Caviteño elevates ‘tinapa’, ‘tuyo’ and ‘daing’ into global delicacies

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By Anna Valmero

ROSARIO, CAVITE – For Cavite native Virgilio Abaño, turning the lowly daing (marinated fish), tuyo (dried fish) and tinapa (smoked fish) into delicacies exported abroad is his company’s contribution to making Filipino food culture known worldwide.

It all started out as a small family business and a few thousand pesos.

Virgilio, who is marketing manager for Carm Foods Enterprises, says selling preserved fish goods is a thriving business for Cavite families. Carm Foods was founded by his wife Carol’s family.

Their business of fish trading and manufacturing of smoked and dried fish was started by Carol’s grandparents in 1971. They passed on their recipe and methods for preserving fish to later generations.

Carmelita Barrera, Carol’s mother, took over the business and registered it under the name Carmen’s Smoked and Dried Fish Factory.

With the help of her children, Carmelita transformed the family business into a large firm with an export arm and renamed it Carm Foods Enterprises, which now employ some 100 workers from Cavite.

The secret to the success of the family business?

“It’s very simple. We value quality of food and of course, the family recipe for traditionally preserving the food and its nutrition. Nothing replaces the food value and real Pinoy flavor of tuyo, daing and tinapa than the traditional way, without artificial preservatives and Carm Foods is known for that,” says Virgilio.

They use kusot from hardwood to add flavor and golden color to the smoked fish.

“Fish is smoked as it dries under the sun over smoldering wood. Wood smoke adds flavor and color while the actual brining process, where you cook the fish in a brine solution of salt and water, before smoking helps preserve the fish,” he explains.

Meanwhile, the tuyo are salted before dried and the daing includes fish sliced in half and marinated in vinegar, pepper and garlic to taste. “These methods have been used by Filipinos for a very long time, before the refrigerator was invented to preserve foods that they do not want to eat right away,” Virgilio points out.

According to historian Ambeth Ocampo, during the time of national hero Jose Rizal, the tuyo is a Filipino delicacy, which he defended in a dissertation from Spaniards who wrote that Filipinos eat “rotten, stinky fish”.

Aside from bangus, the company also sells dried tulingan, kabasi, sapsap, bisugo, labahita, dilis, galunggong, hasa-hasa, tamban, pusit, and tilapia.

“Of course there is the secret ingredient handed down from generations, which is passed from mother to daughter,” he adds.

The company has two buildings dedicated to food processing and an old building for storage and packaging. To preserve the nutrition and flavor of the food, the fish preserved products are vacuum-packed and  frozen to seal in freshness.

When kept in the freezer, the preserved fish can last for up to six months. The processing has been approved by then Bureau of Foods and Drugs Administration (BFAD), says Virgilio.

Aside from supplying goods to several markets in Taguig City and Quezon City, the company has also started exporting to the United States, Hawaii, Guam, Australia, Middle East, and South Korea.

“There is a big demand for the product in these countries and overseas Filipino workers who like to take with them some tuyo or daing abroad buy our products and introduce it to the community there.”

To provide added value to patrons, Carm Foods lists recipes in its product packaging that are also available on their website.

“We have a lot to be proud of our culture and the tinapa, daing and tuyo. These are Pinoy foods that are not just a delicacy but a strong part of our culture as well,” says Virgilio.

Carmfoods is located at 257 Don Basilio Leyba St., Ligtong Rosario, Cavite. You can contact them through (046)438-0944 or visit their website

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