Sanga & Pagi / Manta & Sting Ray Meat

Gentle sea gliders, grilled endangered manta rays and nearly endangered sting rays seem like such an unlikely accompaniment to a cold beer or a rhum and coke. ray1But in Bohol, grilled manta/sting ray meat is a sought after pulutan or appetizer to have at happy hour. I don’t normally feature things I don’t eat or haven’t eaten but I don’t think I will ever knowingly eat manta or sting ray as I object to eating anything that we are about to obliterate from the face of the planet due to greed, ignorance or ambivalence. I feature it because it was something truly unique for me to see at the Tagbilaran market. First, the large slabs of hanging sanga or endangered manta ray. These gentle creatures are differentiated from sting and other rays by their characteristic “horns”. These can get rather enormous and when caught, their skin can be tanned into a leather and the meat is dried and sold in the markets. People buy it by the kilo, take it home and soak it in water and grill it for a chewy and pungent snack or appetizer. Apparently you have to get over the stench before you can appreciate the taste. Durian of the sea, you might say.

This second photo is of sting rays or pagi which although not yet on the endangered list, ray2could very well be in the near future. I am not sure what the difference is in taste but of course the locals felt the larger manta rays made better eating. As with all foods that are slightly unique, this is something of an acquired taste. Bacalao, that Spanish dried fish that is reconstituted in water is a similar kind of dish. Apparently, in the Bicol region, pagi is served stewed in coconut milk with chillis and with malunggay leaves added. At any rate, eating sanga is illegal but there were dozens and dozens of dried hides openly displayed and for sale in the Tagbilaran market.


16 Responses

  1. we call them “pagi”. normally cooked with “gata”, their meat tastes somewhat gamy. the best part is the liver which tastes like heaven. knowing that these are endangered, and seeing these graceful rays on national geographic made me vow not to eat them again. i hope and pray.

  2. Just in time for the Halloween. Superstitious folks believe that the tails (buntot pagi) are effective in warding off aswangs. Hmmm… maybe the ready availability of pagi in the Visayas has forced the aswangs to migrate to Tondo. Booo!!! – no offense to the Visayans I was just kidding.

  3. The photos of the meat look like a snippets from a CSI episode. I’ve eaten sting ray in Hong Kong before in a hotel buffet and remember it to be “sturdy” meat — one that flakes well when raked with a fork. It was a bit oily but flavorful nonetheless as it was cooked with lots of garlic and some dark salty sauce. That was my first and well, the last.

  4. Poor mantas :( I am a dedicated omnivore and there is not much I wouldn’t eat, but I draw the line at endangered animals (and plants too, if ever I come across any)…lots of other things to eat with my rhum cokes :)

    Never knew they sold these at Tagbilaran…a very educational post as usual! Thanks for keeping us in the know Marketman :)

  5. mr. marketman is the manta ray or the sting ray what they call skate?? cause i see pan fried skate wing in fine dining menus. . .

  6. Wilson, skate is a relative, also a ray, of manta and sting rays but it is not the same thing. Skate is an egg-laying fish (the other two lay live young), closely related to rays and sharks and it has a cartilaginous skeleton as opposed to having bones. It has a pointed snout and glides through the water with its mouth open to capture food. A picture of skate alive can be seen at I have seen skate on menus in the West as well, I like the taste but don’t go out of my way to find it.

  7. I’m cracking up…

    “Durian of the Sea”!!!
    Like our “Chicken of the Sea” (TM) canned tuna.
    But endangered, no, thats not to cool of a meal!
    We have skate as well in the Outer Banks area where our beach house is but I’ve never tried it. caught many but throw them back out in the ocean.

  8. mm,
    manta ray is quite a popular dish in singapore and malaysia. its usually just grilled and poured with sambal.

  9. What’s that line for stopping the sale of endangered animal products? When the buying stops, the killing ends or something. Well I for one can’t imagine eating a manta, especially after watching them frolic in the open ocean.
    The first picture depressed me!

  10. This is great. Now I know another illegal Philippine food like the mayubyob (samaral fingerlings) and rabong (local bamboo shoots–municipality ordinance, fyi).

  11. Now, now, Dee. I understand your view but you have to take into account the fact that nearly everything is strange or unacceptable to someone on the planet. As much as I agree with some of your sentiments, there is a whole subcontinent that thinks the same of our eating beef, several religions that don’t eat pork, folks who eat innards, etc. etc. so let’s not go the religous route, shall we?

  12. i’ve seen a lot of this in cebu, well everybody seems to enjoy exotic food, even the people who are responsible of stopping this kind of cuisine, are taking pleasure of it.
    nobody is going to stop till our world looks like a desert.

  13. that’s manta ray as a boholano living in Toronto I miss those kind of food called SANGA I tell you something about it Pamilakan Island in Baclayon is used to be a lot of SANGA Pilak means Arrow, use to hunt for manta ray, But now sense the manta ray is endangered species thy don’t hunt manta ray any more the Island converted into tourist destination for whale watching, My sister she send me 2 kilos of SANGA coming from neighbouring province.



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