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Meet the Unicornfish: The Weird (But Delicious) Fish

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Ringo is a writer based in Quezon City, Philippines. He loves books, dogs, cats, and writing.



What Do You Know About Unicornfish?

During a past vacation in Villa Balinmanok in Dasol (Pangasinan), we passed through a stall that featured different seafood for affordable prices. One of the weird-looking fish I saw was locally known as "Sinungay." The name came from the Filipino term "sungay" meaning horn. Upon further research, I found that its international name is the unicornfish. Because of its weird, hard head with a horn, we called this "Lady Gaga Fish."

Where Do They Live?

Unicornfish are the cousins of surgeonfish. They are found in rocky coral reefs, patches, and tropical areas such as:

  • The Indian and Pacific Oceans
  • Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines
  • Hawaii

There are some claims that they can also be found in the reefs of Japan.

What Do They Eat?

Unicornfish feed on algae, weeds, and other small plants. Larger animals are their predators.

What Do They Look Like?

  • The Whitemargin species (featured) can grow up to 3.3 feet in length.
  • Their horns can grow up to 13 centimeters. Even though they're hard, the horns have no defensive function.
  • Their skin is hard and leathery.

When they are threatened, unicornfish will use their tails and fins to attack. More often than not, they will just try to swim away.


Can You Buy a Unicornfish?

In Labrador, Pangasinan, the price is P280.00 ($6.60 USD) a kilo, and a whole fish will cost you P450.00 ($10.68 USD).

Unfortunately, according to a friend, the stalls in Labrador are already demolished.

In Bolinao, which is another place in Pangasinan, the price was P190.00 per piece in a mini market. When we asked the seller, she said a unicornfish would never cost P450.00 a piece there. However, I concluded that the price varies based on the type of species because the fish we bought in Labrador is better tasting than the one we got from Bolinao.

The unicorn fish worth P450.00 a piece

The unicorn fish worth P450.00 a piece

The unicornfish worth P190.00

The unicornfish worth P190.00

How Do You Cook a Unicornfish?

According to the locals, the fish can be cooked just like any other fish. During our first encounter with this fish, we cooked it grilling the ordinary way. True enough, wounding the fish is hard—we even used an ax, but it still wasn't easy.

The second time around, the locals in Bolinao gave us an idea. The skin should be roasted first so it'll easily peel off, even with your bare hands. Then, you can grill it in low-burning charcoals.

Grilled unicornfish

Grilled unicornfish

What Was the Verdict?

Surprisingly, despite its weird appearance, unicornfish is actually soft and delicious. It's like milkfish with a stronger and tastier flesh, and a bonus was that it had fewer bones. It's recommended for kids. For me, it was worth P190.00 but not P450.00.