Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fishy Dinner

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.


[eatingclub] vancouver || js said...

Thanks for the shout-out.

Sorry to hear about your less than satisfactory experience with the milkfish. The marinated ones are a tad salty, because as you note, they are meant to be eaten with lots and lots of rice (one way to stretch protein). The fat in the center is the fish fat, which some people absolutely adore as the best part of the fish. Personally, I don't like the fish fat that much. And usually, these pre-marinated ones are deep-fried and the preferred condiment would be some sort of chile-infused vinegar (which would also cut down on the saltiness).

At least you had the other fish collar.

Vicki said...

Hey js! I haven't given up, because I can tell this fish has potential for being enjoyed in my house. Next time I think I'll brave the throng at the market and buy the fresh one, and try marinating myself. Thanks for introducing me to a new fish!

tigerfish said...

just thinking if i have tried this fish before!

Vicki said...

Hi tigerfish - I've seen milkfish in English, bangus in Tagalog, but no other translations. If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

kat said...

doesn't sound like a good advertising for the frozen fish

Betts said...

I hope that gurgling tummy didn't turn into a full eruption!

Vicki said...

Hi Kat & Betts -
I definitely won't be buying that particular brand of frozen fishy again. I'm just glad that it stopped at gurgling.