Rellenong Bangus

from A Taste of Empire

Perhaps the loveliest compliments I’ve received when making this recipe is that the dish reminds people of the rellenong bangus their mothers used to make. It means a lot to me because I’ve strayed so far from any traditional recipe. I’m fairly sure no one’s mother ever used a Thai-influenced batter and Japanese breadcrumbs in preparing this dish. So when someone says that my version takes them back to their childhood, it means that the essential flavours are on point.


1 whole bangus (milkfish), 1 ½ to 2 pounds (750 g to 1 kg)

Banana leaf for steaming

Fish Skin Marinade:

4 Tbsp (60 mL) soy sauce

4 Tbsp (60 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice

Sea salt to taste

Pepper to taste


2 tsp (10 mL) whole black peppercorns

1 bunch cilantro, including roots and stems

10 cloves garlic

1 cup (250 mL) rice flour

2 tsp (10 mL) salt

½ tsp (2 mL) cayenne pepper

½ cup (125 mL) water

2 Tbsp (30 mL) fish sauce


4 Tbsp (60 mL) olive oil

5 cloves garlic, chopped finely

1 small onion, chopped finely

1 Roma tomato, diced

1 small potato, diced finely

1 small carrot, diced finely

½ cup (125 mL) frozen peas

¼ cup (60 mL) raisins

Tamarind Mixture:

1 Tbsp (15 mL) tamarind paste

6 Tbsp (90 mL) tomato paste

1 tsp (5 mL) sugar

5 drops Worcestershire sauce

Sea salt to taste

Ground pepper to taste

½ cup panko-style breadcrumbs plus more for coating

Canola oil for frying (about 4 cups or 1 litre)

Tomato rose for garnish (optional)


Scale fish and remove fins with scissors. Pound fish body with wooden mallet and then massage. Make small slit with a paring knife on one side by the gills. Use an icing spatula or palette knife, separate fish meat from skin, taking care not to puncture skin.

Squeeze fish meat out. Remove and discard viscera.

Wrap fish meat in banana leaf, place in bamboo steamer, and cover with lid. Steam for approximately 5 minutes over pot filled with simmering water. Do not fully cook meat – just firm it up to make it easier to remove the bones.

After the fish meat has cooled, remove the bones. Then turn fish skin inside out. Remove any remaining flesh and cut out any remaining bones.

Now prepare the marinade by placing soy sauce in marinating dish. Add lemon juice, sea salt and pepper. Place fish skin into dish. Set aside.

Prepare batter by placing peppercorns and a few drops of water in food processor. Grind coarsely. Peel garlic. For cilantro, lightly scrape the roots and chop the entire bunch, including roots and stems. Add garlic, chopped cilantro, rice flour, salt and cayenne pepper to peppercorn mixture and blend to a smooth paste. Stir in water and fish sauce and whisk until well blended. Pour onto baking sheet, spread to edges, and refrigerate until needed.

Prepare tamarind mixture by combining tamarind paste, tomato paste, sugar and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.

Finally, prepare brunoise by heating olive oil in sauté pan. Sauté garlic, onion and tomato. Add finely diced potato and carrot. Stir-fry over medium heat until vegetables are tender. Add peas, raisins and cooked fish meat. Add tamarind mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and let fish meat mixture cool.

When cool, add panko breadcrumbs to fish meat mixture, combining well. Stuff into fish skin through the slit by the gills (using a piping bag works well).

Heat canola oil in a large pan.

Coat stuffed fish in chilled batter. Dredge fish in panko-style breadcrumbs. Fry for approximately 3-5 minutes per side until golden brown. (Be careful when flipping; the head will want to fall off.) Remove from heat, blot on paper towel.

To serve, arrange on platter with garnish as desired.

Nada’s Tips & Tricks: Purchase any firm fish with skin and head – fishmongers will debone it for you…they might even remove the meat for you.

Reproduced by permission of the publisher from A Taste of Empire © 2017 by Jovanni Sy, Talonbooks, Vancouver, B.C.