Benefits of wild caught fish and where to buy them in Singapore

These are all wild caught fish! Photo credit: Biao

Have you seen the labels, "Wild Caught" or "Sustainable Fishing" in the supermarkets? Ever wonder what it means except for paying more? If you do then this article will be interesting for you because I bring you back to earth and share with you my take on "wild caught fish" in Singapore and how to appreciate it.

First of all, you can throw away that concept in your mind that wild caught fish can only be found in the supermarket (with all the labels and such) and it must always be some sort of cold water fish such as cod and salmon. It's actually very simple because in the sea/ocean/river, there is only generally two kinds of environment - farm and wild. So in theory, that means if you pick up a fishing rod, go to Bedok Jetty and catch a tamban, that is also known as a wild caught fish! Many markets also do sell wild caught fish without the labels at decent prices. 

It doesn't have to be something that is packed and labelled on a shelf. I get irked quite a lot when friends tell me they have this wild caught fish bought from market but it turned out to be a "normal fish" at a premium price because it is based on some sustainable, wild caught model which frankly speaking I don't really believe.

Before I share with you on where to get or buy wild caught fish... let me tell you why we love eating them.

Benefits of wild caught fish

The benefits are what I would call "got money also can't buy" because even if you have money, you may not be able to get freshly caught wild caught fish because the fishermen or fishmonger rather have it themselves. It's true! A true wild caught fish would be impeccably fresh and stored well because of pride. Can you imagine a fishmonger letting a wild caught coral trout go to waste by soaking it in ice water for days? Therefore, wild caught fish is always top in terms of taste because it has little traces of farming characteristics such as crowded farms or taste caused by fish feed. Can't imagine what this means? Just imagine a fish eating pellets everyday versus one that has the opportunity to roam around in the wild dining like a king. Same as why for cows that is wild cow, grass eating cow, grain eating cow and pellet eating cow. A wild caught fish is so much more different in taste profile compared to a farm one. 

Research has not proven it but I think it is common sense. Wild caught fish would also generally be healthier eating because it comes from nature (unless super polluted). If a certain fishing spot yields consistent catches of wild caught fish, it is likely to also be naturally sustainable. This is in contrast to fish farms which may not always be sustainable in terms of environment or energy cycle. Go read up on the controversies regarding fish farming practices and the ecological impact they cause.

Now where to buy them... it is a misconception that wild caught fish is hard to get or pricey. In fact, I am so irked with the labelling! 

Here are some ideas...

Supermarket, Wet Market and Fishery Ports

So what fish is likely wild caught here? Likely only the bonito/tuna and silver/black pomfrets. Golden pomfrets, tilapia, mullet and white threadfin are easily farmed!

Wild caught fish is readily available at these places. However, the first step would be to differentiate which is farmed and which is wild caught. Fish like barramundi (seabass), snapper, grouper, mullet and golden pomfrets tend to be farmed. Fishes like toman, grunters, chermins, stingrays, selar, kembong, coral trout, mackeral, peacock bass tend to be wild caught because you can't farm these fish (in general). 

It takes a trained eye to recognise them when you put them side by side. After you have determined a fish is wild caught, ask the fishmonger how it was caught. Wild fish can be caught by a variety of methods - trawling, fish traps, rawai etc. and in my experience, usually it is those that are caught by local sampans that are fresher. 

Always opt for wild caught fish that don't soak in icewater too long. If you are looking for variety, you can also check out Jurong or Senoko Fishery Port early in the wee hours of the morning (3 to 4am-ish) to see what you can buy there.

Premium Seafood Suppliers

Interestingly, because of the pandemic, many premium seafood suppliers have sprung up. This is not a bad thing because such suppliers can pair supply and demand very accurately which reduce wastage as they do just in time delivery concept. In fact, they don't need to keep much excess stock and have a good sense of their demand. At the end of the day, their costs are not sky high too so I thoroughly recommend these especially if you are buying in bulk for family. 

These suppliers who may be fishmongers or resellers also usually charge higher than wet markets because there is a selection and picking component. Think of it as someone that does the shopping for you. You would pay extra because they help you choose the freshest fish or let you know the freshest "lobang" in the fishery port (for example, only a few pieces of a particular fish available). Similarly, you can ask these suppliers whether the fish is wild caught or farmed. If they are credible, they would definitely be able to share more about the source.

Have I tried some? Yes of course and I would say most of the premium suppliers that you see online doing Facebook auction etc. are ok simply because it is a public facing game and you have to be good if not aunty won't go back to patronise you. If you fish is not fresh, you will be exposed once you turn on the camera on the fish.

Personal recommendations from me... you can try out B&B Fishery. I have quite a few posts on them. Or you can also try linlaobei_seafood. I haven't tried before but I follow what they post and the fishes look really good.

Here's some sai tow ang kuey that I bought from B&B Fishery. It is reasonably priced and sai tow ang kuey or red emperor fish usually cannot be farmed. The farmed ones are the red snapper or market sometimes called it lion head snapper.

Selected Seafood or Zhi Char Stalls

Some Seafood stalls or Zhi Char stalls do sell cooked wild caught seafood. I think there are many "ang mo" restaurants and cafes which will tell you "wild caught snapper" and so on, but I would take it with a pinch of salt because that's what their suppliers tell them and they use it. 

For this, I would swing over to the chinese restaurant or Zhi Char stalls that has wild caught fish in the menu. Some examples could be Ga Hock Seafood (I used to order leather jacket, whiting and tuskfish from them), Zai Shun Curry Fish Head and Seng Kee Black Chicken Herbal Soup Zhi Char (they display wild caught fish outside their stall for steaming). Some of the wild caught fishes you find at these places do fetch a premium though.

Fried Wild Caught Leather jacket at Ga Hock Seafood. This species is the smaller version and is actually called Tee Puey Tek instead of Teck Kia.

Teochew porridge stalls do also have wild caught steamed fish and BBQ seafood stalls also do have them. Below picture from BBQ seafood stall @ Changi Village.

Go Fishing

The most simplest way of enjoying wild caught fishing is going fishing!

   

Don't be troubled or affected if you do not get a prized wild caught fish. That is not what it is. Any fish that you catch and eat from fishing is considered wild caught fish.

Fishermen though do have pride and some of us are very picky with what fish we catch, how we process and store them. Locally, some of us are even into using ikejime and bleeding methods so that we can ensure the fish is edible. 

If you're not into fishing, you can always ask for fish from your friends that go fishing :)

Comments

Hedonist said…
Nap! Can i have half of your wild caught fish?

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