Featured Product This Week: Daing (Dried Fish)
The perfect Filipino breakfast with tuyo. Photo from pictastar.com
Daing (or Tuyô or Bilad) is a generic term for a variety of marinated or salted sun-dried fish that are often produced in the countryside, especially in coastal regions of the Philippines. Sun-drying is the traditional and cheapest method of preserving perishable food like fruits, meats, and seafood. Ancestors of coastal communities had to find a way to preserve excess fish harvest which will sustain them throughout low-catch seasons and during typhoons. Until today, most coastal towns around the archipelago are too far from the dense population centers to be serviced with reliable electrical connections.
Since the Philippines has a thriving salt-making industry because of its tropical maritime climate, Filipino fishermen just dehydrate or desiccate the fish by splitting it open and curing the meat with dry edible salt to inhibit bacteria. Under sweltering summer heat, the fish are carefully laid side by side in shallow woven bamboo baskets to be baked under the sun on the rooftop or along small roads. On the other hand, daing also refers to the preservation technique of pickling or marinating fish fillet in a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, and calamansi. Any average Filipino household with or without a refrigerator turns to this method for a savory and tangy flavor that permeates the meat before frying. A popular example is marinated milkfish (daing na bangus) which is best served with rice, fried egg, papaya relish (atsara), and a dipping sauce made by combining soy sauce, vinegar, and red chili peppers.
Daing is considered every Filipino’s comfort food of choice though some may call it, somewhat derisively, the Filipino poverty food. Dried fish is so cheap that a Filipino family earning less than 100 pesos a day (about 2 USD) can buy a kilo of rice and several pieces of tuyo (salted dried herring). But daing is the great equalizer: the rich and the poor equally get excited by the smell of daing being cooked in oil, something that Americans may find strikingly unpleasant. Filipinos of any social status salivate once they catch a whiff of the fishy odor—heck, they get their high from the aroma as they imagine the crispy, salted exterior between their teeth. Daing is more than its popular image of a cheap subsistence that gets Filipinos through disasters and crises. Upscale restaurants in Manila now offer surprisingly delicious pasta dishes with Spanish-style tuyo sardines. Some even introduced gourmet pizza with tuyo flakes melted into the dough instead of the usual pepperoni and beef. As you can imagine, it tastes more controversial than pineapple on pizza.