Boneless Bangus (Milkfish) A La Pobre

This quick fried bangus dish, covered in a garlicky a la pobre sauce, is the perfect weeknight comfort food.
Prep Time
10 Mins
Active Time
10 Mins

“À la pobre” literally translates to “poor man’s” in Spanish, but in Filipino cooking, it refers to proteins like chicken and fish flavored with copious amounts of garlic. As the name suggests, it’s made with simple and fairly inexpensive ingredients that are probably already in your pantry.

This recipe uses butterflied bangus (milkfish) fried to golden brown perfection, and served with a flavorful, umami-rich sauce. Perfect for a quick, easy, and comforting weeknight meal!

Butterflying your bangus

Butterflying is a butchery technique that involves slicing a thick, compact piece of protein like chicken, pork, or fish, so it can be spread out in a thin, flat fillet. This cuts cooking time, and ensures that your protein will cook evenly.

You can ask your local fishmonger to butterfly and debone your bangus for you after they clean and gut it. But if you happen to forget, or if you just have a spare bangus that you don’t know what to do with, it’s easy enough to do at home.

Hold the fish flat against your cutting board with your non-dominant hand, and with a sharp knife, cut along the bottom side from the head to its tail. If your fish has already been cleaned and gutted, it should already have a slit along the stomach, so all you need to do is continue to cut along the slit. Then, with firm and careful strokes, cut the flesh away from the backbone and ribs, just until you can open it up and lay it out like a book.

Making fried garlic and garlic oil

The “à la pobre” part of this recipe comes from frying the fish in garlic oil, and a generous sprinkling of crispy, golden grown garlic bits on top of the dish. The key to making both is timing. Make sure the minced garlic doesn’t brown too much. Pull it out and let it drain on some paper towels just as it starts to turn a pale golden color. It will continue to cook off the heat, which will result in a perfectly golden brown, crispy texture. Use the aromatic garlic oil to fry the bangus, and store the rest for anything you want to add a burst of garlicky flavor to!

  • 1 cup neutral oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small or 1 large unmarinated boneless bangus
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 3 tbsp calamansi juice
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tbsp water

Make crispy garlic and garlic oil: In a small pan or pot over medium heat, add the minced garlic into the cold oil. Slowly fry the minced garlic until slightly golden. Before the garlic turns brown, remove from the oil and lay out to cool on paper towels. The residual heat will continue to cook the garlic until it is golden brown and crispy. Reserve half of the oil for frying the bangus, and store the rest for later use.


Fry your bangus: Season boneless bangus with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat about ½ cup of reserved garlic oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add bangus to the pan skin side down and shallow fry until golden brown and crispy, about 3-4 minutes. Carefully flip and fry the second side, another 3–4 minutes. Set aside.


Make sauce: In a separate small saucepan, heat about a tablespoon of reserved garlic oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened and translucent. Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, calamansi juice, brown sugar, and water. Simmer for 5 minutes. Then, lower the heat and pour in the cornstarch slurry. Stir until well combined, and allow sauce to simmer until it reaches a thin gravy consistency. You’ll know it’s done when the sauce is able to coat the back of a spoon.


Serve: Spoon sauce on top of the bangus, and sprinkle a generous amount of fried garlic over the sauce. Serve hot.

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