This vegan “fish” recipe is not your average “fish” recipe, nope, this is vegan bangus (bung-ohs), which is a delicious Filipino fish dish! But the best part is, there is no actual “fish” in this recipe. This version is made out of tofu and is flavored with a vinegar-salt-pepper marinade. It’s quite delicious, packed full of flavor, and tastes like the real thing. And of course, it’s easy to make, using only a few ingredients, and can be prepped ahead of time. Enjoy this dish with a serving of garlic fried rice, some vegan eggs, and you have yourself a delicious meal.
- 1 block – extra-firm tofu, pressed and drained
- 2 (2-inch) pieces – kombu https://amzn.to/39Y4vFg or half a sheet of nori
- 2 tsp – mushroom seasoning https://amzn.to/2NvivyT or 3 dried shiitake mushrooms https://amzn.to/3p9yDDX
- ⅓ cup – hot water
- 1 cup – Datu Puti Vinegar https://amzn.to/3F8Vavz, sub for white vinegar
- 1 tsp – fresh cracked peppercorn
- 1 tsp – salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 Thai chili peppers, optional (if you like it spicy)
- Oil for frying
- Tofu press or something heavy to press the tofu with https://amzn.to/3Dr4ycw
- Small bowl
- Medium bowl
- High-speed blender
- Sharp knife
- Chopping board
- Deep baking dish
- Wide bowl
- Large skillet
Before you start:
- Press and drain the tofu for 30 minutes, see notes.
Making the marinade:
- In a small bowl, combine the hot water, mushroom seasoning, and kombu. Allow the kombu to steep in the mixture for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, add the kombu mixture to a high-speed blender along with the white vinegar. Blend until the kombu is chopped into smaller bits.
- Pour into another bowl, and add in the fresh cracked peppercorn, salt, bay leaves, and garlic cloves. Set aside until ready to use.
Prepping the tofu:
- When your tofu is ready, cut the tofu in half, turn it over on its side and cut in half again. You should have 4 flat tofu steaks. See photos above.
- Working with one piece of tofu at a time. Place chopsticks on both sides of the tofu, this will prevent you from cutting all the way through. Slice the tofu partway through repeatedly about 1/8″ apart to give it that “flakey” texture. Repeat for the rest of the tofu slices. Be careful when handling them as they are fragile at this point.
- Next, in a deep baking dish pour a bit of the marinade to cover the bottom.
- Then place your tofu into the dish, score side up, and pour the rest of the marinade on top.
- Cover the dish and allow the tofu to marinate for a minimum of 2 hours, but for best results, overnight in the fridge.
- To a wide bowl, add the cornstarch. Set aside until ready to use.
- Next, cut the nori into 4 strips that are 1/4 inch bigger than the tofu pieces. Then cut 4 more strips that are half the size of the tofu. This half piece will represent the “belly” of the milkfish. See photos above.
- Gently remove the tofu pieces from the marinade (be careful as it will be fragile) and remove any peppercorns or chunks of garlic that stick.
- Working with one strip of nori at a time, dip it into the marinade and stick it to the back of the tofu. Fold up the excess to have it stick to the sides of the tofu. This will prevent the nori from shrinking when you cook. Then do the same to the smaller strip, but place it on top of the tofu. Repeat for the rest.
- Dredge the prepared tofu in cornstarch, covering all sides.
- Heat a large skillet with oil over medium-high heat. When hot, carefully add in the cornstarch-covered tofu.
- Fry for 3-5 minutes, until golden all over. Remove from the pan, serve hot with some rice and enjoy!
- Vinegar – This is the main component of the marinade, it brings out that classic Daing na Bangus flavor. I prefer using Dati Puti spiced vinegar, but if you can’t find that you can substitute it for white vinegar.
- Nori – If you’re unfamiliar, nori is the seaweed used to make sushi rolls, but in this recipe, it’ll be used as the “fish skin”. It’s a key ingredient to bring this recipe together, so do not skip this step! When coated and fried, it turns into a crispy “skin”, which is pretty amazing.
- Kombu – This will give it that essence of “fishy” flavor, however, if you can’t find kombu or don’t like that flavor, you can omit it from the recipe.
- Mushroom seasoning – Along with the kombu, the mushroom seasoning will give a boost of umami flavor.
- An alternative way to press tofu. Wrap it in a clean dishtowel. Place it over a plate, and balance a small cutting board on top of the tofu. And place something heavy over top, such as books, cans, or a cast-iron skillet.
- The use of chopsticks. They’re used as a guide to stop you from slicing the tofu all the way through. If you don’t have chopsticks, you can use reusable straws or anything that’s 1/4″ inch thick that you can use as a guide.
- Why fry? The normal bangus recipe is always pan-fried, it’s how it’s always served. It’s meant to be a quick and easy meal, and not necessarily healthy. Pan-frying will give this recipe its beautiful crispy “skin”. This recipe isn’t meant to be baked or air-fried unfortunately. The flavors are so bold that it’s best coated in cornstarch and fried.
Keywords: vegan, vegan filipino recipe, filipino recipe, filipino breakfast, vegan asian recipe, asian recipe, vegan fish recipe, bangus, vegan bangus