Fried Tawilis a la Marketman


Dare I say these turned out even better than the Mario Batali dish that inspired them? The memorable dish of fried Portuguese or Spanish sardines that we enjoyed at Casa Mono in New York were a revelation at the time. I vowed to try and replicate the experience when I got back home. Only recently I realized tamban and associated relatives were also sardines, albeit of the tropical sort. So I was waiting for the right confluence of access to reef fresh tamban and a kitchen to immediately cook the catch. While recently followed the trail of some incredible tamban, I didn’t have access to a kitchen at the time. So when I found fresh tawilis at the market last Saturday, and had them in our home kitchen soon after, it was time to experiment…


Cleaning each individual sardine was a bit of a pain, but stay with me on this. With a very small sharp knife, make an incision along the length of the belly and remove the fish guts and other undesirables. Rinse under cool water and lay on some kitchen paper towels. Do this for the entire kilo worth of fish, it will take you a while, but just keep chanting….”fried sardines, fried sardines, fried sardines” and the time will pass quickly.


Next dry the cleaned sardines with paper towels, trying to remove as much moisture as possible to prevent serious oil splatters. Season the insides of the fish with some salt and cracked black pepper. Ready a pan with oil on medium high heat. Sprinkle the first batch of say 4-5 fish (don’t cook too many at the same time to prevent a sudden drop in oil temperature) with Wondra Flour and deep fry for just a few minutes until slight golden and crisp. Serve immediately with just a sprinkle of salt and a bit of fresh lemon juice. SUPERB. SUPERB. SUPERB!

They were crisp, light, flavorful and absolutely delicious. You could eat the entire fish, and bones were not an issue at all as they disintegrated as you chewed on the fish. The flesh of the fish fried up quite white and surprisingly delicate, and the whole mouthfeel, flavor and surprising lightness was a pleasure of the finest kind. How amazing that such a simple dish could turn out so exquisitely. And compared to the $12 or so tapas at Casa Mono, this serving of 5 fish couldn’t have cost more than say 50 cents! This is yet another recipe you MUST try if you have access to fresh tawilis which are in season right now. Check out the link to Wondra flour for more information. This recipe can be done with regular flour, but I am convinced the wondra made a difference in notching this dish up another level. This is a MUST TRY for folks who love fish. And yes, I DARE SAY this was even better than the version we enjoyed at a terrific lunch at Casa Mono last year. :)


33 Responses

  1. This tastes very much like the manamsi/manansi (herring fry) I used to enjoy in Mindoro, which we usually paired with sauteed/stewed mung beans.

  2. I love deep fried tamban. The cleaning is really worth it. Time to go back to the market in GenSan and check if it’s in season. If in season, it costs only 20 pesos per kilo. Yum!

  3. Namit. I yearn for real fish… First thing to do home is go to the fish market. And that will be soon!

  4. delicioso!! nothing beats the freshest of fish and the most elemental of treatment – sea salt, pepper and calamansi or lemon and (fried!) I read somewhere that in our lifetime, we are only allowed 486 exclamation points ( and I know, I have used mine up since daily reading of your posts1) thank you again, MM – your travels, visits to markets, adventures in the kitchen etc are always delightful.

  5. will try that soon ! sardines is the cheapest fish here in france . though i prefer your tawilis as they are smaller so i think they are a lot crispier than the sardines here which are bigger. your fried sardines look so yummy, paired with steaming rice with sawsawan on the side plus ice cold coca cola . i can even eat the head !

  6. mapagkakamalan mo siyang pritong tuyo kung hindi mo nabasa ung title nya.masarap i-partner sa fried rice.

  7. this fish is very tasty.I had this when i was in mahogany market in tagaytay. i like this when fried very very crispy

  8. These look so good–love, love, love sardines! I don’t think I’ve ever had them prepared this way, though. In Spain and Portugal, my husband and I ordered the grilled versions whenever we could.

    The first picture is gorgeous!

  9. I knew it will be the crispy tawilis!YUM!
    I looked at the Wondra Flour link…….is it the same as the Double Happiness brand of Wonder Powder available here?Just wondering….. :)

  10. Fried fresh tawilis is superb! Had it in Batangas and it was cooked perfectly.

  11. we always have this at home paired with munggo guisado and lots and lots of rice :)

  12. Hi MM, you may also try “inihaw na tawilis”, guaranteed much better than fried. Just add some salt prior to grilling and calamansi juice immediately after removing them from the grill and viola. In case you visit Batangas, fresh tawilis are available in Talisay, Batangas (near municipal hall).

  13. This reminds me of the raves Fely J’s dilis-cious rice have been getting from those who don’t often have the chance to experience and explore the goodness of common folk food. When I’m craving for tawilis (often for breakfast, to be eaten with a Spanish omelette with lots of tomatoes) I simply buy from Mangan. Someone should sell tawilis cooked like this at one of the Makati weekend markets. FTI is too far from where I live, and I don’t cook for a family.

  14. I bet you didn’t use the famous elitist fish pan of yours. haha. looks really yummy

  15. If I remember right, “Rose and Grace” a restaurant along the highway in the town of Santo Tomas in Batangas serves this wonderful fried crispy tawilis and I always enjoyed it.

  16. Yes Yes Yes !!!! My type of Pulutan.

    But the Goans always use Vinegar, Turmeric Powder (to combat Pollutants and Bacteria in the fish), Kashmiri Chilli Powder and Coarse Sea Salt.

    BTW do you know you have a municipality called GOA, in the Philippines ??

    Turmeric Powder which is also available as fresh Turmeric root in Manila is also used in Thai and Malay cooking, is anti-bacterial and studies are underway to prove effectiveness against throat cancer. The Goans also use the leaves of the Turmeric to steam rice paste based sweets akin to Puto and Bibingka, specially on the Feast Day of the Assumption of Mama Mary, which is the 15th. of August.

    Turmeric Tea is popular in Okinawa, Japan. And also is a effective remedy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

  17. I have adopted dusting fish for frying with powdered turmeric as standard practice too. Reduces fishy greasy odour specially in apartments with less than ideal ventilation and surprisingly enough, it does not seem to detract from even mild flavoured fish.

    Btw, Jack Hammer, any chance you have a recipe you can share of that Goan steamed treat that resembles our putu?

  18. Yup. My mom cooks this especially if we’re on a tight budget. Why opt for dried when you can have it fresh!

  19. I was at SnR yesterday and lucky me….there was fresh tawilis at P90/kg!And after salivating ,reading this post a few days ago….I finally had my crispy tawilis last night for dinner. I would have wanted to experiment using the Double Happiness brand of Wonder powder but alas, the one I had in the pantry was invaded by weevils! I should have put bay leaves in the first place to prevent weevils! :( Anyway, I just dusted the fish with cornstarch after seasoning with rock salt and freshly cracked pepper and fried away!!!Mmmmmm……..ate with a side dish of salsa(Tomato, shallot,red egg and chopped wansuy) and pinakbet.Burp! Burp! plus dessert of fresh ripe mango!

  20. We used to eat deep fried tawilis paired with bulalo in our summer visits in Tagaytay. Tawilis is one of the cheapest kind of fish in Southern Luzon region. My momma used to cook this whenever we are in a tight budget and once called it the “poor man’s french fries”.



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