The Happy Home Cook: Paksiw na Bangus (Milkfish Stewed in Vinegar)

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Paksiw na Bangus (Source: Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine, Expanded Second Edition (Anvil Publishing Inc., 2013))

Paksiw na Bangus (Source: Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine, Expanded Second Edition (Anvil Publishing Inc., 2013))

Cooking with vinegar makes Filipino cuisine distinct. Although paksiw is called by various names all over the country, the process is the same. It is similar to adobo but paksiw applies mainly to seafood, especially fish. Freshness is a prerequisite, because the vinegar hides nothing and enhances the flavor of the fish.

Serves 4


2 boneless bangus (milkfish) bellies from a 600-700g bangus

8 cloves (40 g) garlic

1 thumb-size piece (30 g) ginger

4 (600 g) eggplants

2 (300 g) small bitter gourds (ampalaya)

1/2 cup (120 ml) vinegar

4 green finger chilies (siling pangsigang)

1 1/2 cups (300 ml) water

2 teaspoon (10 g) salt

2 tablespoon (30 ml) oil


1. Cut the belly just below the head of the fish to where the belly fat ends. Cut crosswise into two and lengthwise in half. Wash and pat dry. [Ed. Note: Frozen bangus bellies are available in Asian stores in some parts of the US.]

2. Peel and slice the garlic thinly.

3. Peel and slice the ginger thinly into rounds.

4. Remove stem of eggplant, slice diagonally into 1-inch pieces.

5. Slice bitter gourds into thin rings. Scrape off the white membrane and discard seeds, if any.


1. In a non-reactive cookware (such as a stainless steel pan or glazed clay pot), place the vinegar, garlic, ginger, finger chilies, and water.

2. Add the milkfish, bring to a boil then lower immediately to simmer while scooping the sauce over the bangus belly repeatedly. After 10 minutes, add the vegetables. Season with salt.

3. Add oil.

4. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and plate.

Serving suggestion

Arrange the milkfish pieces belly side up and vegetable pieces in a dish with the sauce. Serve with hot rice.


Blanch the vegetables in unsalted water then refresh immediately in ice water, instead of boiling them with the dish, so they stay green and crisp.

The addition of oil adds flavor to the slightly sour paksiw and improves the consistency of the sauce. Olive oil or pork lard is suggested. You may garnish with pork cracklings (chicharon).

Some cooks boil the vinegar on its own before adding the fish and other ingredients. This tempers the acidity of the vinegar.

The meat of the milkfish can be used to make bangus lumpia or filling for eggplant or bell peppers. 

You may substitute the bangus belly with a whole 250 g bangus or small fish like round scad (galunggong), grey mullet (banak) or threadfin bream (bisugo). These small fish paksiw are delicious when fried the day after.

From Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine, Expanded Second Edition.