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

Serves 2

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.

  • Skip to Malou March 24, 2010, 7:36 pm

    My kids will eat bangus only if it’s deboned.
    I love the grill marks. How did you do that without messing (it sticks to the grill everytime I do it)
    I will have this with sinamak (spicy vinegar)tomatoes and fried rice… *salivating*

  • Tracey@Tangled Noodle March 24, 2010, 7:36 pm

    Frozen bangus is pretty much my only option but I’m not complaining! It’s great and as you noted, not as many ‘tinik’! But the one I usually get is already marinated; I should look for the unseasoned one so that I can try out your recipe!

  • Caroline March 24, 2010, 8:02 pm

    I just finished my dinner of salmon and got me salivating for bangus! Look at all that belly, worth picking bones off for that belly. :)
    I liked that you grilled this, perfect for the summer months ahead & I bet a healthier way to cook, too!

  • Jun Belen March 24, 2010, 8:17 pm

    WOW! Cool pictures!!! Love pritong bangus!!

  • joey March 24, 2010, 9:59 pm

    This is one of my favorite fishes! :) Love bangus…and my favorite of the lot has got to be tinapang bangus…yum!
    I’m with your mum…anything that’s marinated I call daing (when it comes to bangus) :)
    I also like to bake bangus in the oven topped with thinly sliced onions…easy and no mess :)

  • Albert March 24, 2010, 10:07 pm

    Taba ng Bangus… that’s all I want please thank you! That and talanka fat haha

  • _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver March 24, 2010, 10:24 pm

    Not sure if that package you have will have it, as our Sarangani Bay package was for boneless bangus BELLY and not the whole fish — but you should try the BISTEK BANGUS recipe on the back. It is delicious. We made it with great results!

  • Lorena March 24, 2010, 10:33 pm

    I’ve never made bangus because of all the bones, but I’ll definitely pick some of these bad boys up the next time I’m at Seafood City!

  • faith March 25, 2010, 2:07 am

    Sarangani Bay also sells just bangus belly and boneless bangus already marinated in different ways. My mom likes making seafood sinigang with bangus belly and shrimps. I love it. 😀

  • wasabi prime March 25, 2010, 2:37 am

    Nice! I know people say it’s good to have something fresh and not overprocessed/overhandled but jeeze, it’s a lotta bones in them fishies. Hooray for modern food technology!

  • Manggy March 25, 2010, 3:51 am

    I thought daing just referred to any butterfly-cut bangus, so it shows how much I know :) We pretty much always get bone-in bangus here at home and I hate it. I’m so hungry when I start deboning it on the table and 15 minutes later I’ve lost my appetite :( This is SOO much more convenient. We’d double the black pepper too, hehe :)

  • Julienne March 25, 2010, 7:12 am

    Great timely blog featuring a tasty fish dish during Lent Season! I’ll have to hunt for the unseasoned variety to try out the marinade and make it like you did. It will be a nice change from fish tacos and Pritong Tilapia for my family evening dinners!

  • Pamela Macario March 25, 2010, 9:15 am

    OH my god… My mouth is watering. I haven’t had bangus in… YEARS. Now I know what I MUST pick up the next time I’m at the supermarket.

  • Leela@SheSimmers March 25, 2010, 10:44 am

    Beautiful! If I find myself in the presence of this deboned milkfish, I don’t know what my first reaction would be: stare at it for a long time or tear it apart and devour it (the middle part first, of course).

  • billy March 25, 2010, 10:50 am

    Daing or dinaing is the process of slicing a fish from the back, splaying it flat and then processing it (drying, salting or marinating). Which reminds me — my sister-in-law’s mom found some danggit (small dried fish from Cebu) in the freezer yesterday. She fried them — and it was like a stink bomb exploded in the whole house. Does any body have a remedy for this kind of disaster — short of washing the whole house with tomato sauce?

  • Barbara @ moderncomfortfood March 25, 2010, 1:31 pm

    Oh, I miss fresh bangus here in the US. Your picture brings back such fond memories of eating perfect bangus while living and working for many years in Davao City: crisp, a squeeze of calamansi… heaven. Who cares about the bones!

  • Mila Tan March 25, 2010, 8:49 pm

    I sure hope that someone will figure out how to take the belly fat from the bangus and sell it, like taba ng talangka (crab fat). It’s my favorite part.

  • Michelle March 25, 2010, 9:10 pm

    Seriously, no bones? I love bangus but the bones have always been a pain.I gotta remember this next time I’m in an Asian mart. (Best of all, The Hubs won’t touch bangus so it would be mine, ALL MINE!!!)

  • Beth March 26, 2010, 5:03 pm

    Maybe that’s partly why bangus is such a tasty fish. All those bones give flavor.

  • Tuty @ Scentofspice March 26, 2010, 11:10 pm

    I asked you about this frozen & vacuumed packed fish last year and you said you had not tried it. I am glad that you finally did and I like your idea of grilling the marinated fish. Thanks for sharing, Marv.

  • jean March 27, 2010, 6:06 am

    Sarap! Now I want bangusilog with a side of tomatoes. Dadgummit, Marvin!

  • Brian Asis March 29, 2010, 12:38 am

    That was one beautifully grilled milkfish 😀

  • heather March 29, 2010, 1:17 pm

    billy, try this to de-stink your house: dump a bunch (ish) of baking soda in a saucepan, half fill (ish) the pan with water, and simmer it on the stove for a while.
    you could also try crumpling up newspaper and leaving them in strategic piles…though that usually works best in closed-up spaces, like the fridge. good luck, yo!

  • Lori Lynn @ Taste With The Eyes April 3, 2010, 5:02 pm

    My mouth is watering! I have never heard of this fish, and cannot wait to try it!
    I had been turned off to frozen fish until last month, believe it or not, when I bought frozen barramundi at Whole Foods. Now it is a staple in my freezer.
    Happy Easter to you and your family Marvin!

  • Alicia April 6, 2010, 1:00 pm

    So glad I found your blog! I was actually googling cascarones because I had no idea what it was, and that is how your blog popped up!
    I’m in the same boat! I’m clueless about alot of Filipino foods (even though I am Filipino)!!!

  • Joan April 13, 2010, 3:57 pm

    Have you ever made Bangus Sisig? That is the bomb! Try it, much healthier than pork sisig. I seriously can eat it all day

  • BurntLumpia April 14, 2010, 11:03 am

    Hi Skip to Malou. The secret to grill marks is a clean grill, and making sure you preheat the grill. I make there is nothing sticking to my grill grates, then I heat them for a good 15-20 mins, then I swab the grill grates with a paper towel dipped in oil–then, and only then, do I put anything on the grill;)
    Definitely try the non-marinated bangus, Tracey. There’s lots you can do with them!
    Grilling is definitely healthier than deep-frying Caroline:)
    Thanks Jun.
    Baked bangus sounds genius, Joey!
    The more fat, the better, right Albert? :)
    Thanks for the link ts. I didn’t notice any recipes on the package, but I’ll look for it next time.
    It’s definitely easier to deal with, Lorena. I hope you find plenty of these bad boys!
    I’ll be on the lookout for bangus belly, faith. Thanks for the tip.
    Hooray, wasabi prime!
    I’ll double the black pepper next time for you, Manggy!
    Thanks Julienne.
    I hope you have Bangus soon and often Pamela!
    The fatty belly is the best, Leela;)
    I love the smell of fried stinky fish, billy. But you’re right, that smell can linger for a while.
    Hi Barbara. I’m glad you found my blog.
    Hi Mila. According to faith above, Sarangani Bay does sell just the belly. I haven’t seen it yet, but it sounds like it’s worth looking for.
    Seriously, Michelle. No bones!
    You’re probably right, Beth. Bones do lend more flavor.
    Hi Tuty! I do remember having that conversation with you. It’s taken me a while to try hasn’t it?
    Mmmm. Bangus for breakfast. Awesome idea jean.
    Thanks Brian.
    Thanks for the de-stinking tip, Heather!
    It’s definitely a tasty and meaty fish, LL. And thanks for the Easter wishes.
    Thanks for visiting Alicia. I hope you visit and comment often.
    I’ve never made Bangus Sisig, Joan, but I have heard good things about it. I’ll have to add that to my list of recipes to try.

  • Marie April 20, 2010, 2:23 am

    Yay to boneless bangus

  • Arunima Singh April 27, 2010, 9:17 pm

    I read your blog every once in a while, enjoying the humour and the recipes, but when I read this blog I was so on the lookout for Bangus! And guess what, I found it in my small town in a tiny little chinese food store! :)
    However, I have a few questions. I didnt have cane vinegar, so substituted it with red wine vinegar (big disaster!) and the fish became so so sour… :( We did eat it with a lot of chili sauce, but I wanted to ask you about the cane vinegar that you mentioned. Is it not as sour as the red wine vinegar? Is it sweeter in taste?
    Another thing I realized after cooking was that the fish skin still had the scales. Do you not eat the fish skin? We generally grill the fish skin side to a nice crispy texture and eat the skin. But I was disappointed to have missed out on this detail, and cooked the fish without removing the scales. How about you? Do you remove the scales, or do you just eat the flesh off the grilled fish?
    Please let me know. I wanna go get another bangus and try this again!
    Thanks :)

  • BurntLumpia April 28, 2010, 10:21 am

    Marie, Yay!
    Arunima, I definitely wouldn’t recommend using red wine vinegar for this dish. I would say cane vinegar isn’t as sour, but it isn’t necessarily sweeter. In regards to the fish skin, the packaged fish I bought did not have any scales. And I also sometimes eat the grilled fish skin. If you try the recipe again, use clear cane vinegar found in Filipino markets, and if your fish has scales, then yes, clean the scales off.

  • Catherine April 30, 2010, 10:26 am

    I also have discovered the frozen and the frozen STUFFED ones too. So happy we have a Filipino grocer here.

  • Bob M. May 3, 2010, 10:34 am

    <<"I'm not above pilfering and ransacking my mother's freezer and cupboards--even at my advanced age." rolling on the floor. (even though we know nanay lets us do it because she's just likes having us around).

  • Clarissa May 4, 2010, 10:59 pm

    :) first time to read and comment! i have always taken for granted here in the Philippines that everywhere you go, it’s unusual if you do not have the boneless bangus on display, unseasoned or in a marinade of your own choice (even pesto, yummy). as i work in retail, i have already seen canned versions of the fish for sisig, spanish style, with tausi, etc. all boneless or with edible bones, of course! but for sure, they would taste rather differently from the fresh or even frozen ones. good luck to your boneless bangus hunt. :)

  • Daphne B May 18, 2010, 1:51 pm

    just wanted to report that I tried this last night and it was fantastic! granted, i don’t have a grill but used my stovetop grill pan (present from the boyfriend) to cook the fish. grew up eating and loving daing na bangus so this was an absolute joy. even my boyfriend who is picky about fish actually went for seconds…and thirds…and fighting with me over the last piece.
    Also cracked up at your entry about how you have no problem pilfering supplies from your parents. I do it too when I visit my parents — frozen Filipino goodies, candies, canned goods like Spam, rice…my parents just laugh and say if it’s the only way I can come down and visit them, so be it! 😀

  • Suzi.BC August 17, 2010, 2:06 pm

    what a lovely blog and fish! I hunted down this wonderful treat in my asian market after reading this. I marinated in a paste of chopped garlic, ginger, cilantro, green onion, a little chili oil, rice vinegar and mirin. Then I grilled it like you did. I can hardly wait for my next trip to the market!!! Incredible flavour!
    Thankyou for sharing.

  • A.D. August 19, 2010, 3:22 am

    The “deboning plants” actually save the bones & use them to make healthy hotdogs. Haven’t seen one in the groceries though.
    On a yummier note, I think bangus belly rivals the goodness of tuna belly.

  • Yue Edwards September 5, 2010, 7:06 pm

    it looks delicious!!!

  • tndcallphilippines June 7, 2012, 8:07 pm

    i love this recipe! :) thank you!

  • John from ManilaTrade July 13, 2012, 8:51 am

    Love the recipe! We actually have a Bangus farm in Mindoro and we usually just rub sea salt on our freshly harvested Bangus and grill it straight away. The meat is just so sweet when it’s fresh!


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