Bangus (Milkfish) is the national fish of the Philippines. It has a mild taste (with a hint of sweetness) so it’s very versatile and can handle most cooking methods. The biggest deterrent though to this delicious-tasting fish, are the bones…. all 214 of them! Every bite (except the belly part) contains a few bones. So though I like its flavor and taste, dealing with those pesky fish bones is a pain.
Growing up (in the Philippines), I only had this dish on very special occasions. My mom used to make it and even taught me how to prep a whole bangus for stuffing. It wasn’t fun…at all! First, she would soften the fish by heavily massaging its body then would crack the backbone from the neck down to its tail. With the help of a long spatula, she would separate the skin from the meat and with a few more pulling and tugging, the whole inside of the fish would come out in one big piece. Then came the harder part… removing the bones. This is the reason why I had only done this once and that one and only time, my mom helped me…a lot!
If you love Rellenong Bangus but not the whole drama around its preparation, this is the recipe for you! Using boneless bangus alone cuts the work almost halfway for me. You’re lucky if you have access to bigger bangus because the only thing I have locally come in 400g packs. Remember, not all frozen Bangus are the same. I only use Sarangani Bay Unseasoned Deboned Milkfish because of its very good quality. I used 3 packs but only made 2 rellenos. The third piece was needed to compensate for the amount of fish meat I needed to fully fill the inside. I wanted it to be meat-free to stay true to its name.
At a glance, this looks overwhelming. I arranged it in sections and divided the process in ‘lil chunks. Organize your ingredients and group them according to the recipe and before you know it, you’re done! When you think about it, the manual deboning and removing all those 214 bones is nonexistent in this recipe and that’s a whole lot of saved time. This recipe was written after taking into account all the mistakes and mishaps I encountered and tried to eliminate them. You can thank me later. Haha! While you’re at it, try making the simple sauce that goes with it. I know it’s optional but it’ll be way better than just serving it with ketchup.
Try it this holiday season and get ready to wow your family and guests! This is good eats fit for every occasion!
Easier Rellenong Bangus (Using Boneless Milkfish)
- Fish scaler (back of a knife or metal butter knife)
- Baking pan to fit the fish
- Kitchen twine, to keep the filling in
- Aluminum foil/parchment paper to line the baking pan
- 3 400g packs frozen deboned unseasoned Bangus, keep frozen* see Notes
- 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
- For the Fish Broth:
- 4 cups water
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 small onion halved
For the Filling:
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 medium carrot grated (use larger holes of grater)
- Cooked deboned bangus meat from the 3 bangus
- ⅓ cup raisins
- ¼ cup sweet pickles/gherkins finely chopped (or 2 tablespoons relish)
- 1 tbsp bread crumbs/all purpose flour
- 2 eggs beaten
- ½ cup grated cheese
- Melted butter or oil to brush the fish
For the Sauce (optional):
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves finely minced
- 1 cup seeded and finely chopped tomatoes from 2 large tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon ketchup or tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 cups fish broth* reserved cooking liquid
- Patis fish sauce or salt, to taste
- Ground black pepper ¼ teaspoon
- Deboning the Fish: It's best to remove the scales while the fish is still frozen. Scale the fish and rinse well. Set aside to thaw completely .
- Once thawed, carefully separate the meat from the skin by gently scraping with a spoon. Marinate the bangus skins (you just need 2) in lemon juice and soy sauce. Set aside.
- Prepare the Cooking Liquid for the fish meat: Add water, bay leaves and onion in a pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Then, increase the heat to medium and add the deboned fish meat. Cook for 2 minutes. Fish out the meat (set aside) and strain the fish broth . Reserve 2 cups of broth.
- To Make the Filling: Heat the oil and saute the onion until translucent then add the garlic. Next, add in the carrots and sauté for a minute before adding in the fish and raisins. Cook for another minute then add the chopped pickles. Add salt and pepper, according to your taste.
- Turn the heat off and cool for 5 minutes. Add the beaten eggs and grated cheese. Mix well and let completely cool.
- To Make the Sauce (This is optional but recommended) : Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and cook for a minute before adding in the garlic. Stir and add the finely chopped tomatoes, ketchup and paprika. Mix and cook for 2 minutes then add the fish broth. Continue cooking on medium to medium-high heat until the liquid is reduced by half and like the consistency of thicker salsa, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.
- To Stuff the Bangus: Lay six to seven 12-inch lengths kitchen twine (spaced about an inch apart) on a chopping board. Position one whole fish skin on top, making sure the twines are spread out evenly throughout the length of the fish. Open the skin and stuff half the filling on the lower half of the skin (including the head). Pack it nicely then cover with the empty half. Adjust the filling and twine and starting from the middle, tie each twine tightly (without tearing the skin) making sure the skin ends meet where the opening is. Tie the rest of the twines. Do the same with the other fish. If it’s not perfectly tight or there are some spots that open up, don’t worry. Just get another piece of twine and tie that spot again.
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a rimmed cookie sheet or any shallow baking pan with aluminum foil. Liberally brush with oil or butter then lay the stuffed bangus beside each other, making sure to leave enough space between them. Then, generously brush the top with butter/oil.
- Roast for 20 minutes or until nicely browned and crisp on the outside. Switch to broil for about 2 to 5 minutes if more browning is preferred. Remember to keep the oven half open and watch carefully to prevent burning the fish skin.
- Let cool for a few minutes then remove twine before serving. Serve with the sauce, if making.