Different Kinds of Fish
Being an archipelagic country, the Philippines enjoys the rich presence of various aquatic wildlife surrounding its 7,107 islands — having access to significant fishing grounds such as the West Sulu Sea and Moro Gulf, among others.
The Philippines is also ranked among the significant fish-producing countries globally; with more than 30 million Filipinos relying on the sea for a living, the fishing industry is crucial for every Filipino.
What are the different kinds of fish in the Philippines? The Philippines have the richest concentration of marine life on Earth. It offers various kinds of fishes such as Bangus, Galunggong, Pla-Pla, Dalagang Bukid, Alimudan, Sap-sap, Bisugo, Tawilis, Lapu-Lapu, Maya-Maya, and so much more.
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A local or a traveler in the Philippines may find it challenging to buy fish from the market because of the wide variety.
In this post, we curated a list of some of the most popular fish in the Philippines, so you won’t have to spend a lot of time researching them.
10 Different Kinds Of Fish In The Philippines
Bangus (Milk Fish)
Bangus, the Philippine national fish, is regularly raised on fish farms, especially in Dagupan, where they even have an annual Bangus Festival.
Bangus can grow up to 1 meter in length and reach about 14 kg.
It has an elongated and almost compressed body. It has olive-green skin, a milky white bottom, large eyes, pointed snout, and silvery scales. Its tail is relatively large and strong, making them fast and powerful swimmers of the open sea.
Galunggong (Mackerel Scad)
Known as the “fish of the masses,” Galunggong is a common addition to Filipino dishes.
It is found in Philippine salt waters, particularly in Palawan and in its fishing capital, Navotas.
Galunggong has black metallic to the blue-green body, a silvery-white area along its belly, a black spot on its gill plate, and a yellow-green tail.
It ranges from 4 – 9 inches and weighs 13 – 136 grams. It has a sweet, greasy flavor similar to mackerel, making it great for grilling.
Pla-Pla (Nile Tilapia)
Pla-Pla, or simply a large Tilapia, is the Philippines’ second-largest fish in terms of culture volume, next to milkfish.
Tilapia farming is reasonably an industry as tilapia grows very fast in a hot climate.
Pla-Pla has an overall brownish-grayish body with a vertically striped tail.
It can be found in various freshwater habitats such as rivers, lakes, and ponds. It can also live in brackish water but cannot survive in saltwater for too long. Its delicious flavor is excellent for frying and grilling.
Dalagang Bukid (Yellowtail fusilier)
Its name, “Dalagang Bukid,” means “Mountain Maiden,” Its red underside resembles the red skirt worn by Filipina farm girls in the mountains.
Dalagang Bukid can grow up to 23.6 inches. It has a greyish-blue body with a pinkish-white bottom, and it is distinguished by the yellow streak along its dorsal fin to its tail.
Its color changes from yellow or blue to red or green at night.
Alimudan (Walking Catfish)
Alimudan is a scaleless fish found in murky waters or rocky coastal reefs. Unlike many fishes, Alimudan can also live in rice paddies and flooded areas.
It is known for its ability to “walk” on land for long distances using its rigid pectoral fins and a large accessory breathing organ, which allows them to breathe oxygen.
Alimudan can grow up to 24 inches and is characterized by its gray or gray-brown body with small white spots along its sides.
It eats almost anything due to its highly predatory nature.
Sapsap is characterized by its extensible mouth, which looks like a pony’s nose when pulled. It has a silver body with small scales.
A medium-sized ponyfish can grow up to 11 inches in length.
Sapsap lives in shallow coastal waters, and it is also found in muddy river mouths and sometimes swims into freshwaters.
South-East Asian countries such as the Philippines value this fish for its flavor and affordability.
Bisugo (Golden Threadfin Bream)
Bisugo is commonly found in tropical and salty waters in the Indian and Western Pacific oceans, inhabiting mud or sand substrates.
It got its name from a yellow thread extending from its tail, although it will be gone by the time it is in the market.
It is silvery-white with pink areas, especially on its tail, fins, and top of the body. It can grow up to 14 inches and is known for its versatility in many dishes.
Tawilis (Sardinella tawilis)
Tawilis is the only freshwater sardine found exclusively in Taal Lake in the Philippines.
It can grow up to 6 inches and weighs less than 30 grams. Its diet mainly consists of planktons, a filter feeder; it swims with its mouth open and uses its gill rakers to strain food from the water.
Filipinos enjoy the wide variety of recipes of a Tawilis. One popular dish of a Tawilis is “daing,” where the fish is split open, gutted, salted, and then sun or air-dried.
Lapu-Lapu (orange-spotted grouper)
Lapu-Lapu is a carnivorous saltwater fish, which makes it hard to raise. It has a brown to dark brown color with small orange spots on its sides and reaches up to 1.2 m in length.
It is relatively expensive because of its white, flaky, flavorful meat, great for steaming, grilling, or frying.
A famous dish using this fish is escabeche or pickled fried fish. However, this fish is in danger due to overfishing and habitat loss.
Maya-Maya (Red Snapper)
Maya-Maya is known for its tasty and delicate white meat — appealing to the tongues of many Filipinos.
Its bright red color and enlarged canine teeth (which is why they are called “snappers”).
It lives in salty environments and shallow reefs where it feeds on fish, shrimp, crab, worms, cephalopods, and some plankton.
It can grow up to 40 inches long and weigh around 50 pounds, though its size is often variable.
Things To Look For When Buying Fresh Fish
- Clear eyes – A fresh fish should have crystal-clear eyes that are also wet and plump. If it has cloudy eyes that are hard to see through, look for another fish.
- Ocean smell – There should be a perfect balance of the scent of saltwater and fish smell, but not a pungent, ammonia-like odor.
- Bright red gills – Fish gills slowly darken over time. A good sign of a freshly-caught fish is a bright red gill.
- Springy flesh – When you poke the fish’s flesh, it should spring back up like how your flesh returns to its natural shape. If it doesn’t spring back, the meat is softened already.
- Shiny scales – A fresh fish should have shiny and firm scales. A good sign of a deteriorating fish is when it easily sheds its scales as you run your hand over them.
- Healthy fins – The fish should have wet and intact fins. It is mishandled when it has torn or ragged fins. An older fish has dry and brittle fins.
Cooking Methods For Different Types of Fish
When you buy fish, it is essential to know what cooking methods fit a specific type of fish.
The cooking method you use is upon your choice, but it’s also important to consider how your fish’s size, thickness, natural flavor, and fat level will work for the best.
Wet Cooking Methods To Keep Meat Tender
Wet or moist cooking is most suitable for leaner types of fish such as red snapper, as they are low in fat and dry out more quickly.
For light fishes, poaching excellently helps to enhance their delicate flavor.
Firm and flavorful fishes are suitable for simmering, enhancing the dish’s aroma. Steaming is ideal for not-so-oily fishes like groupers.
Dry Cooking Methods For No Moisture Cooking
For sturdy and fatty fishes like tuna and salmon, baking, grilling, and roasting are recommended as they won’t dry out quickly.
Marinated or glazed fishes are best for roasting. Pan-frying is best used for delicate and flaky fishes such as soles.
Lean fishes with firm and flavorful skin are also pan-fried. Fish with a neutral flavor and white meat such as catfish and tilapia are suitable for deep-frying methods.
Some fishes native to the Philippines (and in other Southeast Asian countries) are Bangus, Alimudan, Sapsap, Speckled Goby, and White Sardine.
Tawilis, however, is exclusive only at Taal Lake in Batangas, Philippines.
Not only is it located in the “Coral Triangle,” the center for marine biodiversity in the world, but the Philippines is the “center of the center” as it has the highest marine life diversity.
Its concentration of species per unit area is higher than anywhere else in the world.
To conclude, the Philippines is home to a wide-ranging variety of beautiful and even exceptional fish.
Indeed, marine life resides in a special place in the lives of many Filipinos, and the richness of the Philippine aquatic life is greatly treasured and recognized all over the world.