Settling in the Middle: Tuyo (salted, dried herring) pasta

My favorite bottled Tuyo brand :-)

Being in the middle is often not a good thing. You’re neither here nor there, or neither black nor white. You are just lukewarm, neither cold nor hot. It can mean cowardice for some, lacking the balls to choose a side. It is the gray area, obviously a drab color, which best describes the feeling of being in the middle.

This is where I am at the moment: right smack in the middle.

As an expat, I am in between sustaining relationships with my family and friends back home in the Philippines as well as other parts of the world, and building relationships with newly found friends here in Dubai. I am often torn between spending time slouched on our couch in my favorite tattered yet soft shirt, chatting away on both my laptop AND my Blackberry and going out of the house to hang out over good food (of course) and intelligent, at the same time, mundane conversation with select Dubai friends. Getting out is not easy for the natural recluse in me.

As a Filipino expat, I am in between continuing the reputation of Filipinos being hard working, intelligent, skilled professionals and breaking stereotypes of us just being lowly, subservient and naive domestic help, or an even worse term for it: servants. Sorry to offend anybody, but the truth is indeed hard to swallow. Sadly, this is something we Filipino expats deal with on a day-to-day basis. Everyday I, an educated and experienced professional, come armed all the confidence, intelligence and even witty repartee I could summon from the depths of my Filipino-ness to battle the inconspicuous racial innuendos and prove that we are worthy citizens of the world.

As a food enthusiast, I am in between learning more about Filipino food culture and tradition and exploring new exotic cuisines that are easily accessible in this underrated culinary mecca.  Of course, the Filipino cooking I do at home with The Husband as the sole customer. I refine my technique as I get to repeat his favorite dishes. But whenever we don’t feel like eating Filipino, The Husband and I definitely restaurant hop around the desert city where we can find the most exotic cuisines we never could imagine tasting. We often go deep and dive into cheap and authentic food haunts where we often are the only Southeast Asian / Filipino diners around.

Also, as a Filipino food advocate, I am straddling between staying true to Filipino tastes while making our cuisine more accessible to other nationalities.  Others are often intimidated by the unfamiliarity of Filipino cuisine, which is to be honest, not anything like our Southeast Asian neighbors. Being in this particular gray area is then a good thing because I learn to adapt, finding and striking a delicate balance between the two: Filipino cuisine and the more familiar western cuisines.

This recipe, which has been passed on to my family from an former swimming teammate of mine, is a good example of that, wherein I use Filipino ingredients and apply a European twist to it. Here, I use tuyo, the Filipino version of the  salty anchovy, as the base of the pasta sauce.


  • 1-bottle of Connie’s Kitchen Gourmet Tuyo or 250 grams of tuyo (Filipino style dried herring) flakes – Our helper used to work on flaking the tuyo by hand for hours, so the Connie’s Kitchen Gourmet Tuyo has been our miracle quick fix for this recipe.
  • 1 head of garlic, minced
  • 2 onions, chopped finely
  • ¾ kilo of tomatoes, chopped
  • If using a bottle of gourmet tuyo, use 2 teaspoons of olive oil. If using tuyo flakes, use ½ cup of olive oil
  • 500 grams of spaghetti or angel hair pasta, cooked al dente por favor.

Step by step:

  1. Heat up pan and add olive oil.
  2. When hot enough (i.e. not smoking), add minced garlic and chopped onions then sauté until onions are translucent. Make sure to stir, so you don’t burn the minced garlic.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes then simmer for 15 minutes or until tomatoes breakdown and liquefy. I prefer my tomatoes to still have a bit of chunkiness.
  4. Add the tuyo flakes into the mixture. If you are using Connie’s Kitchen Gourmet Tuyo, breakdown the fillets into smaller flakes by repeatedly pushing down the tip of your cooking spoon onto the flakes and stirring the mixture.
  5. Cover the pan (especially if the tuyo smell is not welcome – i.e. in Dubai) and simmer for 30 minutes.
  6. Toss in the pasta in the pan and mix thoroughly, so that all pasta strands absorb the flavors. Then serve hot.
  7. Add a generous dash of red chili flakes if you like the sting of the heat.

If you’re asking why there is not salt, the tuyo is salty enough to give depth to the dish. It is often so salty that people do eat 1 small tuyo (no more than 3 inches in length) and a plateful of rice.

This recipe is incredibly addictive. You have been warned! For my family, tuyo pasta sauce is precious commodity, so we used to store a big batch in the freezer, which can be reheated whenever you want a big bowl of comfort. Well, that is if there was anything left to store

Delirious about delicious,


P.S. Unfortunately, our pantry is now void of any Connie’s Kitchen Gourmet Tuyo. Anybody headed to the PH and back to DXB generous enough to get me a few bottles?

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  1. Conics says

    Gotta try this Selectively-available (got it as a Xmas gift) ‘eFoods’ ARTISANAL TUYO (spicy mild) –“dried boneless herring, soya oil, vinegar & spices” as ingredients!
    Seems distinctly tasty from Connie’s—must be the pleasant blend of spices & homemade taste! Noted its ‘sexy’ bottle too—discrete, classy, tasty, nostalgic of homey breaky!
    Found a source at Shell Magallanes!

  2. says

    1-bottle of Connie’s Kitchen Gourmet Tuyo or 250 grams of tuyo (Filipino style dried herring) flakes – Our helper used to work on flaking the tuyo by hand for hours, so the Connie’s Kitchen Gourmet Tuyo has been our miracle quick fix for this recipe.

    Kailangan pa talaga isama ang katulong…really!!!