Whenever my lola was nagkukuripot or being frugal (being a true blue Ilocano, frugality or being penny-wise was one of the characteristics inherent to her), she would always serve our dining table with fried galunggong and she would tell us that it was pagkaing pang-mahirap or a “poor Filipino man’s fish”. I grew up eating galunggong (GG, as we colloquially call it) and I honestly thought we were poor.
|Adobo, which is equally democratic and versatile, is just right for galunggong|
The fame and prominence of galunggong or mackerel scad among the lower class of Philippine society was ostensibly true in the 1980s to 1990s, the years when the country was still strugglingly transitioning from Martial Law to its present Democratic form of government. The humble GG had once become an emblem to symbolize (or emphasize) poverty in the Philippines during the dawning era. The fluctuation of its price was even used as one of the determinants and indicators of how well the country’s economy was performing at some point at that time.
|GG or mackerel scad was once a representation of poverty in the Philippines|
But it is a woeful tragedy how this lowly round scad has since slipped off from the poor man’s platter, with the value skyrocketing from Ph₱26 (US$0.60) in 1990 to its current worth of Ph₱130 (US$3) per kilogram. Of course, with the effects of (high) inflation already considered – the plummeting supply caused by the decline in general fish production and the rising food demand due to the growing human headcount are, directly or otherwise, gradually snatching us away all these mouthwatering omega-3s. The commercialization into private resorts of many coastal areas that used to be the fish-drying grounds of the women fisherfolks is the number one culprit of them all. Sad to say, the fishing community – the poorest of the poor, are being displaced and fished out of their own source of livelihood. While I am so thrilled with all the advancement and overhauling being undertaken by my third world country as it slowly climb up the ladder on its way to becoming a developing country (and hopefully a developed one someday), I am also frightened like a bad dream to wake up one day that these marine life will just be among the many folktales to be told in the old pictures and memorabilia. My beloved government has to do something about it before these lovely edible aquatic creatures wave their final tails and simply shoo away to find refuge on bluer and more tranquil waters. Imagine how awful it would have become letting the young ones watch “Finding Nemo” in the guise of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. I am pretty sure you share the same piece with me.
But that is enough of my ranting. I am supposedly writing a recipe about galunggong, right? I will just blabber more about this some other time.
|Just the basic adobo ingredients, sans the chicken|
When I thought of cooking this Crispy Fried Fish Adobo dish, the kind of fish that first came to mind was galunggong. In fact, I have a number of fish recipes that use it as the main ingredient. It is not only scrumptious and appealing to the gustatory senses (as the plain fried fish in itself sided with sliced tomatoes is already a feast), it is also, in my opinion, the most versatile and democratic kind of fish out in the sea. It is versatile because a lot of dishes could be made with galunggong. It is meaty and less bony which makes the cooking and eating less fussy and has that fantastic flavor comparable to chicken. And I mentioned “democratic” in a sense that people from all walks of life – rich or poor, young and old, can eat galunggong. As one author says, galunggong was never really the poor man’s meat as it was just a victim of prejudice which relegates specific things for the unfortunate and other things for the well-to-do.
|The fish is marinated and cooked inadobo-style and then fried to intensify the already intensified flavors|
|No way will the impoverished Juan dela Cruz or the affluent Uncle Sam will not get hooked to all its magnificent flavors|
Adobo, which is also versatile and democratic on its own, is just right for galunggong. The fish is soaked and stewed in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar, the same way how we cook our usual pork or chicken adobo. And to add more intensity to the already intensified flavors, the fish cooked inadobo-style is fried to crispiness. Since it is the season of Lent, it is also perfect to be served on Fridays. Surely, no way will the impoverished Juan dela Cruz or the affluent Uncle Sam will not get hooked to its magnificent flavors as the merger of the ever-accommodating galunggong with the omnipresent adobo will surely equate to a dinner banquet.
Crispy Fried Fish Adobo
Number of Servings: 3 to 4
- 2 lbs. galunggong (mackerel scad), cleaned and gutted
- ¼ cup white or cane vinegar
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1-2 cups water
- 5 cloves garlic
- 3 pcs. dahon ng laurel (bay leaves)
- 1 tsp. whole peppercorns
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. sugar
- ½ cup cooking oil
- In a large saucepan, soak the fish (with the larger pieces at the bottom) in the mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, salt and sugar. Let it sit in the refrigerator and marinate for 1 hour to overnight.
- After marinating, add water just enough to cover the fish. Put the saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil over high heat. Do not stir when it is not yet boiling.
- Lower the heat to medium and simmer covered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow the liquid to reduce by half. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Drain the liquid from fish adobo. Set aside the adobo sauce. In a separate pan, heat the cooking oil. Fry the fish per batch and do not overcrowd the pan. Occasionally flip each side until it turns golden brown and crispy.
- Remove the fish from the pan and place on paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
- Transfer the fish on a serving platter and douse on the adobo sauce. Serve with steamed rice. Enjoy!
TIPS FROM ENZ:
- The adobo fish without frying is already a good viand on itself and can be best paired with fried egg and fried rice.
- When frying, make sure to completely drip off the adobo sauce so the fish will not stick on the pan and the oil will not splatter.
- Fry the fish at a gradual controlled heat to let the inner part achieve a crispy texture without burning or overcooking the outer part.
- You can use other meaty bone-in or fillet fishes like, tilapia, matambaka (bigeye scad), hito (catfish), dalag (mud fish) and daing na bangus (milkfish fillet).
- This can be paired with other dishes like pancit, dinengdeng (mixed exotic veggies) and lugaw (rice porridge).