Because of its crazy bone structure (i.e. there be bones everywhere!), much effort is usually necessary before Bangus (AKA Milkfish) can be fully enjoyed–either its hundreds of bones have to be removed during prep, or the bones have to be picked through while at the dinner table.
Sure, you could ask your fishmonger to “debone” your bangus for you, but he will more than likely just remove the backbone and leave the other pin bones for you tussle with. In fact, I’ve read that a full-grown milkfish can have up to 300 pin bones throughout its flesh. That deserves an “Egads, man!” And although I’ve braved the bones of Bangus before, it isn’t something I like to do very often.
But during a recent visit to my parents house, I discovered what is perhaps the greatest thing since sliced pan de sal: Frozen Boneless Bangus! Yes, I know, I’m probably late to the party on that one–but finding a frozen butterflied and deboned milkfish in my mom’s freezer was a new discovery for me at least.
So what did I do with this discovery? I took it home for myself is what I did. Although it’s been a while since I’ve been a bachelor, and even longer
since I’ve been a college student, I’m not above pilfering and ransacking my
mother’s freezer and cupboards–even at my advanced age.
Look Ma, no bones!
Aside from the abundance of bones, Bangus (pronounced bong-oose) is also known for its fatty belly. To keep this tasty fatty belly intact, Bangus is usually split open and cleaned from its back (dorsal side), thereby leaving the belly fat unscathed.
Although Bangus is prepared in a number of ways in the Philippines it is usually either salted and air-dried (Daing), or salted and smoked (Tinapa). Whether as Daing, or in Tinapa form, the preserved Bangus is almost always fried before eating. But seeing as my milkfish was neither dried nor smoked, I merely marinated my fish–a tasty method for Bangus if I do say so myself.
Nuthin’. Just sittin’. Marinatin’.
Although the term “Daing na Bangus” technically refers to salted, dried, and fried Milkfish, I believe the term can also be used for fresh Milkfish that is marinated and fried–at least that’s what my mom and my cousin told me. But if that is wrong, then someone out there please clarify for me.
Anyhizzle, after sitting in a simple marinade of cane vinegar, soy, garlic, and lots of black pepper, my previously frozen Bangus was ready for cooking. But instead of frying, I opted for the less greasy option of grilling. And because the fish is butterflied nice and flat and sans bones, it takes next to no time to finish over a hot grill.
The dark part in the middle? That’s the belly fat.
This was by far the easiest Bangus recipe of all time. All time, I say! The vinegar/soy marinade provides for a nice sour/salty bite to the Bangus’ meaty flesh, and the smoke from the grill adds even more great flavor. This grilled Bangus is best served with steamed white rice, of course, but some spicy vinegar or atchara goes nicely on the side as well. My family also happens to enjoy this dish with a sawsawan (sauce/condiment) of tomatoes, fish sauce, and ginger.
Marinated and Grilled Bangus
1/2 cup white cane vinegar (Sukang Maasim)
1/4 cup soy sauce
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 boneless and butterflied milkfish (can be found frozen at Asian markets)
Combine the vinegar, soy, garlic, and pepper in a shallow dish. Place the fish, flesh side down, into the marinade. Spoon some of the marinade over the skin side as well. Cover dish with plastic wrap, place in refrigerator, and allow to marinate for 6 to 8 hours and turning the fish over during the last hour.
Place the fish, flesh side down, on a hot pre-heated and well-greased grill and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Brush the skin side of the fish with canola oil, then flip fish over and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Remove from grill and serve immediately.