Ever since I saw Eating Club Vancouver's post on milkfish, or bangus as it's known in the Philippines, I've wanted it. And then this weekend I saw it in 99 Ranch's flier, on sale for $1.59/lb. So down to the ranch I went. Once I got into the parking lot, I knew I was in for an adventure. 99 Ranch is always crowded on weekends, but this was insane!
I finally parked in a neighboring lot (behind the bubble tea place, sharing the building with the Vietnamese lawyer) and trekked over to the store. I waded slowly through the throngs of people towards the fish counter in the back.
It seemed like everybody in San Diego county was trying to get fish! The line, if you could call it that, was 3 deep. It would've taken forever to maneuver my way up to the front. And to do that, I would've had to jostle, displace, and otherwise piss off numerous Asian grandmothers. Not something I want to do on a Sunday (or any day, for that matter!).
So I gave up on the fish-counter milkfish. Wandering through the rest of the store, something that had started out as vaguely unpleasant on the edge of my perception started getting stronger. And funkier. And unpleasanter. WTF, durian! In a topless freezer case, open for everyone to inhale its ghastly aroma. Gag.
I finally made my way beyond the cloud of funk, to the frozen section, where I found frozen butterflied de-bone pre-marinated milkfish, and decided to give that a shot. All the work was done for me, and the whole thing was less than $5, so no big deal if it didn't turn out.
Did it turn out? Not so much. I don't really have an implement big enough to flip a butterflied milkfish that fills my largest skillet (and that's after removing the tail with kitchen scissors). So it broke in half. Then there was this weird gelatinous fat in the center, kind of grayish, the consistency of Jello. Ew. But the flesh itself tasted ok, almost like swordfish in texture (I think I overcooked it), but way too salty. Maybe I should have rinsed it more before cooking.
But after flaking some of it, and adding it to a bowl of rice with soy & oyster sauce sauteed yu choy, it tasted pretty good. Mostly because the saltiness was cut by the rice. But within half an hour, my stomach started gurgling, and not in a good way.
At that point, I said screw it. If I'm going down, I'm going down hard. So I salted up a yellowtail collar I bought at Marukai, and broiled it skin side up until it was done.
Or, from another angle:
This totally made up for the weird salty milkfish. I love hamachi kama in Japanese restaurants, but had never cooked it until now. Rich and fatty (but in a good way), not fishy at all, just pure yellowtail happiness.