Thursday, 5 November 2009

Small Fry

Wong, a former colleague at my former workplace, is an avid angler with an equally avid taste for all kinds of fish.

No tall tales of fantastic catches from the sometimes cranky photographer (mostly from age and seniority, I think) but Wong has this penchant for vivid descriptions of fish dishes.

Like the fantastical Ikan Belida fishballs served at an outlet somewhere in or near Grik which he swears tastes simply divine like none other.

Ikan BelidaThe Belida is a very bony predatory fish which you often see in homes as ornamental fish, so - to me, at least - it was surprising to hear Wong waxing lyrics on how good it tasted.

Unfortunately, the outlet was closed when we came calling.

As luck would have it, when a few journalist colleagues and I were treated to a sumptuous feast of an expensive variety of the Ikan Bawal by then State Exco and now de facto Perak MB Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, Wong was not in the group.

He would have undoubtedly loved the Ikan Bawal steamed simply with ginger.

This is Wong's favorite method of cooking fish as he says it brings out the best taste of fresh fish.

Fish was a staple food for me when I was a student in the UK.

I am not too adventurous with the kinds of fish I buy, sticking with the usual suspects of rainbow trouts, soles, mackerels and – whenever I feel extravagant – salmon.

Most of the time it's the farmed rainbow trout which are conveniently packed whole minus the innards.

Steaming wasn’t part of the menu, though, as I didn’t have a steamer then.

Trouts, what else?They are however quite bland. The tofu of fishes, you could say. Probably, the wild variety is nicer and richer but I never did get a chance to sample any, fresh or otherwise.

I saw a programme in Astro’s Asian Food Channel recently where river whitebaits (ikan bilis?) caught in nets were immediately pan fried.

No salt, no pepper; just fresh and tasty, judging from the looks on those who took bites of the dish.

My better half said it was the same back home in Kampung Sena, Arau, Perlis when the river and streams were clearer and cleaner, and fishes were in abundance.

You could sauk (Kedah word meaning "scoop") a bountiful of fish fries and plonk them straight into the frying pan for a good side dish.

Not something you want to do these days where even the full flowing rivers all Teh Tarik-ish in shades.

Talking about small fry, a list of politicians and the politically connected were charged for corruption this week.

Pat on the back for the MACC?

Umm, not quite yet.

Just like Citizen Nades, am wondering too if we will ever see any Ikan Belidas in the net.

Maybe we are like an aquarium where the likes of Ikan Belida which cost a bundle in maintenance and feeds on the small fries are kept as ornaments.

For how long, though? Until our pockets are empty and dried up?

Anyone for Belida fishball?

Sigh… C’est La Vie.

From The Star: Our rivers today.

Our Rivers

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