Dried Bolinao fish
Dried Bolinao is the official name, stinky fish is my nickname. There are many many types of dried fish in The Philippines. Walk into any market and you will find a section dedicated to sun-dried fish. From whole squid, to slices of the unknown. From fish heads to delicate tiny little fish it’s all here.
Real names of dried fish are hard to come by
Few people will quote the exact names to me. “Dried fish!” is what I am constantly told. But, each Filipino has their favorite, and then you will find the real name. Though, personally, I still have my doubts! Bolinao is a place in the Philippines so I imagine this particular little dried fish comes from there, hence the name.
I chose to highlight this little fish as the number one dried fish that seems to be universally liked is indeed: Bolinao. A tiny little blue silver fish no longer than a little finger. And, boy do they “collectively” stink!
Trust me when I say –
“If you want to make a Filipino happy, get them some dried bolinao”
In an open market the fish hang there. The smell is bad, but bearable. In a supermarket they are usually sealed, so only the wafts from the nearby Durian fruit will hit you.
The real smell of dried fish from The Philippines
Open a packet and the sweet salty smell hits your nasal cavity in musky sticky waves. And, it stays in the air. It will get more intense though.
Wait until you smell a pan full of these tiny little dried fish being cooked. Rancid acid mixed with scrapings from the bottom of a murky seabed is as close as I can get to a similar smell. It’s harsh, and can make your eyes water.
Bolinao is a delicacy
Filipinos will tell me they are crying with happiness when cooking it. Again, I have my doubts. Strangely the number of Filipinos complaining of an upset stomach the next day is quite high too! … just saying!
No, dried fish as you may gather is not for me. Yes, I have tried. Against my will I may add. And, yes, my stomach instantly turned into liquid. Now, even the smell makes me gag.
I guess dried bolinao or dried fish must be good!
100 million Filipinos consider their dried fish a delicacy, so it must indeed be just me! Indeed hop over to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and parts of China and you will find lovers of dried fish. Northern Europe too, with many Scandinavians drooling at the thought of salted dried fish.
So yes, Bolinao or any dried fish, is not for me. But, it’s at the top of many a Filipinos must eats!
This is an additional post and one of a series highlighting Food in The Philippines