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Cook Up Some Bangus For Meat-Free Fridays This Lenten Season

There may be a thousand reasons why Filipinos absolutely love milkfish or bangus. Aside from its versatility, milkfish is available year round, easy on the pocket, and a healthy and flavorful substitute to recipes that call for red meat—perfect for those abstaining from meat during Lent. Whether grilled, boiled, braised, or fried, milkfish remains an all-time favorite on the Filipino table. Here, we’ve given the humble milkfish a fresh spin on taste, with these recipe ideas that breathe new flavors into one of our favorite everyday staples.


Boneless Bangus Inasal with Annatto


Serves 6

  • 2 to 3 pieces boneless bangus, butterflied
  • 1/2 cup sinamak vinegar?
  • 1 head garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger?
  • 2 stalks lemongrass?
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce?
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked whole peppercorns?
  • 1/2 cup annatto oil, for basting (gently steep 1/4 cup annatto seeds in 1/2 cup hot oil for 30 to 45 minutes)
  • siling labuyo, optional

1. Marinate bangus in vinegar, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, soy sauce, and peppercorns for 3 to 4 hours, turning several times.

2. Over medium heat, pan-grill bangus in a medium-sized pan while basting with annatto oil, for 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Serve immediately with sinamak vinegar on the side, some siling labuyo, and annatto garlic rice (recipe below).



  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cooking oil?
  • 6 cups chilled cooked rice
  • 1/4 cup annatto oil
  • salt, to taste

Sauté garlic in cooking oil over high heat. Add cooked rice and annatto oil. Stir-fry for 5 to 8 minutes. Add salt to taste. Serve together with bangus inasal.


Spicy Bangus Flakes Makimono


Makes 18 to 24 pieces

  • 2 tablespoons Japanese mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon spicy sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon iodized fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste?
  • 2 to 3 sheets nori
  • 2 cups cooked Japanese rice
  • 1 cucumber, sliced into 3-inch long pieces
  • 1 ripe mango, diced
  • 100 to 150 grams bangus back fillet, golden fried then flaked
  • Japanese soy sauce?
  • 1 teaspoon wasabi paste
  • red ginger, optional

1. To make the filling, mix Japanese mayonnaise, spicy sesame oil, salt, and wasabi paste in a bowl. Chill in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.?

2. To roll the maki, cover a bamboo rolling mat with plastic wrap. Place a sheet of nori, rough side up on the plastic wrap.

3. Using wet fingers, firmly pat an even layer of Japanese rice on top of the nori. Cover the nori completely.

4. Place 1 slice cucumber in a line along the bottom edge of the sheet. Follow with diced mangoes. Spread a line of bangus mixture alongside the cucumber and mangoes.

5. Starting from the edge, roll the bamboo sheet and fold the bottom edge of the sheet up?to enclose the filling. Tightly roll the bamboo mat into a thick cylinder. Once the sushi is rolled, gently squeeze to compact it tightly. Repeat to make a second and third roll.?

6. Remove the bamboo mat and plastic wrap. Cut the rolls into 5 to 6 makimono pieces each, using a sharp knife with a barely wet blade in order to slice cleanly and not crush the roll.

7. Serve with Japanese soy sauce, wasabi paste, and red ginger, if using.



Tea Braised Bangus Fillet with Anise and Sibut?

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 head garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon oil?
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger?
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce?
  • 4 bags black tea?
  • 1 (25-gram) pack sibut spices
  • 2 pieces star anise
  • 1 cinnamon bark?
  • 400 grams bangus belly, each fillet cut into 6 squares
  • 400 grams bangus back fillet, each fillet cut into 6 squares
  • 1 teaspoon salt?
  • 1 teaspoon sugar?
  • 8 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced in halves
  • 4 pieces tofu, deep-fried, drained, cut into bite-sized cubes

1. Sauté garlic and onion in oil until fragrant.?

2. Add water, ginger, soy sauce, and teabags and bring to a boil.

3. Upon boiling, add sibut spices, star anise, cinnamon bark, bangus, salt, and sugar.

4. Lower heat to low-medium and continue to braise bangus for about 10 to 15 minutes.?

5. Add shiitake mushrooms and fried tofu. Bring to a boil again, and cook for another 5 minutes. Adjust salt and sugar as needed.

6. Turn off heat and serve hot with chili-garlic dipping sauce (recipe below) and accompanied by a bowl of steamed white rice.



  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed?
  • 3 green chilies (siling haba), sliced?
  • 3 bird’s eye chilies (siling labuyo), sliced?
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce

Combine all the ingredients and serve with the braised bangus.



What is sibut? It contains a mixture of Chinese medicinal herbs such as Chinese foxglove, angelica sinensis, ligusticum, peony alba, and goji berry. Adding sibut to soup is believed to help restore energy and strengthen the immune system. You can find sibut in most supermarkets or Chinese groceries.


A longer version of this article first appeared in FOOD Magazine, Issue 2, 2015
Recipes by Aby Nachura
Photos by Justin de Jesus
Styling by Tina Concepcion Diaz