Since I was a kid this kind of fish is often found in our dining table especially during Sundays in the form of inun-unan or paksiw – I guess that is the only way to cook this kind of fish. It was only in recent years that I actually appreciated, enjoyed and learned more about this kind of fish which is known in the dialect as hinok or baby ulisi (another favorite fish that I want to eat grilled.)
So out of a whim I went to the market at sundown yesterday and chanced upon a big pundok of this lowly fish for less than a hundred pesos. The vendor said that it was fresh and was caught at Naungan, a coastal barangay a few kilometers from the market.
I cooked the hinok paksiw or inun-unan style with a dash of native suka (vinegar), sili espada (finger chilis), salt, crushed garlic and a few dollops of rendered pork lard for good measure.
The resulting dish is very aromatic that elicits ooohs and aaaahs – for just a few common ingredients and lotsa love elevates the lowly fish to an instant food delight that’ll make you devour a bandehado of rice. Best paired with fried eggs and sikwate (pure native cocoa hot drink).
At the dining table my grandmother raved about the dish and off she went with some tales about how my late grandfather Placido Sr. And his brother the late Jovenal would catch thesame fish during the peacetime (pre-war time) at the shores in Talisay, Cebu and she claimed that thesame kind of fish that they caught in Talisay and cooked thesame way would render a fish you can eat whole without picking the bones and not be bothered by it. I surmised the fish was marinated in vinegar thus “melting” the bone and then boiled in it further making sure the thicker bones melt as well. I shall experiment on that once I once again chance up on some good ‘ol hinok.