Friday, April 03, 2009

Sardinas na Bangus (Milkfish in the style of Sardines) and Pressure Cooker Fear

I love sardines packed in olive oil, especially those with a kick to it. One of the best quick meals I can think of is a bowl (or a plate) of hot steamed rice with a can of these sardines on it.

For the longest time, I've been wanting to make "sardinas na bangus," which can be translated as "milkfish done in the style of sardines" -- that is to say, milkfish usually packed in a jar or bottle swimming in either a tomato-based or an olive-oil based sauce.

Our Yaya used to make a very good version of sardinas na bangus. I would request quite frequently that she make it, always preferring the olive-oil version and asking her to make it quite spicy.

Once we moved away, to satisfy cravings and pangs for this dish, I would buy the ones in jars. But they never tasted as good as the one my Yaya made, and furthermore, I found them to be quite expensive, costing as much as $5 dollars for a very small bottle with about 3 or 4 thin pieces of bangus.

When I asked Yaya how to make sardinas na bangus a couple of years back, she asked me if I had a pressure cooker.

Oh? Pressure cooker?

Pressure cooker with scary knobs and dials.

That distracted me from listening too closely while Yaya rattled off the recipe. Somehow, even though apparently our Yaya had been using pressure cookers for years, in our house, in our kitchen, I still picked up a fear of pressure cookers, viewing them as bombs waiting to go off.

Finally, several months ago, I did buy a pressure cooker. Being too lazy to read the manual, I had CSC read the manual for the safety instructions. She came back with so many warnings and various scenarios of disaster that I had decided to just return the darn thing and be done with it.

No sardinas na bangus for me.

The next day, however, CSC had a change of heart. She looked at the instructions and warnings again and decided they weren't so bad after all, that using the pressure cooker is safe. Clasping hands with tears brimming in our eyes, we hugged as we overcame our deep-seated fear of pressure cookers.

So we go on to this brand new day, free from fear, and free to make my long, anticipated sardinas na bangus.

Dump ingredients into the pressure cooker:
Garlic cloves (they don't even have to be peeled!), onion, carrot, green and red bell peppers, birds' eye chili peppers (or red pepper flakes), bay leaves, cloves, olives, and salt and pepper.

And of course, milkfish and olive oil.

Then turn the pressure on!

Sardinas na bangus is basically an "edgier" dump-in-a-pot recipe, because, of course, no matter how long we clasped our hands and turned our watery eyes heavenward in thanks for overcoming our phobia, there still lurks the very real danger of injuring one's self and others from an exploding pressure cooker.

I love this recipe, because there's the added bonus of milkfish bones being soft and edible. Everything in the pot is soft and edible, even the fish scales! Scaling is actually not recommended as they will hold the fish pieces together.

Soft and edible fish: scales, bones and all!

Is it just me? I must be getting old because I can still remember the time when milkfish had lots and lots of little bones that were just pesky to eat. This was before the time the bangus industry started creating and breeding bangus to be the boneless wonder that is the norm today.


Sardinas na Bangus ("Milkfish in the style of sardines")
Makes approximately 6 servings

2 milkfish, gutted and cleaned (scaling optional, as the scales keeps the steaks from falling apart too much), cut into 1.5-inch steaks

12 garlic cloves
1 onion, sliced into rings
1 carrot, sliced into coins
half a green pepper
half a red pepper
2 birds' eye chili peppers (or red pepper flakes)
2 dried bay leaves
6 whole cloves
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp whole pepper
a handful of olives (optional)

2 cups of olive oil
water (you might need to add water to cover the milkfish)

Put all ingredients in the pressure cooker. You may need to add water to cover the milkfish. Follow pressure cooker instructions. Usually, one batch cooks for 35-45 minutes in the pressure cooker.

Enjoy as a meal over white rice. Or, one can serve them as appetizers, or as part of several tapas dishes.

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[eatingclub] Philippine/Filipino food
pages and pages of Filipino dishes!

[eatingclub] Spanish
Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish "Omelette")
Roast Duck and Orange Crêpes with Orange-White Wine Sauce
Sardinas na Bangus (Milkfish in the style of Sardines)
Red Wine-braised Squid with Potatoes and Chorizo
Philippine Beef Salpicao (and a Spanish variation)
Stewed Tripe, Spanish-style
Lengua Estofada (Beef Tongue Braised in Red Wine and Veal Stock)
Bacalao con Patatas (Baked Salt Cod and Potatoes)
Salsa Romesco ("Queen of the Catalan Sauces!")
Grilled Calçots (Green Onions) with Salsa Romesco
Empanada de Pavo
(Galician-style Meat Pie with Turkey Filling), plus Turkey Cracklings!

Fideuá (Spanish Seafood Noodle "Paella")... and Paella
Cocido (Spanish Stew with Various Pork Cuts)
Slow-Roast Pork Shoulder, Two Ways


  1. What a lovely dish! He, he, I'm the other person in the world that fears Pressure Cookers!!!! Never heard about the recipe, only sardinas sounded familiar, but it looks a bit like a pickle... MMmmmm really nice!

  2. I'm liking this dish...and I'm laughing at our shared fear of pressure cookers, especially with 2 cups of oil in it!

  3. Wow, what an interesting dish. I don't have a pressure cooker myself, its so scary

  4. I've always had a fear of pressure cookers too..

    Thanks for the recipe...I'm bound to try it (once I get a pressure cooker!)

  5. Lately, I've been thinking about the time my mom made sardinas from scratch when I was growing up. I remember her using a pressure cooker and lots of oil but mostly how so much tasty they are compared to the canned ones (Ligo). I've actually been wanting to recreate that. Thanks for giving me an extra nudge.

  6. You are much braver than I am. I have yet to use a pressure cooker!

  7. I'm going to try this recipe using a crockpot. It might work.

  8. I love my pressure cooker! I've never even heard of milkfish, is there some kind of substitute, because this sounds wonderful!

  9. I love fish just about anyway - I'd totally tear this up!

  10. I've never tried such a dish. But I agree, canned sardines on rice is easy tasty food. :)

  11. Hi JS!
    thanks for the comment and for this recipe! I just recently overcame my irrational fear (read: phobia) of pressure cookers and have started using it some. Still in the learning curve...but this recipe will be one of those that I will definitely try using it!

  12. I have that same model pressure cooker! And after months of semi-regular use (3 or 4 times a month), I'm still scared of it.LOL Everytime it starts building pressure, I always think to myself Did it sound like that last time? Once it gets going steadily, I start to relax...a little. But I still make everyone clear out of the kitchen when it's in use.

    On the flipside, I can put carnitas on the table in less than 45 minutes and I did corned beef in 1 hour (a third of the time it takes to do it normally).

  13. Núria:
    Basically, I guess you can call them olive oil-marinated/preserved fish. They're stored/sold at room temperature in glass jars.

    Joan Nova:
    We were all commenting on how small the quantity was, seeing as we were supposed to only fill it halfway up!

    amy c/cupid_14:
    Teehee... I guess this fear is sort of universal? ;)

    Can't wait for you to make them! But yeah, after moving to Canada, we would have this so seldomly, seeing as such a small bottle was a little "expensive".

    Oh yeah. Let us know how it turns out!

    Oh, I'm not sure, re milkfish substitute. But one can do this with sardines. So perhaps, mackerel?

    We have to practice too. This is the one and only dish we've tried in it.

    Oh. You had us at "carnitas" and "45 minutes". =D

  14. i had a pressure cooker blow up in the kitchen just last week. Was boiling some pinto beans, and everything seemed fine, as the cooker was just out of the box, brand new. Then without warning, huge explosion and the beans were everywhere, including the ceiling. My wife was standing 3 feet away and the lid hit her on the shoulder as it careened off the kitchen cabinet.

    So, worst fears realised.

    Moral of story: NEVER buy a cheap pressure cooker (this one was made in Vietnam). Presto is the brand to get.

    However, i will still try this sardine recipe (with my new top of the line, expensive cooker). I love bangus sardines.

    Nice blog, btw.

  15. Anon:
    Oh no!!! Hope your wife was OK!

    We hope you like the dish! And, thanks. =)

  16. just want to make it clear. In the ingredients of your recipe there are 12 Garlic cloves. How about the 6 whole cloves? what does that mean? will try this recipe asap. hope to get answer from you soon.

  17. Anon:
    Glad to know you're going to try this!

    Clove is a type of spice. Here's some info:

    There's a picture there of "dried cloves"; that's what they look like when sold in stores.

  18. Lucrezia (as Anonymous last June 4)- Thanks for the info regarding the Whole cloves...I was able to buy and I just cooked the Bangus Sardines now. It tastes great but I have another problem...I used the pressure cooker for 45 minutes but the bones of the fish didn't melt...please teach me the right way of cooking the sardines so the bones will melt..

  19. Lucrezia:
    Hello again!

    If the bones are not soft enough, you probably need to just cook the dish for a longer amount of time in the pressure cooker. If 45 minutes is too short, I would try doing it for 1 1/2 hours (90 minutes).

    Hope that helps!

  20. i love this dish, but i hate pressure cooker, i might use palayok... thanks for the recipe... can i use tomato sauce as a substitute to olive oil?

  21. Anon:
    If slow-cooking (without a pressure cooker), the fish will get very tender, but the scales won't be. Sure, I think making a tomato sauce version would work too!

  22. Thanks, so much. I will definitely try this recipe.
    We all have to thank yaya for sharing her recipe. Yayas always have a place in our heart and will always be a part of our lives.

    1. Agreed. =) Hope you'll let us know how this turns out for you!

  23. Hey hope you'll reply this just so you answer my questions... Do you need to close the lid of the pressure cooker, my mom tried it once with close lid but never thought the fish gets sunog

    1. The lid of the pressure cooker needs to be closed so that pressure builds up inside. Do you mean the contents burnt inside when your mother tried it? Maybe the contents dried/didn't have enough liquid?


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