The Philippine Food of the Mass, dried fish, The Philippines

The Philippine Food of the Mass, dried fish, The Philippines

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Known as the “Pearl of the Orient Sea”, Philippines has so many undiscovered delicacies that are of world class, some of which may be exotic but it has something to be proud of. Rich with the abundance of fish in the ocean and big seas, Filipinos’ primary livelihood falls on working along the shore and go fishing. In fact, Catholic Church devoted Saint Peter Claver as the Saint of Seafearers.

Aside from fresh vegetables and fruits and nutritious meat, market goers make it sure to have something inside their baskets the king of the meal- the dried fish. Drying, from where the name was taken, is a method of food preservation that works by removing water from the food. Open air drying using sun and wind has been practiced since ancient times to preserve food. Water is usually removed by evaporation (air drying, sun drying, smoking or wind drying. Drying food is the world’s oldest known preservation method, and dried fish has a storage life of several years. The method is cheap and effective in suitable climates; the work can be done by the fisherman and family, and the resulting product is easily transported to market. With its salted taste, you can really taste the goodness of each bite that tastes the freedom of the sea and the heavenly feeling that wanting you crave for more. Toasted on vinegar, this dried fish would produce something that is tender and there is something on the tip of your tongue would experience. Yes, it makes you feel a little bit of heaven here on earth.

This king of the meal strikes slightly smelly odor and sometimes irritable if not washed properly. It is noticeable also that most buyers are of below average economic families where they cannot afford expensive viands but ofcourse, rich people are also fond of tasting this “food of the mass”.

Prices vary from kind to kind as well as the weather. Basically, dried fish are delivered to rural areas and community where neighborhood can buy it from nearby stores at cheaper price and are repacked from city markets. Filipinos could buy it P5.00 the cheaper. Cebu City is popular of this kind of business. In fact, relatives who come from this city and even tourists make it sure to have their bags packed with dried fish or in dialect called “daing”.

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Wanted to make your own “tuyo”? Fishermen freshly catch fish of different sizes and kinds. Yes, even of those small fish can be dried and be eaten. To start, cut both belly fins off. Cut down to the tail bone. Once cut, turn it over and cut the other side as well. Cut below the head to where you feel the resistance of the bone, stopping there. As with the tail, turn it over and do the same on the other side. Next, cut along the backbone starting at the cut you’ve just made below the head and continuing to the tail, stopping where you made the tail cut. Then cut along the backbone again. If you’re comfortable leaving it in place for the second back bone cut, go ahead. Otherwise flip it over. Start cutting along the bones towards the stomach. Then, continue to the tail and turn to the other side and do the same. At this point you’ve ‘skinned’ your fish. Completely removed, meat and skin in one. Cuts are then made to facilitate drying. If not for these cuts, the meat would be too thick. The next step is to thoroughly wash it. Then hang it to dry a bit. It doesn’t need to dry long. All we want to do is let the excess water from the washing drain off. Here it hangs on a spruce pole that’s tied between two trees, at a comfortable working height. You can experiment all you want by using butter or basting it with whatever you like, rather than the lard, it’s entirely your choice.

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/// Written by Sheena Lou Alagao, The Philippines