manila: something fishy.

fti salt stall

one of the things i love about the philippines is the variety of seafood available throughout the year. freshly caught fish and shellfish is available in almost every market, but there is also quite an array of dried and preserved fish-based items that are often specialties of a particular province. i try to indulge in as many fresh items as possible when i'm in town, but find some of the dried delicacies quite alluring (and of course, some quite stinky, albeit tasty).

the photos above and directly below are from a favourite stall at the weekend market at the FTI (food terminal incorporated) complex in taguig; although it is somewhat out of the way for a casual visitor to the islands, it is worth the effort to seek it out if one is interested in all the local produce and comestibles available. when i say this is one of my favourite stalls, i can't actually admit to trying any of the goods--i just really like the selection of goods: bags of sea salt, dried beans, rice, and every manner of dried and smoked fish. i also quite like the animated vendor; she and her stall are very photogenic overall.

fti dried fish and beans

while at FTI, i passed a stall selling halabos na hipon, tiny smoked shrimp, still quite corally pink and juicy looking. i have never tried them, but have been interested in the idea of smoked shrimp since reading about it in a post by marketman. they are really quite small, no bigger than a joint on your pinky finger. i'm not sure how one would prepare them--has anyone tried them and have any hints?

fti shrimpy shrimp


salcedo barbecued tuna

later we stopped by another favourite saturday market at salcedo village; this one also has fresh and dried fish available, but as it caters to much of the surrounding neighbourhood of urban professionals and rather well-to-do folk, its specialty is cooked foods to take home or to eat there. we picked up a fat slab of freshly barbecued tuna belly and some beautiful whole tilapia, stuffed with fresh tomato and onion, then barbecued over hot coals and wrapped in banana leaves for you to take away.

salcedo barbecued tilapia

we had, on previous occasions, picked up some other interesting fare such as this fairly decent paella negra--rice, prawns, squid and chunks of fish cooked in squid ink, and served in a giant, shallow paella pan. portions are scooped out and then drizzled with a basil pesto for extra flavour.

paella negra 1

however, we didn't see the vendor, nor did we find the european gentlemen who sell a lovely pissaladière (a sort of french pizza with caramelized onions, anchovies and olives), and white (?) bouillabaisse, a stew filled with mussels, prawns, and chunks of firm-fleshed fish. ah. perhaps next time.



as i am typing this, my cousin and i are discussing the different types of preserved fish in the philippines. there are three main styles of preservation: salted and air/sun dried (tuyo), salted and cured with vinegar and garlic but not necessarily dried (daing), and salted and smoked (tinapa). however, almost any variety of fish or shellfish is preserved in this manner. the one above is a salted and smoked cabasi, which is from the province of bata'an. i can't find much online about the fish itself, but it is roughly palm-sized, with a very tender flesh, and lots of sharp, little bones; despite the bones, it is one of our family's favourite forms of tinapa--there's lots of sweet, smoky, milky meat, and it's not too salty nor stinky. my cousin is telling me about these smoked tilapia and bangus (milkfish) that she used to get in her village, freshly made by the neighbours; they would arrive at her doorstep, freshly smoked, still warm, ready to be eaten with platefuls of rice and a salad of fresh tomatoes, onions, and salted eggs. i'm salivating at the thought.

dried shrimp

however, there's little chance i'll come across smoked tilapia in the near future. i am consoled by the fact that i have a small cache of tiny dried shrimps, freshly caught just a few weeks ago in the waters of southern philippines in zamboanga. immediately after netted, they were spread out on tarps to dry naturally under the sun. they are brilliantly corally orange in colour, slightly chewy but not hard like commercially available dried shrimp, have a concentrated prawny flavour without being too fishy, and still smell like the sea. i know i should be using these to enhance many of my cooked dishes, but they are so good on their own, i can't help but pop a few in my mouth and savour them slowly. they taste of hot days on the beach, and open waters, off the shores in a land not so far away.


I miss bangus and having tuyo for breakfast.

As always I love your photographs.

Oh, all this looks and sounds delicious. Now I know where I want to go for holiday! :) I'm fanatical when it comes to fish, if I could afford it I'd eat it everyday, but in Sweden it's quite hard and expensive to come by fresh fish, and the frozen fish is quite often of poor quality. Too sad. But we have a form of lovely smoked shrimps here. Usually we eat them as they are, perhaps with a touch of aioli and a baguette. But they're too good on their own to prepare in any way...

Oh my goodness, I just love the look of those grilled tune belly and tilapia. I totally missed the summer bbq but now that I want to do it after reading this, the cold season is here again!

Oh yes, the fresh, dried and smoked fishes in the Philippines! I was told you can still get dinner plated-sized crabs in the Visayas and Mindanao. What I really miss are the smaller, sweeter oysters and the ceviche-style yellow fin tuna and the seaweeds....

stunning pictures and a fun tale of the market.

Try this for your dried shrimp:

Dried Shrimp with Bean sprouts


1 bag of Bean Sprouts (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup dried shrimps
3 Cloves of Garlic (chopped)
2 Stalks of Scallions (chopped)
Soy sauce (to taste)
Oyster sauce (to taste)

Rinse and clean the bean sprouts. Remove the roots.Heat the wok with cooking oil and stir fry the chopped garlic. Add in the shrimp pieces and toasted them until they become fragrant. Add in bean sprouts, soysauce, oyster sauce, and chopped scallion. Quickly stir the ingredients a few times and serve hot.

Note: Don't over cook the bean sprouts.

For the small shrimp, try using them in ukoy. Or add them to a quick omelette for flavoring. Or better yet, top them over fried rice!!!

hi, what a lovely post! i'm a big fish lover, so this is to my delight. Reading your blog is like traveling to the other side of the world for me: all those beautiful market places and exotic things to eat!! just lovely!

hi jenjen, i would miss bangus too, if i were away from it too long!

gitto--it's terrible that seafood should be expensive in so many parts of the world. i live off of it, i would go bankrupt if it wasn't so abundant and affordable here. i am looking forward to trying smoked shrimp in any form!

hello lisa! oh, i hope you do barbecue something because of this. i think it would be quite lovely to have some freshly grilled fish on a cool autumn night :)

mita, i love those tiny oysters, so sweet! mmmm. crab. i love taba ng talangka, the crab fat and roe--so decadent but tasty.

connie, i love the markets because they are just so photogenic--i can always take an interesting photo there, no matter how many times i visit.

doddie thanks for the recipe, and i won't overcook the bean sprouts :)

mila, have you tried the smoked shrimp? are they very smoky? would the flavour be lost if i used it in ukoy? of course, on top of rice is always the best option :)

hello anne! i love fish as well, and am always interested in finding it in markets around the world. i'm glad i could share some photos of my finds with you.

my mother used to prepare these shrimps, upon my request, with stir-fried thin slices of ampalaya (guisado style). I love and miss that!

manang, hello! nice to hear from you again. you know, one of my dogs is very fond of ampalaya--so strange, that boy. i love it, too, any way its prepared--you've made me quite hungry!

The shrimps are great with eggs, for eating with porridge(congee)

hello ang sarap ng mga food na yan. i miss bangus too and tuyo jen jen! :) i know ur site jen kaw din ba si jen ng http://youdiehard.blogspot.com


monster Ditrich