Fried Dried Fish Skins


Perhaps my favorite food discovery in Bantayan were these dried fish skins, sold in plastic packets in 5-6 sheets, pricey, smelly and rather scarce that I nearly completely missed them until our GM pointed them out. I have enjoyed and even featured fried fish skin before (salmon), but I always thought you started with a fresh, supple fish skin, never did I imagine you could dry the fish skin, then puff them right back up by frying them!


This particular packet contained colorful dried skins of parrotfish or mol mol, and I was so fascinated by how they not only skinned the fish so cleanly, but how they were dried so flat and uniformly. The edges were uneven and shaped like you would expect from a fish, but several pieces were nearly beautifully cut into perfect rectangles. Seasoned with salt, and ailing labuyo, they smelled gawdawful when you open up the packets, but transform in a pool of hot fat.


Back in Cebu City, I immediately heat up a pan with some lard, then cut the dried sheets of fish skin into smaller pieces and fried them up. They didn’t take more than a few seconds, and we burned a couple in fact, so it was just like frying up kopeck or shrimp crackers. The results? AMAZING. I kid you not. I was hooked from the first bite. What’s not to like I guess? A very crisp, tasty morsel — the sea’s challenge to land based chicharon. Wonderful. And dipped into a vinegar sawsawan or sauce, fantastic!


It’s unique, humble but incredible local products like these that chefs in Manila should be seeking out and featuring in their snazzy menus, rather than the proliferation of European and American sourced ingredients. I so want to have a steady supply of this ingredient to use somehow at our own restaurants! And trust me, we are TRYING to arrange that if at all possible!


I like the fried dried fish skin so much I immediately called some other colleagues still in Bantayan and asked them to buy up PHP1,000 worth of the skins, which you could easily carry with one small hand! Perhaps it’s too pricey to enjoy like you might a bag of potato chips, but as a garnish for a fish dish, or a morsel to nibble on before a main course, it would be a great ingredient to feature.


And the variety of skins was interesting as well. Clearly, the base fish drives the type or character of the skin. But all of the ones we tried fried up quickly and to a really nice shattering crispness. I am thinking an appetizer plate with three kinds of skin — chicharon, deep-fried chicken skins, and fish skins. Deadly, but deadly good. :)

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22 Responses

  1. What a discovery! That would be one great appetizer. Puede ding ulam na (or it can be eaten with rice already)!

    The blue/aqua and pink tones on the skin “explained” how the neon aqua and pink containers in your previous post on dried fish complemented the color of the various contents.

  2. Looks like fried dried squid! Must really be good. The smellier, the tastier? :)

  3. I imagine it would be good serving it with a mango, cilantro salsa dip, or even pesto ( with kasuy instead of pinoli) or caponata to top the crackers….just easy on the salt!. You may want to call the fusion “Pinoy pakasam”. Yummmm

  4. Connie C, exactly what I was thinking, and maybe serve alongside the cassava crackers so it isn’t as deadly as it could be… :)

  5. This would encourage me to give fish skin another try as most of the ones I’ve tried here in the metro are just nasty.

  6. Congees in Hongkong are sold along side crispy and a tad salty fried fish skins. They add another depth to that creamy rice porridge. Perhaps you can do a this with a combo of your lugao for breakfast or merienda. Just a thought. That’s a great find MM!

  7. Crispy salmon skin is sold in plastic bowls for S$5 per bowl here. So good!
    Maybe call your appetizer, “Death by Skins” with a caveat on the menu. Although eating a few bites won’t do you in unless you are a glutton!

  8. Mimi, I was thinking more along the lines of “Skinny Dipping” — for three kinds of skin and three dipping sauces. Hahaha. :)

  9. how could i have missed that in Bantayan? aaarrrghh! Lee, Guccicharone indeed, hahaha!

  10. Wowowee!!! Things we learn from your blog, MM. Thank you for this feature. Will watch out for these dried skins the next time we go to the market. I wish I could be in Bantayan right now.

    Skinny Dipping – love that!!

  11. I remember being in one of these food fairs with Romy Dorotan and Amy Besa of Purple Yam serving a fresh vegetable relish atop a fried sheet of seaweed and I kept thinking it would work so well over fish skin also. If only they weren’t too fishy and if only they stayed flat after frying. Great that you have access to this ingredient.

  12. Anonymous Paul, surprisingly after frying, these weren’t “fishy” at all… beng, at our airport stall in Cebu, we sell arroz caldo with lechon flakes… so yes, fish skin would be another option!

  13. MM…pasingit ulit, please!

    For Gejo…sent you an email several months ago, don’t know if you received it…my latest gardening obsession…growing several varieties of garlic…to date, have over 38 varieties nd hoping to increase it this fall planting to at least 60 varieties.

    Currently have 54 heirloom varieties of tomatoes growing this summer. I cn send you seeds in the fall if you send me your home address. Interested? Next year, will have nearly 80 varieties…heirloom! My brother is going back home for a visit in December and can send it through him.

  14. this would be great as a topping to a healthy bowl of PINAKBET (instead of using pork chicaron)….

    in fact, i’ve been substituting FISH CHICHARON everytime i crave for the pork kind…

  15. My auntie used to take home a bag of dried tilapia skin when we were young. She works as a clerk in a factory that supplies fish products to Japan. We fry them like chicharon. Mmm ,taste like chicken. We eat them as ulam too, hehe. And oh, fish skins are rich in collagen.

  16. where can i buy these tilapia skin. Tasted it once and never forgotten it. It’s driving me nuts. Super yummy

  17. Jona, they aren’t tilapia skins, rather parrot fish or grouper. They aren’t easy to find retail, but they do sometimes have them at Zubuchon branches in Cebu on their retail tables. They serve them on the menu as well. I am not aware of anyone in Manila that sells them.

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