Bacalao is not a universally adored dish. The first impression on it is usually that is too salty. I had a funny conversation about Bacalao with Bistro Filipino owner/chef Rolando Laudico. He catered for a dinner hosted by Ambassador Manolo Lopez where former President Joseph Estrada was a guest. President Erap, the ever-gracious guest, brought bacalao, one of the dishes he is known to make very well. Upon serving the bacalao, Mrs. Lopez supposedly went into the kitchen and demanded to know why Chef Laudico served such salty fish. Meanwhile Chef Laudico's all, "It wasn't me!"
I relayed the story to President Erap, who argued, "If it it's not salty, it's not bacalao!"
Since this conversation, I've been on the lookout for good bacalao.
Here in Manila, you can order bacalao from Monchet Carballo at the Salcedo Market. His bacalao is cooked the traditional Spanish-Filipino way, i.e., with tomato sauce. His recommends that you re-heat it with olive oil, which brings out the flavors. He has tempered his bacalao in favor of the mass market that appreciates a less salty bacalao but I think if you ask, he will make a real authentic one for you.
I had some of this the other night, which inspired this post. I was very excited to try Mr. Monchet's version I even bought me some bread (ciabatta and whole wheat as Wine Depot had no French bread) and some Pinot Noir (my mistake, I should have gotten a shiraz or a sauvingnon blanc). I loved the texture of the bacalao - I usually find bacalao too hard but this one is shredded. Ironically, I looked for its characteristic saltiness even if I had complained of the fish being too salty in the past. The conclusion here: beauty is best in its original form. And as for the bread: it's much better with rice!
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