Filipino fish

Bangus sa Tausi/ Tochong Bangus (Milkfish and Tofu in Fermented Blackbean Sauce)

Wednesday, June 04, 2014Enz F

These past few days, I have noticed that Metro Manila is beginning to cool down and we can already experience occasional rain showers during the late afternoon to evening. Almost lunchtime today, the sun is not as harsh as it used to be and the sky is a little thick and gloomy. On the spur of the moment, Manang Nita, my ever-diligent help, has already swept out the dried laundry from the clothesline as it is really hard to foresee if it is going to rain later, and now very busy folding and ironing a mountainous pile. It is not scorching to get out in the street so the little children can mischievously play and run to and from without limitation. As it is still summer vacation for many of them, they are enjoying the most out of their remaining days. Here comes Justine, a neighbor nearby, as he can finally comfortably go out without having to sweat to walk his Chocolate, the dark brown little shih tzu. And how my ears are now having some last song syndrome as my four-year-old niece endlessly belts out “Let it go”, her cute adaptation of the soundtrack of the Disney animated movie "Frozen" and not to mention, her favorite for the past few weeks. She had even performed the song along with her classmates during their pre-school graduation presentation. And yes, complete with emotions and all the hand gestures. Meanwhile, my younger brother, who is now turned into an avid biker, has just come back home from his morning road routine and I am pretty sure that he will stop by the kitchen to check what is waiting for lunch. The day is so strangely undisturbed. Everything seems to go very well as everyone gets to embrace a more pleasant and worry-free weather. There seems to be a peaceful calm before an impending storm. The weather bureau has yet to confirm or maybe I am not still updated if summer has already come to an end and if we need to start braising ourselves for the looming rainy season. Keeping my fingers crossed that the heavens will be a little more merciful this time and will spare us from all the dreaded typhoons while my country is still recuperating and struggling from the ill-effects of the calamities that came to island hop just last year. 

Just a perfect dish for a gloomy afternoon.
The clock strikes quarter past eleven in the morning and being a home buddy at the moment, there is nothing else to do but sneak to the dirty kitchen and make a quick inventory of the fridge. Eureka! I got tofu down here and several sliced milkfish fresh from yesterday’s wet market splurge. They are just right for my unopened packet of fermented black beans sitting in the shelf. I checked out the expiration date and it is still good for consumption for the remaining couple of months. The timing is just perfect as I have just replenished my stocks of spices and seasoning ingredients. Now is also the best moment to heat up those pans for some home-prepared delicious and hearty meals. I am going to cook Bangus sa Tausi or Tochong Bangus (Milkfish and Tofu in Fermented Blackbean Sauce). Tausi, by the way, is a Filipino terminology for fermented black beans.

I have to admit, fermented black beans are my least preferred among the beans out there being intensely savory and salty in flavor. I always find it cumbersome to pair a suitable ingredient that will blend to the overwhelmingly pungent taste of the bean though rinsing it several times with water somehow helps me get rid of the excess salt. Aside from avocado, I have only tried to use it as seasoning for tofu and mildly flavored white-flesh fishes like bangus (milkfish). They never failed me so far. The delicate sweetness of the mentioned ingredients complemented very well to the sharp aroma of the salted black beans.

Not to be mistaken with the black turtle beans that are commonly used in Caribbean and Mexican cuisines, fermented black beans are actually dried soybeans that undergone salt fermentation. The salting process turns the color of the regular white soybeans into dark brown. Douchi, as it is called in Chinese, is a frequent flavoring agent to Cantonese and other Asian stir-fry and vegetable dishes. A famous Szechuan dish, mapo tofu, is consist of soybean cake and minced meat that used fermented black beans and other spices for flavoring. Bangus sa tausi is cooked similarly except the addition of milkfish. Having that strong attributes, fermented black beans are often grinded into paste along with other strong spices like chili, garlic and ginger. 

Not my most favorite beans but they would go well with my bangus.
I would definitely want to discover more suitable dishes for these strikingly salty beans. Thus far, I already have tested three of them, the guacamole dip with beans, mapo tofu and just now, my own version of bangus sa tausi. Could you help me add more to my list? Your suggestions are very much welcome.

Bangus sa Tausi/ Tochong Bangus (Milkfish and Tofu in Fermented Blackbean Sauce)
Number of Servings: 5

(Printer-friendly recipe)

  • 2 lbs. bangus (milkfish), descaled, gutted and sliced into serving pieces 
  • 2 blocks tokwa (firm tofu), sliced into ½-inch thick 
  • ½ cup tausi (fermented black beans), drained and rinsed 
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped 
  • 1 thumb-sized ginger, julienned 
  • 2 tbsps. soy sauce 
  • 3 tbsps. oyster sauce 
  • 2 tbsps. brown sugar 
  • ½ tsp. whole peppercorns, coarsely crushed 
  • ½ tsp. ground peppercorns 
  • ½ tsp. five-spice powder 
  • 2 pcs. red Thai chili, chopped 
  • ½ tsp. salt or to taste 
  • 2 tbsps. cornstarch, dissolved in ¼ cup water 
  • 2 cups water 
  • cooking oil for frying 
  • 3 tbsps. spring onions, chopped 

  1. Season the fish and tofu with soy sauce and ground pepper. Let them sit for 5 to 10 minutes. 
  2. Over medium heat, heat up the cooking oil on a large frying pan. Fry the tofu, occasionally flipping each side until the color turns brown. Remove from the pan and drain the excess oil on paper towel. Slice into smaller cubes and set aside. 
  3. Fry the seasoned milkfish on the same pan. Continue cooking until both sides are brown. Transfer on a platter lined with paper towel. Set aside. 
  4. In a clean saucepan, sauté the onions, garlic and ginger. Toss in tomatoes and continue to cook until the tomatoes are wilted. 
  5. Add the fermented black beans and chili. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. 
  6. Add water and stir in the oyster sauce and brown sugar. Season with salt and crushed pepper. Set the heat to simmer and continue to cook for another 2 minutes. Sprinkle with five-spice powder. Mix well. 
  7. Pour in the dissolved cornstarch and continue to simmer until the sauce thickens. 
  8. Carefully add the fried fish and sliced tofu and simmer for another 2 minutes. Gradually stir until the fish is covered with tausi sauce. Remove from heat and garnish with chopped spring onions. Serve warm with steamed rice. Enjoy! 

  1. To lessen the saltiness, rinse the fermented soy beans under running water before adding them to the dish. 
  2. For a different flavor and texture, drench the fish in breading flour before frying. 
  3. Any fish of white flesh variety (bone-in or fillet) can be used as substitute.

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