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Tita Mila's pan-fried milkfish



  • 3 cups (720 milliliters) of cane vinegar
  • 6 cups (1.4 liter) of water
  • 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) of crushed peppercorn
  • 2 heads of garlic, cloves peeled and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) of coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 milliliters) of bird’s eye chili pepper, finely chopped
  • 6 lemons, sliced

Crispy garlic bits:

  • 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) chopped garlic
  • Vegetable oil, for frying


  • 2 large Milkfish, cleaned, deboned, scales removed, and butterflied
  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) crispy garlic bits (see above)
  • 2 bird’s eye chili peppers, thinly sliced


For the marinade:

  1. In a large bowl or flat dish with high sides, whisk together the cane vinegar, water, crushed peppercorn, crushed garlic, coarse sea salt, bird’s eye chilli, and lemons.
  2. Add the milkfish. Cover and place in refrigerator to marinate from five hours to overnight.

For the garlic bits:

  1. Add vegetable oil to a frying pan until it coats the bottom and heat over medium-low.
  2. Add chopped garlic and cook until golden-brown, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove from heat, let cool in pan, and set aside for garnishing fish.

For the fish:

  1. Remove milkfish from marinade, let excess drip off, then lightly pat dry.
  2. Add vegetable oil to frying pan over medium-high heat, making sure it coats the entire bottom of the pan.
  3. Once oil is hot, add milkfish to the pan, skin-side down. Sear until brown and crispy, then flip and sear the other side until light brown and crispy on the outside, but still juicy on the inside.
  4. Turn heat down to medium-low until fish is just cooked through.
  5. Remove milkfish from pan, let excess oil drip off, then plate skin-side down. Sprinkle with crispy garlic bits, and serve with seasoned vinegar for dipping, and bird’s eye chili on the side.

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