Three Ways with Danggit — Version 2: Labtingaw


Semi-dried, lightly-salted danggit (or other fish) is called labtingaw in Bantayan, Cebu, Leyte and other parts of the Visayas. The difference between labtingaw and buwad/daing na danggit may seem subtle, and it is, but to dried fish aficionados they are two different things. After you clean the fresh danggit, as seen in the previous post on lamayo (a marinated slightly dried version) you wash it in a salt brine…


…then dry it on nets in the hot sun. I am not privy to the exact concentration of salt in the brine for labtingaw vs. buwad, but apparently labtingaw has less salt, and it is dried for just a few hours so that it is still a bit meaty and moist, but clearly on its way to its super dried sibling, buwad.


At first look I was stunned to see the fish being dried totally uncovered (we use another net to cover items we dry in our own commissary). I assumed there would be swarms of flies. But I didn’t see any, and wondered out loud if the brine or the sea air kept them away. But a few seconds later, I noticed several large flies on some of the fish, and personally got the cooties… Flies can and do lay eggs on decaying matter and these eggs can turn into maggots, etc. on the fish… and if you have purchased enough dried fish at local markets, you would know that they sometimes come with creepy crawlies…


At any rate, we watched as these fish were dried for approximately 3 hours under the crystal clear skies and intense rays of the sun. They were then removed from the nets, and placed in baskets and wrapped in 1 kilo portions in plastic which we stored in coolers with ice and brought back to Cebu City. It’s best to keep labtingaw refrigerated if you are planning to use them over the next 2-3 days, or immediately throw them into a freezer for future use.


The labtingaw are a bit meatier than buwad or dating na danggit, and they possess a “fresher” and lightly salted flavor. They taste a bit more of the sea, rather than just parched, dried salty fish. They are a delicacy that are often made at home, for home consumption. They aren’t often seen in markets, and they must be handled properly or can spoil easily — after all — they are in essence partially “spoiled” by their three hour sunbathing session. And they don’t have enough salt to keep them cootie free for long periods of time. Fried up and eaten side by side with lamayo and dried daing na danggit, you see a marked difference in taste, texture, moisture and flavor. These were delicious, but I like lamayo better because they are marinated in other ingredients that elevate the danggit, and I also like the classic fully dried danggit as well.


Version 1: Lamayo
Version 3: Buwad/Daing na Danggit


6 Responses

  1. I love them all!, MM! This is best because it came fresh from source. We get ours from Estancia or Roxas, Iloilo.. Deep fried!

  2. Hi MM,

    Have the fishermen remarked on the availability of this fish in their fishing grounds? I think that has become a sad commentary on seas and that fisherman have had to go further out to catch fish.

    If this has not been affected, it would be interesting to know what circumstances made it different.

  3. Risa, actually, I think certain species, like danggit are far more plentiful at certain times of the year. In general, I suspect all varieties of fish are scarcer than they were before. In Cebu, for example, not too many years ago, at the source, buwad na danggit was say PHP450-500 per kilo AT THE SOURCE for true boneless daing (not the split open one with bones that are often sold in the city/stores), today it is approaching PHP600-700 when you can get it. By the time it is packed, transported to Cebu, repacked and sold at retail, the price can jump to say double that at a grocery or airport stall. In Manila, recently, at a mall, I saw boneless danggit for upwards of PHP1,400-1,500 per kilo (though presented as PHP140 for a 90-100 gram or so pack). Considering that it takes between 5-6 kilos of fresh danggit, a whole lot of cleaning and drying to make 1 kilo of dried danggit, the price actually seems rather reasonable to me… Looked at from another perspective, some 50 grams of daing na danggit would make a fantastic breakfast, and even at Makati prices, that would cost roughly PHP70 only, a total bargain if you ask me. :)

  4. MM, i think traditionally, the fish are cleaned, dipped briefly in sea water and set out to dry, and so that means the only salt the labtingaw gets is from the seawater. i don’t know about the current methods of doing this, though. in iloilo, they have gumaa, which was a personal favorite until the day i found a huge maggot inside one.

  5. millet, you are right, if homemade, typically sea water used. But if being processed slightly inland as these are, they made a salty brine in a balde….

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