Dried & Salted Fish

With one exception, these photos were taken at the weekly town market (locally called Tabuan) at Brooke’s Point, Palawan on February 28.

These fish are everyday staples. They are not “first class” fish in the sense that they will likely be passed over if there is a selection of fish that may be eaten fresh. Put another way, species like lapu-lapu (grouper, a shallower water fish) or tanigue (spanish mackarel, a deeper water fish), are more likely to be selected to be eaten fresh instead of the species below.

Other factors such as size or condition may disqualify a fish from being eaten fresh. Talakitok is a first-class fish but the talakitoks below were dried because of their size. Fish that were obtained through dynamite fishing (an illegal practice but one that is still practiced in numerous coastal communities, I was told) generally have shattered flesh. To avoid detection and to salvage the harvest, the fish are dried.

Palawan is the biggest producer of fish in the Philippines. According to the Bureau of Fisheries, in 2008, one out of every five fishy tons came from Palawan. (A fishy ton is a metric ton of fish.)

Let’s begin with serious mounds of fish.

Dried Fish -- Mounds of Dried Fish

A Serious Mound of Sapsap!

Dried Fish -- Sapsap - Slip Mouth. (They derive their name from the small but extendable mouth that slips out during feeding. The 30 species are restricted to salt or brackish waters in the Indo-Pacific region. Slipmouth are small, deep-bodied, compressed fishes that usually attain lengths of less than 15 cm (6 inches). Slipmouth are abundant in shallow coastal waters and are widely used for food. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/548827/slipmouth)

Mounds of Dried Fish -- Tamban (Visayan), in the foreground - Sardines. According to the Bureau of Fisheries, six percent of all fish caught along coastal communities in the Philippines were Tamban.

Dried Fish -- a Mound of Dilis - Anchovies. One of my personal favorites. For breakfast. 😉 According to the Bureau of Fisheries, four percent of all fish caught along coastal communities were Dilis.

I met a familiar friend.

Dried Fish -- Balo (Visayan) - Flat Needlefish. I saw the fresh version at the public market in Narra: https://retirednoway.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/narra-palawan/img_0594-balo/

Then I ran into confusion.

Dried Fish -- Bararawan (?). The vendor called it "bararawan" but a search among the REFERENCES listed below returned no results. The mouth of the fish suggests that it nibbles on coral. The stripe marks reinforces that since similar markings are common among coral reef dwellers.

Don’t the fish above look like Samaral (Rabbitfish or Siganus)?

Dried Fish -- Bararawan. I know this will cause confusion. I showed this photo and the preceding one to two residents of Brooke's Point. One identified this fish as "bararawan" and the other identified the fish in the previous image as "bararawan." First of all, I can't find that name in any of the REFERENCES and secondly, the fishes in this image and the preceding one are clearly different. Any assistance will be appreciated!

Juvenile and Adult forms.

Dried Fish -- Talakitok -Trevally or Jack. These are juveniles. (The next image shows an adult.) I wonder if Filipinos are concerned that eating juveniles depletes the population of that species. (Because juveniles that reach adulthood lay more eggs.) I don't suppose so. I think that they are more concerned with the here and now, i.e., what they have to eat.

Talakitok - Trevally or Jack. This was an eight-kilo (17.6 pounds) adult. This fish was lying inside the ice chest of a fish buyer in Quezon, Palawan. He bought it from the fisherman at the rate of Php55 per kilo (Php refers to the Philippine Peso and at the current exchange rate, that's US$1.30 per kilo or 59 cents per pound!)

Some of these fish are kept in saltwater aquariums.

Dried Fish -- Ilak (Visayan) - Croaker or Drum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croaker_fish) - the vendor said that it was also known as Dalagang-Bukid in Tagalog. The Dalagang-Bukid is the Redbelly Yellowtail Fusilier. This fish is also kept in saltwater aquariums (http://www.aqua-fish.net/saltwater/?redbelly-yellowtail-fusilier).

Fish is food and people will not bother to fine-tune their names for fish. So long as it’s edible, who cares, right? They’re not biologists. They just want to eat. The next three images are examples.

Dried Fish -- Tulis - Sardines. This is one of two varieties that locals called "tulis." The word "tulis" literally means "sharp." This fish appear to be sardines. The other "tulis" is another species.

Dried Fish -- Tulis. This is the second variety that locals called "tulis."

Dried Fish -- Mulmul or Molmol (Visayan) - Parrotfish (There are 80+ types of Parrotfish.) This is an "Isdang Bato," literally a "Fish of the Stone" which in turn means Coral Fish.

Why Rio Tuba?

Brooke’s Point is a coastal municipality. The vendors repeatedly told me that their stock came from Rio Tuba, a barangay of Bataraza some 40 kilometers south of Brooke’s Point. Why? Was the area around Brooke’s Point exhausted? I aim to find out.

Brooke's Point in relation to Rio Tuba. Why were the dried fish coming from Rio Tuba?


    Local Names of Philippine Fishes

    Common Philippine Marine Products

    Bureau of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources, Municipal Production 2008


15 responses to “Dried & Salted Fish

  1. Hey Alex….nice blog. I especially love the sapsap fish you featured!!! Bring some for me from Palawan. Haha!!!

    Take care!!!!


  2. Alex,

    Did you ever find out why Rio Tuba?



  3. Hi.

    I discovered your blog, searching google for images of dried fish. The mounds of tasty fish sure made me hungry. 🙂

    I hope you don’t mind if I used one picture in my blog. Salamat po.


  4. I don’t mind at all. Just make sure you identify the source of the photo please: retirednoway.wordpress.com!


  5. “BARARAWAN” is Siganus canaliculatus, or spotted rabbitfish!


  6. ” BARARAWAN” is just plain “DANGGIT” in Ilonggo! 😀


  7. I might have the answer. As I used to buy dried fish buy bulk from Rio Tuba and transported it to the Visayas.

    Rio Tuba, is the nearest logical economic point for them to unload their fish. I am talking about the communities towards the south of Rio Tuba, specially those inhabiting the smaller islands in the southernmost part of Palawan.

    Also, their is more fish from those parts as the literally fish the Sulu Sea and South China Sea. There is a big fishing community in the Island of Balabac.

    Another thing, the road condition from Rio Tuba downwards to the south is not in good condition. So the “buyers” wait in Rio Tuba.


  8. Does anybody in Palawan export their dried fish ? We need them for Africa.

    Liked by 1 person

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