WEEKEND CHEF | Ramp up your Inihaw na Bangus with more herbs and flavors

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Inihaw na Bangus prepared by Weekend Chef. Photo by Dolly Dy-Zulueta for InterAksyon.

Inihaw na Bangus. It’s a classic Pinoy dish that never fails to please when you serve it at the dinner table. Its aroma, which wafts in the air while it is being cooked, is so good that it will suddenly make you hungry when your nose gets wind of it. Fortunately, it is also one of the easiest Pinoy dishes to prepare—season the fish with salt, stuff the belly with a mixture of tomatoes, ginger and onion, then grill it as is or wrapped in aluminum foil until it is done, and serve it with toyomansi (soy sauce and calamansi juice mixture). Anyone can do it, and it will come out almost the same all the time no matter who cooked the bangus (milkfish).

But you can elevate the Inihaw na Bangus to gourmet level by adding herbs and spices. Since Inihaw na Bangus is one of my go-to dishes when I’m pressed for time in preparing a meal at home, I have done many variations of it with whatever herbs I have in the fridge. Here’s one variation which I recently did. It basically follows the routine ingredients and procedure but adds a few flavor enhancers to give it a little twist.

As for the fish itself, you can have it the way you want it—boneless or bone-in, with or without scales, wrapped in aluminum foil or grilled as is, with just a slit at the back or sliced all the way through like daing, grilled over charcoal fire or in a grill pan on the stovetop. Going boneless will allow you to enjoy the flavorful grilled bangus meat without worrying about bones.

With scales on, you can grill the fish directly over fire, but with the scales removed, you need to wrap the fish in aluminum foil before grilling, although its benefit is that the skin has no direct contact with the flame and you can eat the fish with the skin. I prefer my fish sliced all the way through, daing style, because that way, you can put the stuffing directly over the fish meat, which in turn absorbs the natural juices of the stuffing.

Inihaw na Bangus

Ingredients
1 pc. large bangus (milkfish)
rock salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1-2 stalks fresh lemongrass or 1 Tbsp. bottled minced lemongrass
1 pc. large tomato, seeded and diced
1 pc. medium red onion, diced
3-4 thick slices ginger, diced
1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped

For the dipping sauce
soy sauce
calamansi juice or lemon juice

Directions
1. Have the fish gutted and the scales removed if intended to be wrapped in foil before grilling. Have a typical slit made on the back, or have the fish cut all the way through, daing style.

2. Season fish with rock salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Step 2. Season cut up fish with rock salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Photo by Dolly Dy-Zulueta for InterAksyon.

3. Bruise the lemongrass stalks and position in the fish. If using bottled minced lemongrass, spoon it on the fish meat and spread all over.

Step 3. Bruise the lemongrass stalks and position in the fish. If using bottled minced lemongrass, spoon it on the fish meat and spread all over. Photo by Dolly Dy-Zulueta for InterAksyon.

4. In a small bowl, combine diced tomato, onion, ginger and parsley. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Mix well.

5. Stuff the fish cavity with the diced tomato mixture.

6. If the fish is cut open, daing style, make sure your stuffing covers half of the fish.

Step 6. Spread stuffing on the fleshy side of the fish. Photo by Dolly Dy-Zulueta for InterAksyon.

7. Fold the other half of the fish over. Lightly press down.

Step 7. Fold the other half of the fish over. Lightly press down. Photo by Dolly Dy-Zulueta for InterAksyon.

8. Wrap fish in foil, making sure the ends are sealed to lock in the natural juices of the ingredients while the fish is being grilled.

9. Grill over charcoal fire or in a grill pan on the stovetop for 10 to 13 minutes per side.

Step 9. Wrap the fish with aluminum foil and grill over charcoal fire or in a grill pan until done. Photo by Dolly Dy-Zulueta for InterAksyon.

10. Mix desired proportion of soy sauce and calamansi or lemon juice in a small bowl, and serve on the side as dipping sauce.