The Milkfish (Bangus) also called Chanos or Chano is an important food staple in India, in Southeast Asia and in particular in the Philippines where it is the “National Fish”.
Milkfish (Bangus) is simply delicious. Its nearly white flesh is neither too strong nor too mild, and many Filipinos consider all other fish inferior. There is a thin dark layer just under the skin and a dark strip in the center, but the dark parts are still quite delicate tasting.
Skin: The skin of this fish has no strong or “off” flavor and does not shrink whatever the cooking method. Removing it with a long knife and cutting board is not difficult, but please do not remove the skin. When de-boning the fish, you need the skin to hold the fillet together. Bangus is almost always cooked with the skin on. When frying, lightly dust with rice flour to prevent the skin from sticking to the pan or turning utensil, from flaking off and making a mess. This is not necessary if the fish is fried with its scales.
Scales: Milkfish (Bangus) is completely covered with small silver scales with good adhesion – so it takes vigorous scraping to remove them, and they will fly about. For some recipes that require frying the fish to a crisp on the skin side, do not remove the scales; they can be eaten with the skin.
Filleting: Milkfish (Bangus) is easy to fillet, but with a slightly different method from other fish, Whatever you do, you really want to cut the ribs from the backbone with kitchen scissors, then use your long nose pliers to pull the pin bones from the fillet – they pull out easily. If you use it separately, you can cut the belly from the rest of the fillet before or after boning. If before, there will be a few short bones to draw from.
Milkfish (Bangus) is always cooked with the skin for reasons which are explained in detail below. The skin does not shrink during cooking. The flesh stays firm and the fish can be cooked with any method but should not be cooked whole (except for “Baby Bangus”), as explained below. When frying, lightly dust with rice flour to prevent the skin from sticking to the pan, peeling off and making a mess.
Milkfish (Bangus) is excellent poached in a short broth. Poach with the skin then slide it off before serving, if you prefer, but I recommend eating Bangus with the skin for enhanced flavor.
Baby Bangus is often deep fried or cooked in “sardine” type oil. It is commonly served with the head and tail intact, though the heads can be removed if desired. The fish should be fairly small, otherwise the bones will not soften while cooking, not the best outcome.
A popular cooking method in the Philippines is Daing na Bangus. Here, the Bangus is butterflied, cutting from the top, leaving the belly intact. It is boneless (or not), marinated in vinegar and garlic, and fried. It is often served for breakfast.
Other fish available at the #Afritibi market are here …