When the Spanish chefs of Madrid Fusion were in the country, Filipino chef Myrna Segismundo and a bunch of friends took them to the palengke at Farmer’s in Cubao.
Their jaws dropped upon seeing the skills that went into removing the flesh of the milkfish using a spoon or blunt knife without puncturing the skin. After loosening the flesh, the market vendors press at the bottom of the bangus and the meat pops out whole.
World-renowned chef Francis Paniego took a video of this process and posted it on Instagram, getting over a 130,000 views the very next day. They should have also seen how we remove the thorns and bones from the bangus.
A few years back, there were only a handful of vendors who could do this. Today it is a common sight in the market—fish vendors deboning the bangus.
My brother Bong used to make and sell steamed and frozen boneless Bangus a la Viscayna, curry and other sauces. The business clicked. It was convenient, healthy and delicious. But his clients took too long to pay him and it ended his stint in this business.
I love bangus only when it is boneless and made tinapa (smoked). During fiestas, whenever there’s inihaw na bangus stuffed with tomatoes and onions, I stay away from it because I know it would be tricky to avoid all the tinik.
A friend from Malabon, badminton star Alma Cayco, sends me tinapa. She tells me her tinapa is different because she buys the bangus fresh and has it salted immediately. Some make tinapa out of unsold bangus, so it’s no longer fresh.
Alma’s boneless tinapang bangus is so huge, I can cut them in four and fry them. The skin is not only healthy, it also has that smoky flavor—delicious and crunchy.
I love the aroma and the mild saltiness of this Malabon specialty.
Farms in Sarangani, Mindanao, also make one of the best commercial tinapang bangus in the grocery. My kids love it.
Last week, we were doing our rounds in the metro for our Christmas episode of the TV show “Food Prints.” I had never come across one of our features until then.
My late grandmother-in-law Consuelo Tioco Mendoza was from Marikina. In some family reunions, she would have her cook Lilia make Marikina dishes I wasn’t familiar with, such as waknatoy and “everlasting.”
Waknatoy is a menudo-like dish with liver and Vienna sausage. Sarap! Everlasting is like an embotido steamed in a llanera. This is ground pork cooked, seasoned, then held together with egg, and then steamed.
I walked the streets in Marikina and saw almost all stalls carrying this everlasting and colored puto. We were curious on who makes the best everlasting in town and were pointed to a place called Mama Ting’s. I also learned that this place also makes rellenong bangus. In fact, the relleno is her bestseller.
We sat down to taste Mama Ting’s specialties, and what a discovery. This is the real deal. Many use ground pork in their relleno, but she uses pure bangus meat.
You could see there was no oil in the bangus filling while the everlasting was full of oil which she removes before adding fresh eggs and they end up in her llanera for steaming. The bangus, on the other hand, is deep-fried.
I have tried many rellenong bangus, but this one is a very well-made Pinoy classic. Apparently, Mama Ting’s is a Marikina institution. I will be seeing a lot of Mama Ting. Her rellenong bangus would be a great Christmas gift.
She also makes lumpiang bangus and delicious atsara—ubod and young papaya.
The Spanish chefs should try Mama Ting’s rellenong bangus the next time they visit the country.