Friday, February 7, 2014

Singapore's Favourite Misunderstood Fish done with a 5C touch!

What are Singaporean fishing kaki's most favourite fish or what fish can represent Singapore? That is a common question that many of us wonder. Many of us would point to the legend of Red Hill in which swordfish or rather Todaks were part of the story. For most of us, the Catfish or "Ah Seng" takes the cake as being the number one fish that most budding or even experienced anglers catch! Many species of the Catfish are caught from our shores regularly - they come in three broad categories to say simply. They are the Ikan Duri (forked tailed marine catfish (silver), Sembilang (Eel Tailed Catfish) and Belukang (Sergeant Major or Shit Seng). There are many other species such as the Jahan, Usat and so on but I'll leave that to the experts!

Most of us (especially the Chinese) loath this fish as it does not taste great (apparently it is "smelly" and the fishy taste is very strong) when you do not know how to prepare it. Worse still, most Catfish give sluggish fights and the Chinese "Ah Lau" fishing kakis who catch the Catfish will go something like... "Wah Lau.... Ah Seng again!! Pui!"... So more stigma is cast on this humble fish as budding or young anglers observe this and immediately cast the Catfish into the "unwanted fish list" in their fish dictionary! Most anglers always release the Catfish and perhaps this is the reason why our shores are laden with the catfish!

However, our Malay fishing kakis have always prized the humble Catfish as they prepare it by cooking Assam Pedas or Ikan Penyet. This way of preparing the fish eliminates the "fishy" smells and is delicious! The Sembilang is highly prized here as a top fish! Mak Ciks often go crazy when they see me catching Sembilang sometimes and always rave about the eating qualities of the fish. More research and personal taste tests have led me to conclude that the Sembilang is indeed good eating and a select few Chinese (whom know of the eating qualities) prepare the fish by cooking it with soup or even steaming it! The Changi Boatman Ah Long often raved about this fish too.

So it's not surprising that this post has got to do with cooking the humble catfish! Perhaps the new generation is more liberal in their choices of food or perhaps we're simply running out of better fish... but after I caught several "Kim Chu Seng" or Golden Duri with Jimmy during this trip and a giant Duri during my kayak trip, I decided to get down to finally doing up some authentic British Beer Battered Fish and chips!

I shall show some pictures of the process (from the fillet) to the actual cooking and the end result of the dish! It is literally 5Cs - Catch, Clean, Cut, Cook and Consume!

The pre step after you catch the fish would be to bring it to the beach and wash the fish by the water! As kayak fishing kaki Kamarus once shared with me... the best way to remove the fish's slime would be to soak it and then use the sand to rub against the body. The sand, together with the seawater will help to wash away the fish slime!

The first step is to defrost the fishes and fillet the fishes. I'm not a pro when it comes to filleting catfish but it's wise to make sure your catfish is at least 1.5kg if not you wouldn't be left much meat to fry! I recommend chopping the head off first and then followed by filleting and de skinning. I would like to share that there is a certain difference in the Duri (silver) and Golden Duri (Kim Chu Seng)! Where the Duri's meat was bloody and was a little smelly, the Golden Duri's meat was like chicken meat and free of any smell! The most amazing thing was that the Duri (silver) belly was full of rubbish like grass, soil and weird smelly objects, the Golden Duri's belly was spotless and was cleaner than many other fishes that I had encountered!


Fresh Catfish!

Once you got the fish fillets, make sure to remove most of the "blood" flesh as these may cause fishy smells in the meat.
Notice the difference between premium golden duri and silver duri?
Season with some salt and pepper

Authentic thick chips

Blanching them after being parboiled
Some of the ingredients used!


Batter ready for dipping!

Final end product... doesn't look very professional but sure is tasty!
Well, I do hope the pictures and recipe manage to convince you not to throw away the humble Catfish the next time! Here's the my consolidated recipe - it's not too professional or detailed but I prefer my recipes to be flexible and do not follow to the exact instructions so I found it hard to pen down a fixed recipe! But I still hope it helps!\

 

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