Among the numerous dried fish (usually salted) in the Philippines, Tuyo is undeniably the king of ‘em all. Unlike the others (danggit, daing to name a few), this humble salted dried herring is sold from the tiniest sari-sari store (neighborhood store) to the biggest supermarkets. At wet markets, it’s sold in packs, by weight or the most common way, tumpok (in a pile). Whenever buying this umami-laden food, look for the nicer-looking ones, with their shiny scales intact. This is one indication that the fish was fresh prior to processing. Avoid those with lots of missing scales, they’re most likely bilasa (not fresh) before drying. In the Philippines, the best way is still to build a good relationship with the market vendors and once you’re a suki (regular customer), you’re guaranteed to get the best ones.
I love tuyo! Since I was a wee girl, my love for this dried fish has carried on into my adulthood. With its salt content, this is definitely NOT an everyday fare. It’s one of those food that whenever I have a craving, it keeps popping in my mind until I have some. Luckily, I still have a pack or two stashed at the bottom of the freezer for “emergencies”. It’s intentionally hidden from plain sight otherwise, I’m in big trouble. This is a rice magnet and overeating is effortless! Scary, right? It’s one of those food items that you can’t eat without or with just a bit of rice. No way! So, consider yourself warned. Haha!
Cooking tuyo is very simple. Just fry both sides in a bit of oil until it changes color (light brown) and the scales look puffy. I’m one of those peeps that eat the scales. When I was younger, my Papa always made sure every single one of them was washed properly before cooking. I don’t know why but I enjoy it so much and now, my daughter likes it too (eating the scales, I mean). And just like how my father did when I was younger, I’m doing the same thing for my child. Now that I’m a parent, I finally understood the big fuss about making sure those scales are squeaky clean before it hits the oil.
There are two other components that completes this craving for me – Sinangag (garlic fried rice) and sliced firm tomatoes (have to be firm, not overripe). Hubby prefers a garlic-vinegar dipping sauce with lots of finely chopped garlic, ground black pepper and some chilies. I always take my time to savor every single bite and eat using my hands and sometimes, I would even raise one foot on the dining chair while eating (pls don’t tell anyone 😂). You may find it weird but it somehow adds to the enjoyment. Haha! Ahhhh, just thinking about tuyo is making me salivate big time!