Why Is Bangus Called A Milkfish + How to Debone Bangus At Home

Did you know this fish can grow several feet long?

Bangus is one of the most common fish in the Philippines. Have you ever wondered why when translated, it’s known as a milkfish? 

The flesh of the bangus turns a lovely milky white color when cooked. Sounds simple right? However, this belief can also be supported by the fact that the bangus also contains a high amount of calcium. It has about 55 mg calcium compared to tilapia (4 mg) and pink salmon (2.3 mg)

The texture of the bangus is very fine and has a tendency to have a dry flaky texture when cooked. It’s fantastic when grilled over charcoal to give it that smoky charred flavor but it’s also quite fantastic when fried to a crisp for daing na bangus, simmered in a fish sinigang, or stuffed with tomato salsa and steamed wrapped in foil. 

Bangus Facts 

Despite its popularity, there are some things you probably didn’t know about it. Did you know that the bangus is the only member of the Chanidae fish family that is still around? The other fish in this family are all extinct. That’s because this fish family dates back to the Cretaceous Period which dates to about 145.5 million to 65.5 million years ago. 

Did you also know that the bangus can grow over 5 feet long? It’s actually a fish that can be found in the open sea! The bangus that you commonly see on the market are actually still babies compared to the adult 5-footers that are caught by sport fishermen


This is the reason why you can spot some bangus that are smaller or larger than you would find in the markets. 

To get to this stage, however, you commonly will see bangus either whole or deboned. Deboning bangus is a skill that takes effort. That’s because unlike other fish, the bangus has quite a number of bones. 

The perfect size is not too big, and not too small.

How to Debone Bangus 

How do you debone bangus? There are a few steps to doing this: descaling the fish, gutting and splitting the fish in half, removing the center spine skeleton, and then removing the pin bones. However, it’s done a little differently from other fish. You need to keep the belly intact.

You’ll need a few deboning bangus tools to do this:

  • • large chopping board 
  • • very sharp knife
  • • tweezers 

Here’s how to debone bangus step by step: 


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  • 1 On a chopping board, lay the fresh whole bangus on it, and holding it steady, use the back of your knife or a descaler to remove the scales on all the sides of the fish. Trim off the fins. 
  • 2 Clean the board and the fish of any errant scales. 
  • 3 With a sharp knife, run your knife against the top or the back of the fish from head to tail to give yourself a guide to follow. Use the backbone of the fish as your guide and make a cut using your knife against that bone to slice the fish open from the back. (You can make one long slice or many small knife cuts to do this.)  
  • 4 Split the fish gradually open using your knife, keeping it pressed flat against the backbone, to separate the skeleton from near the head to the tail end. (Again, feel free to use small knife cuts to get a feel of where the backbone is and follow it.)
  • 5 Butterfly the fish and remove any guts and innards revealing the bangus belly. Leave that side of bangus intact and connected to the rest of the fish. 
  • 6  Press down on the fish so it lays completely open. Run your knife against the other side of the backbone and near the head and the tail to completely remove the spine intact.   
  • 7 To remove the pin bones using tweezers and your fingertips, run your fingertips along the natural grooves made by the segmented fillets. Once you feel a pinbone, use the tweezers to gently pull out those bones. Do this to both sides of the fillet. 
  • 8 Once done, marinate or prepare as desired. 

Once deboned, you can make any of the many recipes that make bangus delicious!   



Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!

Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on Yummy.ph by submitting your recipe here! 

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