Summer would always be time for me to go out either on a road trip or fishing. This photo is a few months old and I still remember I had this when I bought a pack (half kilo I suppose) of this super fresh juvenile Galunggong (Mackerel Scad, Decapterus macarellus) for 35 pesos on a road-side fish stall in Ternate, Cavite on my home from a disappointing day of fishing.
There is this string road-side fish stalls that you won’t miss when you leave Puerto Azul in Ternate, Cavite on your way to Manila. These stalls are teeming with people around 5:00pm onwards, when fresh catch of the day from the nearby shores, are unloaded. People here would hustle for the freshest and cheapest catch in time for their dinner.
I would always check this place out every time I pass by on my way home for some surprises. I would always pack my cooler with some ice just in case I buy some fish.
Then there it was, several stalls were selling these super fresh mackerel scads. I immediately thought of pinaksiw or pinamalhan. Both are Filipino’s way of preparing their food with high amount of vinegar. Pinamalhan (from the root Ilonggo word ‘mala‘ which means dry in English) is basically the same as pinaksiw in terms of preparation/process but would always produce a drier version of the paksiw. Every drop of vinegar syrup is dried up during the boiling process. What remains are the flavorful, vinegar flavored fish oil. Pinaksiw, depending on regional variations in cooking, can have the vinegar syrup or not.
Features of this Dish
Dry, tender fish bones you can eat, best served with fried rice, cooled down, and for breakfast with freshly brewed hot coffee
Sour, spicy, strong ginger flavor
- 1/2 kilo of juvenile galunggong (4 to 5 inches mackerel scad)
- 2 cups of tuba-langgaw (sukang-tuba, coconut vinegar). I would prefer a freshly fermented tuba-vinegar as this would be much sweeter, less sourly taste.
- lots and lots of garlic, finely sliced and diced
- lots of ginger, thinly sliced
- pepper (this kind). volume depends on how spicy you want this dish to be. I wanted mine mildly spiced.
- 1/8 cup of palm or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon of sea salt
Taking care of the super fresh fish is of prime concern. Galunggongs are really really quick to deteriorate when not taken cared of properly. Since I have to travel a couple of hours from the fish stall to where I live, I need to take good care of them so they maintain their freshness and subject them to least amount of damage. I always carry an ice bucket/cooler precisely for this purpose when I am out on the road or out fishing.
- First put them on ice as soon as possible.
- DO NOT put them on water. Make sure they don’t slip into thawed water in your cooler.
- If you need the fish to stay overnight, DO NOT freeze them. Leave them in the cooler with enough ice. Just make sure they don’t get soaked with water. WATER is your worst enemy with fresh fish.
- If you need the mackerel scad to stay for several days, wipe the excess water and moist with a kitchen towel and freeze them. However, I’d rather cook them as soon as possible than ruin a fresh catch of mackerel scad in the freezer. If cooking immediately isn’t possible, you might as well buy fish only when you are able to cook right away.
The scary part in preparing for this dish is gutting the fish. But these are super fresh mackerel scads so gutting them are easier as the flesh are a bit firmer to hold. I have developed a technique to gut scads effectively without making it soggy and visually unappealing. Here is how I gut mackerel scad (NOTE: you cannot apply this technique with other fishes).
- First, as a reminder, don’t wash the fish at this point or put them in fresh water. Scads deteriorate fast in fresh water. Limit the number of instances that you handle or move the fish around. The scad’s flesh are just way too delicate for lots of tossing and moving around. The technique I use here limits all the movement to preserve the freshness and visual appeal of the fish.
- Prepare a bowl of water. Dissolve at least 3 spoonful of sea salt. You will use this as your fish wash right after gutting out the fish.
- Ready the pan where you will have your fish cooked
- Just pinch the throat part of the fish and pull down the flesh gently towards the tail. It will rip the fish of gills and innards cleanly.
- Swish/wash lightly the fish in the salted water and put/arrange the fish in the cooking pan.
- Do all these repeatedly until you have gutted and cleaned all the fish.
The Cooking Part
- Pour in 2 cups of vinegar on the carefully arranged fish
- Put in garlic, ginger and pepper and salt
- Cover pan and bring to boil on very low heat. This will take some time, probably an hour or so
- When vinegar is boiling, pour in vegetable or palm oil
- Let things simmer until all the vinegar is about to dry up.
- Turn off heat and uncover the pan to let the remaining vinegar evaporate
- Let it cool down while the pan is uncovered
The entire simmering process will tenderize the fish bones so you can eat them too! 🙂 But don’t say I didn’t warn you, to hell with gouts!