Sarangani Bay, Century, Bonuan, and More: We Try 6 Brands of Marinated BangusAugust 26, 2018
Of the myriad of natural treasures in the Philippines is bangus, a.k.a. Chanos chanos or milkfish—a euryhaline species said to be the most commercially important fish in the country. Prized for its abundance and its rich, fatty taste (from which it likely gets its English moniker), bangus is enjoyed many ways, one popular form being the marinated sort produced and sold commercially. They’re conveniently packaged frozen, allowing you to stock up and thaw as needed; pre- marinated, so it’s ready to be cooked whenever you are; and deboned, which allows you to dig right in sans the risk of accidentally poking your tongue. The question is, how do the brands on the market differ?
Note: all brands of fish were fried according to package instructions, judging by eye when they reach a golden-brown state. To account for possible variations across cooking conditions, we focused our tasting on the flavor of the marinade and how well it complements the fish.
Bonuan’s baby-sized milkfish pieces hail from Dagupan waters. Its marinade flaunts a relatively sweet profile—not enough to make it dessert-like, fret not, but enough to balance out its mid-level sourness and subtle hints of pepper and garlic. With just a touch of salt in the mix, the resulting fish stands well on its own but also takes wonderfully to a quick splash of toyomansi.
Saltiness: 2/5 | Sourness: 3/5 | Pungency: 2/5
Century’s take uses farm-raised milkfish and is generous on the meaty parts. The said meat offers a satisfying bite and comes moist, with a deep-tasting, fatty character almost akin to dark-fleshed fish. It’s not too salty, flaunting a more garlicky note; and while it does come on the sour side, it’s just enough to brighten without overpowering the fish.
Saltiness: 2/5 | Sourness: 3.5/5 | Pungency: 3.5/5
Fisher Farms’ goes the more bare-bones route flavoring-wise, employing minimal seasonings (just vinegar, salt, and pepper; no garlic) at a mellow intensity. For good reason, though: this allows the fish—also of the farm-raised sort, said to be grown in saltwater and done so sustainably—to shine, and shine it does. It comes tender and succulent (and seemingly plumper than the other brands), with a rich but clean-tasting profile that comes through clear and ends with a mild natural sweetness. We’d dare suggest you skip the sawsawan—if only because the fish itself is amply flavorful that it’s best enjoyed without any distractions.
Saltiness: 1/5 | Sourness: 2/5 | Pungency: 1/5
Sarangani Bay’s take also lets you skip the sawsawan, but for the opposite reason: their marinade game is strong. It’s the most sour of all brands (in an citrusy-tasting way, though the ingredient list shows it’s from vinegar), with a good dose of garlicky pungency and black pepper for depth. It does a great job of balancing out the fatty belly, making this a great pick for those who like their bangus packed with a punch. Still, the saltiness is just right, allowing you to go for multiple helpings without feeling it in your kidneys.
Saltiness: 3.5/5 | Sourness: 4/5 | Pungency: 4/5
Sea King’s version employs a marinade that’s well-balanced across the flavor spectrum: a mid-level sourness, mid-level saltiness, and notes of garlic and pepper that don’t scream to be noticed but just subtly enhance the fish’s savory profile. The meat underneath is mostly your standard, fatty milkfish; overall, this take doesn’t particularly stand out for any reason other than that it’s a good, satisfactory bangus we can rely on time and time again.
Saltiness: 3/5 | Sourness: 3/5 | Pungency: 3/5
Like Fisher Farms, Senorito goes for a more minimalist marinade of just vinegar, salt, and spices—no garlic. Theirs comes more intense though, just a notch below Saranggani’s in potency (particularly on the sourness front). While the spices work to provide depth and balance out the acidity, the lack of garlic makes us yearn for something more; we’d recommend having a plate of soy sauce on the side when consuming this fish.
Saltiness: 3/5 | Sourness: 3.5/5 | Pungency: 1/5
The Verdict: Fisher Farms
Fisher Farms’ relatively neutral marinade does a great job of highlighting the most important part of any marinated bangus: the fish. Coming close, however, is Century Tuna, which employs a more robust fish and relatively stronger-tasting marinade for those in need of a bigger impact. Sarangani Bay’s take, though on the opposite end of the spectrum from Fisher Farms, nonetheless stands out with its bright, powerful profile that begs to be eaten with tons of rice. Whichever brand you go for, you can be glad you at least have no pesky bones to wrestle with.