August is a very special time for the fishermen of Cadiz City. Once a year the strange elusive puffer fish known locally as Buriring increase in numbers and are easily caught in the ocean.
Our good friend, councillor Mito Gamboa organized the first ever Buriring food festival as part of his program to improve tourism! Mito invited bloggers, government officials and a ton of other people to visit and try the Buriring that Cadiz City, Sagay and Manapla are so proud of.
What is Buriring? Well, it is a species of puffer fish, quite possibly Arothron manilensis that actually is edible. The Buriring lives in the waters off Negros Island and for a certain time every year, the months of July-August, their numbers increase so much that they are easily caught, then they disappear again.
What gives Buriring a bad name? Well, the Philippines has a lot of poisonous pufferfish that is commonly mistaken for the edible Buriring! The most common culprits are possibly Chelonodon patoca, Lagocephalus lunaris and Lagocephalus inermis. The poison, tetradotoxin is extremely deadly and will cause your heart to stop beating!
Despite all the bad rep, Mito says that he has been eating Buriring for years! His grandmother introduced him to Buriring and he absolutely loves it. The City of Cadiz really went all out to promote their Buriring festival and I was one of the lucky few who got invited.
The event was held at the Cadiz City covered court. It had been set up so that there was a Buriring cooking competition, a fine dining area, an area for feeding the constituents of Cadiz City and a preparation area for the Buriring.
There was also an elaborate dance number that symbolized the fishermen trying to catch Buriring.
I first went to the Buriring Preparation area. Buriring preparation consists of several phases, the first phase is washing of the fish where all the sand, mud and dirt is washed out.
At the same time, the fish is carefully inspected because batches WILL occasionally contain deadly pufferfish species! The people preparing the fish showed us how EASY it is to tell the Buriring apart from poisonous fish.
The next phase consists of rubbing the fish with salt to remove the spines then preparing the ingredients used for the fish stew. Surprisingly, there are standard ingredients for preparing the fish. Folklore or traditional wisdom dictates that you must prepare the fish with Santol and Libas leaves. I’m a medical doctor and I couldn’t help but think that possibly these ingredients somehow can neutralize poisons or something. I’m not sure!
They say santol and Libas leaves are used to give the fish a sourish taste much like sinigang.
Finally the ingredients are all boiled up. After a while, the Buriring is ready to serve. It is certainly a very unique dish! I really enjoyed the cooking demo as it was both educational and fascinating! The organizers really did a good job of creating the preparation area for the visitors to see how Buriring is prepared.
Now, there was a cooking competition of sorts and there was a lot of Buriring dishes. People cooked up their Buriring in many different ways. I was selected to be a judge and while I found the taste of Buriring to be too strong for me, I decided to base my judging on the entries that I felt were 1.) Easy for a new comer to Buriring to enjoy and 2.) The one that didn’t taste so intense.
I chose the fried Buriring that looked like chicharon/fish skin. This was very easy to eat.
I also liked this Buriring dish that I later learned had went all out with the margarine, magic sarap and monosodium glutamate. Lol, Oh well!
Initially I had a very strong fear of Buriring. I didn’t want to get poisoned! One very funny instance that happened during the ceremony was the playing of the Cadiz City hymn which SOUNDED SO MUCH LIKE “THE RAINS OF CASTAMERE” FROM GAME OF THRONES. For those, who don’t know what that is, it’s a song that was sung right before a wedding party was slaughtered. Lol. It certainly cheered me up in the second part of the hymn where it stopped sounding like a dirge and had an upbeat tempo.
How does one eat Buriring? well, some people eat the whole fish, others just eat the innards and liver like my friend Paolo Araneta. This caused me to raise an eyebrow because in poisonous pufferfish species, the poisons accumulate in the Liver! Paolo told me that the liver is the most delicious part of the fish.
The event was a huge success! The organizers really planned it out so well and they even had a blind musician, Gil Andan compose a song about buriring that was very pleasant to listen to. Mito told me that they planned to make this a yearly event. I really agree that this is a very unique and educational experience that tourists will enjoy. This is a really special event! Thank you so much for inviting us Mito!
Sing with me!