Tuyo, it's all worth it

When it seems there are days that really don't seem to end, I pull out one of my most feel-good treasures from the freezer - tuyo. Tuyo is a salted dried fish (Herring) so common in the Philippines. Usually paired with garlic rice & tomatoes, I just learned that some of my friends have never tried it with champorado, a chocolate rice porridge. The fusion of salty & sweet is curiously ambrosial to the taste. At least for some who are born to this particular flavor. One of our French colleagues was so sure he can handle Asian dried fish after trying one from Thailand, actually gave up on our very own tuyo. Even after he soaked it in milk overnight. 

Exotic food such as the tuyo, or any other form that is dried or fermented, is a craving that needs a plan. A method that can cover its reeking smell once you drop it in a pan of drizzling hot oil. Especially if you happen to live beside a Manhattan Convent who apparently sued a Filipino couple for cooking it. A friend who lives in Rome have switched to the bottled Gourmet Tuyo, ready to eat without the possibility of being charged as a potential health risk to others. As much as I want to keep my butt out of court, I still prefer the good old stinking dried ones. It is also making a culinary surprise with recipes such as tuyo pasta or salad with tuyo. Afterall, it is our version of anchovies.

"I cannot fry those darn fish in my kitchen again!" My friend sweared. She's one of the many Filipinos who gave up on this heavenly taste of home just because we live outside of the country. Everytime I tell them how my husband, or my neighbors, never smell the odor of carcasses when he comes home from work, my method actually makes them laugh. Or they're simply too overwhelmed with the effort that comes with eating it. For those of you who still have the taste of tuyo in their blood, there are just a few rules & simple ways to feel home away from home.

How I cook Tuyo scot-free in France:
1. I light about 2 incense by the stove, another 2 by the open windows, and another 2 where I eat. You won't cover the smell if you light them after you cook & eat tuyo.
2. I add extra candles in all those places, plus a bowl of vinegar. My mother said it can absorb foul odors & I've proven it true. Our coconut vinegar is better.
3. I heat the oil as hot as it can so I can only fry the fish for about 5 minutes. Covered & beside the incense, candle & a bowl of vinegar.
4. I run hot water right away after cooking & leave it with water & soap.
5. I bring the bowl of vinegar to where I eat, together with another set of incense & candle.
6. I throw what's left of the fish right away in a plastic bag & seal it. Wash the pan & plate then I throw the palstic bag directly to the public trash can.
7. I will again light a pair of incense & candles by the stove, the open windows & the dining area. I will use about 15 incense, 6 candles & a bowl of vinegar.
8. Don't eat tuyo every week.
9. Try not to eat tuyo during winters. I tried once & the smell takes longer to disappear.
10. It is always better to have the stink inside your house than to share it with your neighbors. Never fry it outside your window or terrace.

A post about tuyo...because it's all worth it. 


From Manila to Paris, then to Marseille & to the Côte d'Azur, now in Singapore, clinging to a map of three worlds, where everything becomes all relative.


  1. About 2 years ago, a friend gave me a little bag of tuyo as pasalubong from the Phils :) . I did fry and enjoy some of them , but the smell cooking them left in the apt. and the hallway was of course unpleasant that I was wary that some tenants might have complained ( rather should have ) and find out who and what the culprit was. I lit up a candle by the stove while frying them, tapos I even boiled orange and apple peels after kasi I read somewhere that they are effective natural air fresheners. It helped a bit but it took a while for the residual smell to completely go. Sadly, the rest of the bag of tuyo went to the bin. Mahirap na!

    Ang sarap ng tuyo with champorado , I know..

    1. The effort really of having tuyo! I have cooked a variety of dried fish in our former apartment from tuyo, dilis, kuyog, pusit to danggit & a neighbor complained for my cooking shrimps! I guess it is different to cook smelly food in an apartment but I find it hard to resist not eating them at least twice a year!

  2. I just told my mother to fry her tuyo outside her apartment, in the patio. Wrong advice! Thanks for the tip. I might print it for my mother..

    1. Oh no, that's when trouble can happen! I have to admit that it is harder to cook smelly food in an apartment. I think she should light incense by the main door before, while & after the tuyo. Although we live in a village house, I can still smell my cooking down in our garden!

  3. I'm not a tuyo fan but I'll keep this in mind! Ganon ba talaga kabaho ang tuyo???

    1. Yes, it is! It's only after eating that I find the lingering smell of tuyo dreadful.

  4. I don't care if my neighbours complain about the smell co'z French cheese stinks !!! What is important is my cravings hahahaha !

    1. True, their cheese do stink, Haze! But it stays inside their house. Unlike our dried fish, it can make a whole building stink!

  5. I do all of those plus I boil coffee. Just boil water in an uncovered pot and put any kind of coffee powder. I have some old Nescafe ones I kept when my machine died and had to be resuscitated and was therefore out for 2 weeks... it works! No smell! And I open my kitchen windows and door that opens to a pathetic excuse of a balcony... we live in a flat and I cook it once a season I'd say, no complains from anyone. But then maybe that's just because they're afraid of "that Asian foreigner" who's always so loud...who knows?

    It's been so long, I'm catching up on everything, including kala's blog...