Filipino food is known to be famous for having delicious fish dishes which is considered one of the most important staple protein among Filipino families.
Because the Philippines is surrounded by seas, fish is readily available which is important in Filipino cooking. Because the country is made up of thousands of islands, each region has its own way of cooking fish. It is so diverse that the people have their own ways of cooking Filipino fish recipes, and they use local ingredients to make the food delicious.
For example, while living in the Philippines, you can find grilled fish dishes like inihaw na bangus or sour soup such as sinigang isda. Each of these recipes carries important Filipino culture and history, which shows how food brings families and communities together.
What are the kinds of fishes in the Philippines?
In the Philippines, there are many kinds of fish that you can use in cooking traditional dishes. When I was in the fish market, there were so many fishes that that you could choose. However, in my experience, here are the most popular ones that are found in the restaurants & food stalls, and favored by Filipino families:
- Bangus– This is a Filipino milkfish which is perhaps the iconic fish in Filipino cuisines. This type of fish is so popular that you can find it in most food stalls and restaurants. What I like about bangus is that it is easy to find a deboned or boneless bangus that is convenient to eat. With this type of fish, you can use it to make stew, sisig, grilled, or baked.
- Tanigue– Tanigue is a Spanish Mackerel that is known to have a meaty texture and rich flavor. If you are looking for this type of fish, they usually have a whole fish or a steak. I personally prefer tanigue steak since it has fewer bones than bangus. Example dishes you can make include tinola, sinigang, grilled, or kinilaw (ceviche).
- Tilapia– This freshwater fish is popular in the Philippines since it is known to be affordable and has a mild flavor. When cooking Tilapia, it is commonly used for grilling, baking, or frying.
- Lapu-Lapu– This is a grouper fish that is known as a prized fish in Filipino cuisines. Lapu-Lapu is one of the tastiest fish since it has a delicate and sweet flavor. You can find this type of fish in most high-end or popular Filipino restaurants, which is considered a bit pricey compared to other fishes.
- Pompano– This is another popular fish in the Philippines which is known for its mild sweetness, and tender and flaky flesh. One of the most popular dishes is the steamed pompano with soy sauce. In addition, you can use this type of dish to grill, bake, or fry.
- Maya-Maya– This is a red snapper fish that is considered one of the most expensive fishes in the Philippines. Maya-Maya is similar to Tanigue since they are both known to be meaty, and tender. This type of fish is traditionally used to make stew like sinigang or tinola. In addition, you can use this fish to make a paksiw or escabeche dish.
Ingredients used in Filipino Fish cooking
Here are the common ingredients used in Filipino fish recipes:
- Tamarind & Calamansi (Philippine lime)- They add a tangy flavor to the soup or stews.
- Condiments- Fish Sauce, Soy Sauce, Vinegar and Oyster Sauce.
- Chili Pepper
- Vegetables- They are only used for tinola or sinigang dishes. Popular vegetables include cabbages, spinach, eggplant, green beans or squash.
Now I have provide a brief background, here are some of the most loved Filipino fish recipes that are unique and delicious.
I. Stew / Soup
1. Fish Tinola
Fish Tinola is a Filipino fish soup recipe using Spanish Mackerel that is cooked in a broth containing ginger, lemongrass, tomatoes, moringa leaves, and eggplant. It has a nice ginger-flavored broth which you can serve and eat with white rice.
2. Fish Sinigang
Fish Sinigang is similar to Fish Tinola except the soup contains mild sourness due to calamansi or lemon which is traditionally eaten with rice. This recipe contains Tanigue or Spanish mackerel steak with cabbages, ginger, tomatoes, and fish sauce to enhance the soup flavor.
II. Pan-Fried / Frying
3. Bangus Steak
The Bangus steak is a pan-fried milkfish that is then cooked in soy sauce & vinegar seasoned with garlic, onion, and brown sugar. If you are familiar with chicken adobo, this milkfish recipe is my version of adobong bangus which is best eaten with rice.
4. Bangus Sisig
Bangus Sisig is a flaked milkfish that is marinated followed by pan-fried which is then chopped into smaller pieces. The red onion & green chilies are chopped and sauteed before mixing with the flaked bangus. It is served on a sizzling hot plate with egg in the center, creating a dramatic presentation and adding a distinct texture to the dish.
5. Fish Escabeche
Escabeche Lapu Lapu is a Filipino dish featuring fried Lapu Lapu fish, topped with a sweet and sour sauce made from vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and aromatic spices. The dish offers a delightful contrast of crispy fish and tangy sauce, creating a flavorful culinary experience.
6. Jollibee Tuna Pie
This is a Tuna Pie that is inspired by a popular Filipino fast food chain called Jollibee which consists of tuna, mayonnaise and mixed vegetables using sliced bread.
III. Baking / Steaming
7. Baked Bangus
This is a boneless bangus that is topped with chopped onions, garlic, and tomatoes and is baked in the oven. The onions, ginger, and tomatoes are chopped and then mixed with soy sauce before it is placed above the milkfish. This is a healthier approach since it contains no frying or grilling.
8. Steamed Pompano with Soy Sauce
Steamed Pompano is a Chinese-influenced Filipino pompano recipe that is steamed until tender, then dressed with soy sauce, oyster sauce, sliced ginger & spring onion leaves, creating a flavorful dish.
The steaming process retains the fish’s natural taste while allowing it to absorb the rich flavors of the sauce, resulting in a delicious and aromatic dish.
9. Baked Pompano
Baked Pompano is a fish dish seasoned with a savory blend of sautéed onions, ginger, tomatoes, and soy sauce. This recipe is one of the favored fish varieties in both Filipino and Asian culinary traditions.
IV. Side Dishes
10. Pinakbet Ilocano
Pinakbet Ilocano is a Filipino vegetable medley side dish that contains different vegetables like eggplant, bitter gourd, okra, green beans, and tanigue steak, cut into square pieces, that serve as a protein. One of the most important ingredients that make this unique Ilocano is that it contains fermented anchovies called bagoong monamon dilis.
Kinilaw is a Filipino version of ceviche which is made by marinating raw fish or seafood in vinegar or citrus juices, typically calamansi, along with various seasonings like onions, ginger, chili peppers, and coconut milk.
Common fish used in this recipe include tuna or tanigue (Spanish mackerel), which is served and eaten raw.