Grilled Stuffed Boneless Milkfish

The killer app for boneless milkfish and my favorite meal — inihaw na bangus (grilled stuffed milkfish).

The fish is rubbed with salt, stuffed with ripe tomatoes, ginger and onions, sealed in an aluminum foil-banana leaf packet and then grilled over charcoal or cooked in the oven. Since none of the juices will escape the packet, the flesh will be soft and flavorful. The milky taste of the flesh which gives the fish its name will have the spicy notes of ginger and will have the earthy aroma of banana leaves.

Serve with freshly cooked jasmine rice and a sweetish-salty-hot dipping sauce on the side. Best eaten with icy cold soda on a hot day.

Grilled Stuffed Milkfish (Inihaw na Bangus)

Of course we cheated in this recipe because we didn’t really grill the fish over coals, and used the oven method instead. Hey, it was raining outside.  

  • 1 large boneless milkfish (bangus), with scales if using the grill, without scales if using the oven (see earlier posts on how to debone). It is important that the fish be very fresh!
  • 2 medium-sized ripe plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 inches of fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 T salt (depends on the fish)
  • Requires: aluminum foil
  • Optional: banana leaves

Dipping Sauce:

  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 t vinegar or 1 juice of one kalamansi (Philippine Lemon)
  • 1/2 t of sugar
  • 1 finger chili
  • Wash fish under running water until water runs clear. Ensure that there are no remaining entrails or blood. Take care not to rub off the fatty black belly (which happens to be the best part of the fish).
  • Rub outside and insides with rock salt. You may not need all the salt here, and try to err on the bland side since the fish will be served with a dipping sauce.

  • In a small bowl, mash the tomatoes, onions and ginger with your hands to release the aroma. No need to make this in to a paste, just gentle squeezing will do.
  • Cut enough aluminum foil to wrap the fish. Lay a banana leaf on the foil if using.
  • Arrange the fish in the middle of the foil, open-faced. Spread the tomato mash on top of the milkfish belly.

  • Carefully fold the fish over.

  • Tightly seal the fish in the aluminum foil, making sure that the packet will not leak.

  • At this point, you can either grill the fish on hot coals or pop it in the oven (recommended)
  • If using the oven, bake the fish at  350 degrees C for 30-45 minutes (depending on fish size) on a cooking sheet.
  • It is best to undercook slightly and let the fish rest on a board for five minutes without opening the foil. The fish should be cooked when the meat is still shiny but opaque. A meat thermometer or a knife stuck through the foil should also be warm to the touch when pulled out.
  • Again, it’s best to undercook. You can zap the whole thing in the microwave (sans foil of course) if it needs a few more minutes of heat  but you cannot undo dry overcooked fish.
  • Try to open the foil when just about to serve. Try being the operative word since beginners will be tempted to peak through.
  • Serve with the dipping sauce.


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