Why fish belly? It’s a delicacy in the Philippines! Milkfish belly is especially revered. Milkfish flesh is rather dry but with a layer of fat on it, it is transformed.
Does it have to be milkfish belly to make this soup? No. Any fish fillet is good. And if using an oily fish like salmon, you don’t have to use the belly. Any part of the fish will yield good results.
What there is no substitute for is fresh coconut water. Fresh water from young coconut. Young. Water from young coconut is sweet. What you get from mature coconut is crap and not fit for drinking nor cooking.
Neither is there any substitute for the meat of young coconut. Not the kind that is grated and pressed to get coconut cream and milk. That’s too mature. You want coconut meat that is no thicker than an eighth of an inch and still shows signs of translucence.
Bangus (milkfish) belly in gingered coconut broth
- Split the coconut (or have it done by the vendor) and save the water.
- Scrape the meat to separate it from the husk then cut into thin strips.
- Cut the milkfish belly fillets into one to two-inch pieces. Smaller or larger, that depends on you.
- Peel and thinly slice the shallot and ginger.
- Pick the chili leaves from the stalks; discard the stalks.
- Heat the cooking oil in a sauce pan.
- Saute the ginger and shallot until aromatic and lightly browned.
- Pour in the coconut water and stir in the coconut meat.
- Season with fish sauce and pepper.
- Bring to the boil.
- Add the milkfish belly, season with more fish sauce and bring to the boil.
- Lower the heat and simmer for one minute (a little longer if you cut your milkfish belly into larger pieces). DO NOT overcook the fish.
- Turn off the heat.
- Add the chili leaves and press them down into the soup.
- Cover the pan and leave for five minutes to allow the fish to cook completely in the residual heat and to wilt the chili leaves.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings before serving your milkfish belly in gingered coconut broth.