No Filipino can ever mistake the smell of the buwad for something else. The mere whiff of the buwad can make any appetite soar or any hungry stomach growl.
Here in the Philippines, salted and dried fish is commonly known as buwad. The meaning of the Cebuano word “buwad” means “to dry in the sun.”
The Filipinos live in an archipelago and has one of the world’s longest coastlines. As a result, fishing is both the basic livelihood for Filipinos from the ancient times and a major driver of today’s Philippine economy. Given the sea-based industry, it’s no wonder that the myriads of different fish species in the Philippines end up “binuwad,” aside from the commercial catch.
How do fisherman prepare this desiccated, salty fish? The fish is split open and then de-gutted. They are sprinkled with a generous amount of salt, which is necessary to prevent deadly bacteria from forming on the surface of the fish. They are then left to dry in the sun. To make the process of drying much faster, these fish are placed on top of screens. When they are dry enough, the fish are then stored. Dried fish has a long storage life. Drying of food is one of the oldest preservation methods. It is also considered to be a cheap method, and can be done by the fishermen themselves and their family, in which case the finished product is easily transported to the market. Buwad is usually prepared by frying it in oil.
The Carbon Market and Taboan in downtown Cebu holds an enormous dried fish market. If you’re looking for the best pasalubong from Cebu, we suggest you buy buwad from the Taboan area. There are many varieties of dried fish, including dilis (buwad bolinao) and buwad pinikas. Buwad can either be salted or unsalted. Other dried seafood, such as pusit (dried squid), are also available.
For many, buwad is best enjoyed when dipped in native vinegar with crushed chili. Mix it with steaming hot rice (usually a staple for Filipinos), and you already have a gastronomic delight.
Enjoy the crunchy and tasty buwad of Cebu!