By Alexander Villafania
DAGUPAN CITY, PANGASINAN – There is no other fish in the Philippines that is as widely distributed and popular as the bangus (milkfish).
In fact, it is estimated that in 2009, milkfish production was at 382,000 metric tons and is one of the biggest contributors to the aquaculture industry in the Philippines.
At the recent Bangus Festival in Dagupan City, one of the side events was the “101 Ways to Cook Bangus,” an annual activity that feature the city's best chefs and their various techniques in preparing and cooking the beloved bangus.
These techniques go beyond the traditionally known techniques of preparing bangus such as daing na bangus (boneless milkfish soaked in vinegar and crushed garlic), tinapa (smoked and dried), and lumpiang bangus (rolled in egg wraps).
The cooking contest was held at the Dagupan Astrodome where at least 20 mini-kitchens were setup, a la the TV cooking show “Master Chef.” Each table is composed of at least two members and they will prepare meals using bangus as the main ingredient. They will be judged by a panel composed of members of the city administration and top chefs.
The cooking techniques should vary and must get the full flavor of the fish. These can be fried, steamed, grilled, boiled, baked or even served raw with some spices. The overall visual design will also be another basis for being chosen.
Just a few of the culinary treatments of bangus were sweet and sour bangus, bangus wrapped in bacon strips, siomai bangus, bangus and lumpiang shanghai, spiced bangus belly, steamed bangus with broccoli, bangus sushi, bangus salad, among others.
Competition co-chair Melinda Erfe-Mejia said the competition is also aimed at creating a cookbook compendium of all the best bangus-based culinary artistry from Dagupan.
She said so far, they have collected several dozen ways of cooking bangus. She noted that the fish's soft meat makes it appealing for cooks and chefs.
Mejia also added that they might have already gone beyond 101 ways of cooking bangus because of many of the styles that have been showcased in the past competitions.
“Bangus is a very important fish industry for Dagupan City and so we thought that it was best to show people how we can make this staple food into a culinary masterpiece,” Mejia said.
Such fervor for the bangus indeed makes it a wonder and tasty treat and with 101 ways of cooking it, one wouldn't get tired of eating it.
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