The secret to this special heirloom ‘relleno’ recipe
Rellenong bangus” is one of the Filipino classics. The milkfish is stuffed with minced meat, sometimes with ground beef or pork, and—depending on whose recipe you follow—may also have green peas, red bell pepper, carrots, potato, raisins, pickles and hard boiled egg.
This dish is a true labor of love. Separating the bangus skin from the meat is already taxing enough. Then the deboning of the fish is another challenge, before you cook all the ingredients and stuff the fish.
That is why this is usually a treat that is reserved for special occasions, holidays and fiestas.Thankfully there are now some entrepreneurs who specialize in this.
For the food guide I wrote for the Department of Tourism (National Capital Region) last year, we made special mention of the rellenong bangus of Mama Ting’s in Marikina.
Another “suki” of ours is Josie Francisco (0927-300 4098) who sells at Legazpi Market.
I also heard recently about Nanay’s Relyeno (call 0999-4908222 or 0917-6907433), which uses an heirloom Nueva Ecija recipe.
The dish is sold by Den and Darwin Castañeda using the recipe of their great grandmother, Beatriz Santos, whom they fondly call Lola Anda.
As it was with many Filipino families back in the day, Lola Anda had many children and would cook for their big family in their calamansi farm. Lola Anda then passed on the recipe to her children, including Elena Dizon.
Elena Dizon is now 92 years old but still happily cooking in Gapan, Nueva Ecija, and sharing recipes with her grandnephews Den and Darwin (two of seven siblings). They fondly call her Nanay and are now the ones cooking the relleno recipe, hence they have labeled it Nanay’s Relyeno.
Their relleno (or relyeno, as they spell it) uses only milkfish, i.e. no meat or pork or hard boiled egg, and thus perfect for pescetarians.
What stood out for me was the flavor of the calamansi. The minute you bite into the relleno, it is almost like a musical theater star belting out a resounding hello. After finding out that it was because their family owned a calamansi farm in Nueva Ecija, I understood why. They had an abundance of this fruit.
Another thing to note is that it is really stuffed; they do not scrimp on ingredients. The relleno is also delivered wrapped in a banana leaf, not just plastic (although there is a plastic wrap over the banana leaf for safety); so when you heat it later—and they recommend that to reheat it, you fry it again with the banana leaf, your kitchen will smell wonderful.It also comes with a signature sauce that uses calamansi and the marinade of the bangus meat.
It’s wonderful that four generations later, the delicious cooking legacy of Lola Anda aka Lola Beatriz lives on. This is, incidentally, one of the advocacies of the Slow Food Movement: to preserve heirloom recipes and cooking techniques.
I am so happy that Den and Darwin are honoring their great grandmother and grand aunt by continuing their legacy of delicious rellenong bangus. I wish that it could be the same for many families, so that we can preserve the legacy of our ancestors and savor the delicacies they enjoyed in their time.
Nanay’s Relyeno. To order: 0999-4908222 or 0917-690 7433. More in Facebook.com/nanayrelyeno.
More from the author at margauxlicious.com. Follow @margauxsalcedo on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.
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