Thursday, June 4, 2009


Kerapu tikus

Groupers or in Portuguese Garoupas and in Malay Ikan Kerapu are by any standard not beautiful fish. In fact save for a few species, they are outright ugly looking.

But, they are very good to eat! Ask any sea-food lover around, for sure they will pick groupers over other fishes anytime, be it steamed, masak tiga rasa (three flavoured recipe) or just deep fried and splashed with chilli.

I remember they are not popular at all in Kemaman way back in the sixties. Malays then normally don't like groupers and for that matter it was difficult to find them in any fish market. But that was then, now they are highly priced and in Pasar Payang there was (I don't know whether she is still there now) a lady specializing in selling good sized groupers and other expensive fish species and her hands were full of gold bangles and her necklace was so thick!

Groupers are strange in their reproductive behaviour. They are what we called protogynous hermaphrodite - their youngs are predominantly female but they will transform into males as they grow larger around 10-12 kg. Usually males have a harem of 3-15 females. When there is no males around, a female, usually the largest one, will turn into a male.

Triggerfish or we Terengganu people call Ikan jebong and some Perakians prefer to call them ikan ayam-ayam is another fish I would like to talk about here.

They are equipped with razor sharp teeth and very thick jacket-like skin. In the sea, divers will tell that they are very territorial and will not hesitate to attack you when it feel threatened.

When you decide to buy them at the market please make sure that you ask the fishseller to clean them up first. It is very difficult to remove its skin if you don't know how. If you want to roast it then you better leave the skin alone.

Triggerfish has a thick, rough but quite good to eat flesh. I normally make it into a fish curry. My children will all fight over it.

But, like other things, they are quite expensive now and not very commonly found in the market. A good sized triggerfish may cost you RM 12-15. It was given free most often when I was in the primary school!

There are two species of tuna commonly found in Terengganu fish markets. They are the Eastern little tuna (Euthynnus affinis) or also called kawakawa or Aya kurik in Terengganu Malay dialect and Aya hitam, the Longtail tuna (Thunnus tonggol).

Aya kurik has a tougher meat with a larger proportion of black flesh. They are more popular but cheaper compared to Aya hitam.

Aya kurik

Aya hitam has a whiter and finer flesh and I love aya hitam more.
I think Yellow fin tuna is still the best tuna around, but it is not available in Terengganu. I had tasted it once in Labuan.

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