Thus each fillet was roughly P75. Many foreigners, particularly Europeans look for whitefish fillets such as sole and have sometimes never seen the whole fish. While dapa (whether flounder or more sole like forms) is not as buttery as European sole, they are a good substitute. I find that the meat is very white, flaky and delcious. It is an excellent foil for a lemon butter sauce. If you purchase several dapa at the same time, you can fillet them then either cook immediately or freeze for up to several weeks..

Dapa with lemon butter sauce. Dry dapa fillets with a paper towel and lightly dredge in flour with salt and freshly ground pepper. dapa3 Heat up a pan and add lots of butter (I prefer unsalted). Fry the fillets briefly until just slightly colored and turn over. When the fish is cooked, remove to platter. Put pan back on the flame, add the juice of 2-3 lemons, add more butter, chopped Italian parsely and pour over the dapa fillets. Serve with boiled new potatoes or steamed rice. Fast, easy and delicious.


9 Responses

  1. I heard a tale from my late Mom that this ‘dapa’ fish was
    created during Jesus time at the miracle of multiplication of the bread. There are 3 loaves and 2 fishes that the boy gave. Jesus got only and a half of the fish to feed the crowd. The remaining half was thrown back to the river and swim. It was not in the Bible though or I’m not sure on where did she
    got that story, but could be true.

  2. Thanks for the info, i was browsing the net for the right name of this fish i also bought in alabang market – 160=1 1/2 kilo (whole fish) i had no idea how it would be best cooked, it’s seems too late reading your blog for that lemon butter sauce, because the fish market man already prepared my fish-sliced (i thought of cooking it sinigang or pesa) well even with skin and bones on, i think it could still be cook the same.

    I reckon, it would be best named as halibut rather than flounder or sole? (you think so?)

  3. mar, if I am not mistaken, halibut is a cold water cousin among flatfishes, so it might be difficult to call dapa a halibut.

  4. Well that looks like the common Indian Halibut or Pseutodes Erumei, in Australia they are Queensland Halibut. Tasty fish when fried.
    Regarding the left eye, they are the most common but they do have the right eye. When I was in College, I was told that for every 1000 young left eye halibut , there will be one right eye halibut. In fact they are babies, they were normal like regular fish just like any proper fish look.As they grow older , they began to tilt , anti clock wise or clock wise direction ( But I forgot the which is which contribute to the left eye or right eye ). If I was not wrong most flat fish has similar kind of characteristics when they are young, like as if they were given a choice to go anticlock wise or clock wise. Weird !! but nature gives them the choice !! , anyway they are tasty fish.!!!

  5. By the way, they have the smaller cousins with lighter brown and with spots , I heard they are tastier!!!

  6. Hahahahaha MM…I was laughing at your comment about the left and right sided eyes. I was always familiar with these since my Mom would buy them when I was young(haaaayyyy sooolong ago) and they always fascinated me. I just didn’t know there was right and left. Such a laugh.I love your post!!!!
    Yeah,wonder if we stayed on our tummy…if our eyes would all go to the right…or left.Harhar harr…

  7. hi mr. mm. i should have read this blog before the christmas of 2008. i bought dapa at shopwise alabang and had it filleted. not a good place to shop for fresh fish but its last minute shopping for christmas eve dinner. anyways, i made a casserole with cream and mushroom. i must admit, it was a disappointing dish. it still smelled very fishy even if i’ve marinated it in lemon juice, pepper and salt. hay naku, i should have paid attention to my mom’s cooking when i was younger… thanks anyway for the post, i’ll give dapa another try, and maybe, buy from a real fresh market.

  8. the smaller dapa ( 4-5 inches in lenght) is much tender and tastier than large ones. cooked whole as sinuam sa dahong sili or paksiw (lots of garlic and a tbsp of oil) , it goes very well with steamed rice and patis. tinganing-nganing…… memories of Nanay and childhood.

  9. hey, im interested where in the philippine islands do they get this kind of fish? tnx email me.



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