If you’re wondering why this dish is called ulo-ulo salmon, it’s because the original recipe calls for salmon heads instead of the belly I used. I got this recipe from my mother, who got it from her friend, who, in turn, got it from her daughter. Was that confusing or what? Ok, let me start again. The daughter of my mom’s friend works in Dubai and this dish, she states, is popular amongst our kababayans in the Middle East. When she went home for a vacation, she cooked it for her mother, who brought some for my mother to try. My mother then told me about it and, of course, with three people vouching for its deliciousness, I wasted no time making it for myself.
I’ve cooked this ulo-ulo salmon many times since and, guys, it definitely deserves the hype! Simmered in vinegar and then sauteed in tomatoes and oyster sauce, the salmon heads are just begging to be eaten clean to the bones! So tender and flavorful, pati mata hindi ko pinapatawad haha.
So, why salmon bellies in the pictures? If you’ve ever taken photos of fish heads, you know it takes mad food photography skills to make them look pretty. Regardless of how many times I tried, I just couldn’t make them look anywhere close to appetizing! After countless frustrating attempts, I just gave up and swapped the heads with bellies. I have to say, though, the thick strips of belly, with their good ratio of fat and flesh, turned out just as delicious. So, yes, you can use either salmon heads, bellies or a combination of both, as you like. However, I wouldn’t recommend using salmon fillets as they’re too fragile to withstand the two-step cooking and do not have enough fat to bring out the best flavor.
- 2 pounds salmon belly, cut into serving pieces (or salmon fish heads, split into two)
- ½ cup vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- salt and pepper to taste.
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thinly
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 thumb-size ginger, peeled and juilienned
- 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 bunch pechay, ends trimmed and leaves separated
- In a pot over medium heat, combine salmon belly, vinegar, water and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, uncovered and without stirring, for about 4 to 5 minutes or until fish changes color. Drain fish, reserving liquid.
- In a skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add onions, garlic, and ginger, and cook until limp and aromatic. Add tomatoes and cook, mashing with back of spoon, until softened and release juices.
- Add salmon and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 to 2 minutes. Add reserved liquid and bring to a boil. Lower heat and continue to cook until fish is cooked through and liquid is reduced. Add oyster sauce and stir to completely disperse. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Add pechay leaves and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes or until just wilted. Serve hot.