Tawilis / Freshwater Sardines


For years I heard about tawilis, and tasted it once or twice preserved in oil and bottled. But I don’t think I have seen it fresh, (or at least noticed them on offer fresh). So I was very intrigued when one of the vendors at the FTI AANI Saturday market had about 10 kilos of tawilis on offer last Saturday, and I bought a kilo of the rather small but very fresh looking fish for a somewhat pricey PHP150. Now I regret NOT buying everything she had for sale and just freezing the rest for later use. Sardinella tawilis is one of only a few, if not the ONLY fresh water sardine in the world. It thrives ONLY in Taal Lake in Batangas. The lake is one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the Philippines, and it is connected to Balayan Bay through the Pansipit River, according to this very informative write-up that you SHOULD read if curious about tawilis.


Clearly a relative of tamban or saltwater sardines, the tawilis seem more slender, a tad more delicate. The scales were so thin, the vendor said the fish didn’t have to be scaled… I knew exactly how I was going to experiment with this batch, and had my fingers crossed that it would work out well… results up in the next post! :)


31 Responses

  1. During my early teens ( late 60’s), my mom would bring home some semi-dried tawilis and she would fry them. They were the best fried fish I have had and not a bone was left. I would always order them whenever I am in the Taal/Tagaytay area. Just super delightful.

  2. My dad would buy the bottled tawilis. One time for a party I chopped them up and mixed them with some aioli and had some yummy tawilis dip for guests :)

  3. Happy to know they are still around and hope that they are not in anyway endangered by pollution or otherwise depleted by zealous fishing. Had a Batangeño uncle who was transported by the thought of tawilis and maliputo. So ever curious, just like Roberto Vicencio above, tasted it first in one of those restaurants along the road leading to Tagaytay, skewered four by four with a piece of tingting and fried crisp. Reminded me of tunsoy and the even smaller sinilyase from Bataan.

  4. i love them char broiled dipped in calamansi…but aren’t they endangered? I keep hearing people say they are but they seem to be available in the markets still…

  5. I love these dredged in flour and fried, with suka with sili over steaming rice, and atsara! sarap!

  6. kiko and footloose, they are overfished and under watch. But catching them is not illegal. There are “no catch” periods or months to allow them to expand their population, and catching them with nets is illegal. If I read the report right, they still seem to catch some 300metric tons of them a year. I agree that they should be fished lightly only, and to ensure that the stocks grow to former levels. But besides overfishing, Taal lake is also now blossoming with fishponds, other species, pollution, etc. so I wonder how long we will be able to enjoy this unique sardine.

  7. Mr. MM, I am a frequent visitor of AANI Weekend Market not just to purchase a week’s food supply but also hoping that I could bump into you : )

  8. Enjoyed both maliputo and tawilis on the trip home last year; it is alarming to read that tawilis is being displaced by tilapia. Knowing how difficult it is to implement regulations in the Philippines, perhaps the seeding of Lake Lanao with tawilis fry may be the only way to ensure survival. I dont think limiting tilapia fish farms would be enforcable.

  9. Hi MM, I cant believe you havent tried tawilis yet as you frequent Tagaytay! It is found nowadays in most supermarkets. It is delicious deep fried, the smaller the better.. you can eat even the bones :)

  10. These are champion deep-fried, like Dee mentioned, and you can eat everything, including my personal favorite part, the head!

  11. Grilled with a drizzle of olive oil and salt is what I normally do to this kind of fish with lots of garlic fried rice and tomato salsa :)

  12. I think the 300mt catch was as of 2000. After more than 10 years, I’m sure the catch has dwindled to about half of that. Quiapo has a very practical and sensible suggestion to seed Lanao Lake (and all our other big lakes) with tawilis fry. Paging BFAR…

  13. brings back good old memories again….great when it’s grilled/broiled and eaten with fresh tomatoes or dipped it in vinegar or calamansi and of course, a heaping bowl of rice!

  14. We often by small/baby tawilis and fry them till their crispy. It’s soo good with chopped tomatoes.

  15. tawilis is best fried to crispy perfection… :) pair it up with bulalo and geez… heaven!

  16. i believe tawilis is almost always available in the tagaytay market. if not fresh, they are there as dried fish. i think preserving them in oil ala sardinas is the way to go for this fish. i did a crispy fry for them last time we went to tagaytay and they are a hit even for my daughters who usually don’t eat fish head and all, hehehe.

  17. At a country club in Tagaytay, they serve the champorado with fried tawilis on the side! Yummy breakfast!

  18. This is so hard to find nowadays, so whenever i find some in the market i make sure to buy a lot! Fried to golden brown delicious!

  19. I was suprised to know you haven’t really tried fresh tawilis until now, knowing you frequent Tagaytay-Nasugbu route. It’s nice you finally tried it.
    For those looking for tawilis within the metro, I regularly buy tawilis at the SM Megamall Supermarket during Sundays, not so sure if they sell it daily. The supply is scarce though, since it is prohibited “daw” to be overfished.

  20. deep-fried. or lightly salted and lightly sun-dried, then grilled.
    joey, perfect with hot rice or garlic fried rice and balaw-balaw.

  21. You can buy tawilis in oilve oil/corn oil at SM Makati. As pasalubong , it is always appreciated.
    I wonder if anyone can tell me where to buy maliputo. Thank you.

  22. this fish looks like the frozen ones i bought from
    the korean market. i will try to fry some and
    and see if they taste good like the tawilis…

  23. I buy finger-sized tawilis from SM’s fish section. You are right MM, tawilis is native to Taal and it’s just sad that the lake is becoming toxic.

  24. I buy small sardines, which look like tawilis, at Tekka Market. If Taal tawilis are the only freshwater fish I now wonder what the ones I buy are from…I shall ask the vendor next time. On cleaning, I just pull the gills out, then soak in salted water for a few minutes. Then, drain, pat slightly dry with paper towels. I lightly dredge in non-glutinous rice flour para hindi masyado pumilansik ang mantika. Lightly salt and pepper after frying.



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