Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I eat fried butterfish with my bare hands.

butterfish

OK. Some of you might think this is kind of gross. I mean, they have faces. They're staring straight at you. And they're not cut up and thrown in a stew with colorful veggies and thick sauce to disguise the fact that they have eyeballs. Nope. They're fried whole. And they're still looking at you when plated and nestled between a mound of white rice and pile of juicy tomatoes.

But I have to tell you: Fried butterfish is one of my favorite foods. And when served with white rice, kamote leaves, and tomatoes, it becomes one of my Top 5 Filipino dishes (along with kare-kare, vegetable lumpia, nilaga, and palabok).

fried butterfish

Wait, there's more. I eat this stuff with my hands. All of it. Because there's no polite way to eat a whole fish -- head, tail, and all. Eating it with a fork is just awkward and useless. So I just dig in with my fingers. And there's no point picking up a fork once my hands get all greasy with crispy fish bits, so I eat the rice with my hands, too. (Which is actually a pretty normal Filipino thing to do.)

Mmm...I've painted quite the image, haven't I? Well, here's the kicker: The tail is my favorite part. It's so crispy and salty, like a potato chip almost, and it's usually the first part I eat. And I'm not the only one in my family who likes the tails -- it's not uncommon for a few tail-less fish to show up on the serving platter, as the cook and passers-by often can't resist plucking them off while the others are still frying.

fried butterfish

The fish shown above wasn't served with kamote leaves, but it was still delicious. My dad fried them up for lunch sometime over the holidays. The salty and crunchy goes perfectly with the fresh, juicy tomatoes and the soft, fluffy rice. I had already eaten Christmas Eve leftovers an hour or so before, but I couldn't resist getting my hands on a fish or two. I told myself I was allowed because it was the holidays. And because they're my favorite.

On a side note...I originally wasn't going to write a post about this meal. I thought it might be too weird, that the pictures might be too unappealing. But being ashamed of the foods I grew up with has been something I've struggled with in the past, and sometimes still is, believe it or not. Which is why I try so hard not to pass judgment on foods that may look or seem bizarre. It's why I like trying everything. It's why I decided to say, Fuck it, it's my blog and I'll post ugly fish if I want to. And drop the F-bomb while I'm it.

:)

17 comments:

  1. Great post! No reason at all to be reticent to share about this meal--this is why I like your blog: if I wanted to read another post about pancakes or fried chicken--which I love!--I can find plenty of places to do that. But chances of seeing this meal posted somewhere else are rather slim--and why your blog is so cool.

    My sister in law's former boyfriend, also Filipino, was a big fan of eating his lobster from stem to stern, shells and all. And my son eats his shrimp with the tail attached--he loves the crunch!

    How different is this from soft shell crabs, or any other crunchy, fried, salty food? I'm assuming this is the attraction for you to butterfish, as you don't mention anything else about the fish itself?

    Great title to this post, BTW!

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  2. thanks for the kind words, mrob. growing up in my house, we learned not to waste anything. which means get all the meat off the bone, eat every part of the crab (not just the legs), and just because it has a face, doesn't mean it's not edible. ha!

    you're right, too -- my attraction to this fish is the salty and the crunchy. not all of it is like that; the meat itself is the texture of any other fish, but some parts are so crunchy and fried that you can even eat the bones! i'd say it's pretty different than soft shell crabs, but only because i think soft shell crab has a very distinct texture. but yeah, just imagine any other fried, salty fish.

    and it's just fun to eat with your hands every once in a while. so glad you enjoyed the post! :)

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  3. The fish looks like its about to bite back. I do like to see a blogger who's not afraid to be real. Thanks for the reality!

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  4. Yes, yes, yes, I say. Fried butterfish or fried whole fish is best eaten with hands. It's been so long since I've had fried fish like this, that I want to have some now.

    I too eat everything: the head, the eyes, the fins, the tails! Post on!

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  5. ryan - happy fish eats. :) or more like happy fish being eaten...

    laura - hey there! thankfully, the fish did not bite back. that would've been freaky. thanks for stopping by, and stay tuned for more weird stuff i eat. there will likely be more.

    js - i'll be honest with you...i don't eat the heads. i'll usually pass them over to my mom once i've destroyed the rest of the fish. :)

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  6. Wow, those look so good! I'd probably go for the jaw/cheek first for the rich tender meat, then the salty tail as "dessert" :)

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  7. I love fried fish! And the fish looks like it's happy being eaten =D

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  8. vicki - i like your style. :)

    pigpigscorner - i think if i had to be a food, i'd want to be a fried food. that would make me happy, too.

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  9. Oh, I have no problem with this. These are some good eats.

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  10. First of all, your photography is great! Second, good for you that you refuse to be embarrassed by your food heritage. I'm more appreciative of Filipino food now, even with all the pig's ears and snouts, fish and shrimp with heads still on, or intestines, or blood, than when I was young and concerned with how it would appear to my non-Pinoy friends.

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  11. Bravo! This is still the best way to eat fish in my book :) And we can definitely be table-mates as I'll let you have the tail and I'll eat the head (my favorite part)! Love the crunchy salty bits of fish fried whole...waste not, want not! And eating the whole mess with your hands is the only way to go ;) When I am done with my fish they say "kawawa ang pusa" -- the poor cat! Nothing left! Loved this post :)

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  12. chichajo - thank you; i'm glad you enjoyed the post! and fish tails for fish heads...sounds like a good deal to me! :)

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  13. I found your blog while looking for butterfish recipes. I bought them on impulse at the store, I'm looking forward to frying them up tonight.

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  14. Heya! Too funny, I was Googling for recipes using the small butterfish you show here as opposed to the large butterfish/sablefish/black cod I'm used to. Awesome, I definitely want to try making and serving it this way! Any tips/suggestions/guidance (actual recipe not necessary!)? Thanks :)

    PS I struggle with being embarrassed too... and usually deal with it by being defiantly "It's good, what? F* you if you don't like it!" ;)

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  15. yvo - hi! so sorry i don't have any tips for you...my parents make this for me and i've never actually cooked it myself. but as far as i know, just fry it up in a pan with plenty of oil and you should be good to go!

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