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What is tinapa? Filipino smoked fish for breakfast

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  August 5, 2022

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Tinapa is a Filipino dish consisting of smoked fish. The fish is usually marinated in a brine solution, then smoked over wood and served for breakfast.

The term tinapa means “smoked” or “prepared by smoking” in Tagalog.

What is tinapa? Filipino smoked fish for breakfast

This famous delicacy made of milkfish or galunggong (mackerel scad) smoked fish is known as tinapa in Filipino cuisine.

It is typically offered at wet markets or specialty stores with other dried fish dishes like daing and tuyo.

Tinapa is usually served as breakfast food, but it can also be served as an appetizer or main dish. It is often eaten with steamed white rice, garlic-flavored vinegar, and fresh tomatoes.

The dish can be made with various types of fish, but the most common type of fish used is milkfish and scads. The fish is quite small, so it’s easy to smoke and serve.

In other countries (say, Sweden), they preserve their extra fish by turning them into surströmming.

They put the fish in brine and pack it in tin cans, waiting for the fish to break down before actually selling it, which produces that infamous stench!

In the Philippines, however, since the heat of the country will actually make the fish rot faster, fishermen and vendors choose to air dry and smoke the fish as a method of preservation.

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Origin of tinapa

The dish is said to have originated from the city of Lingayen in Pangasinan province, Philippines.

The city is known for its large and bountiful fish market. This market sells all sorts of seafood, but it’s especially famous for its smoked fish.

Preserving fish is an ancient Filipino tradition, but this type of smoked fish was popularized during the Spanish colonial period.

The dish became a way to preserve fish for long periods of time, as the smoking process helped to keep the fish from going bad.

The dish eventually spread to other parts of the Philippines and became a popular breakfast food. It is now considered a national dish.

Check out this homemade Filipino smoked fish Tinapa recipe to make it yourself

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.