Bad reputation…

If you may recall, I got this fish, a patin, from Annie-Q‘s mum that day


I never liked patin before as it had this bad reputation of having an unpleasant smell…and I had had my share of those before. In fact, when I shared the photograph on Facebook, a cousin of mine in Kuching instantly asked, “No smell kah???”

Well, I guess those would be the farmed ones. Someone told me that if they have flowing water in and out of the ponds in the fish farms, the fish would not have any smell…but when you’re buying one at the market, there would not be any way you can tell and you would just have to take the fishmonger’s word for it. In fact, some would even lie through their teeth and tell you that they’re freshly-caught ones. Tsk! Tsk!

Thankfully though, these days, we are able to buy fish reared in the vast man-made lakes at the Batang Ai hydro-electricity dam where with the ever-flowing water, the fish would not have the mud smell at all and nothing can be more fresh than the tilapia that we get from there – you can buy them at the market, alive! We had one at a restaurant here once, salt-baked and it was simply awesome, so very very nice.

Actually, Annie’s mum gave me one not too long ago and honestly, I was quite  sceptical about the fish at the time since I had had some unpleasant encounters before and I did not have a good impression of it but my missus cooked part of it in our kampung masak kunyit style and to my surprise, it was really good. She cooked the rest of it with bandong (tapioca) leaves – it was nice but I think it would be nicer with ikan buris, a river fish that is getting to be rather rare and difficult to get these days.

This time around, I decided to do something different with it, so I pounded some shallots, garlic, chilies and a bit of ginger and tumeric (kunyit)…


…and bruised the ends of a couple of stalks of lemon grass (serai) and other than those, I got some curry and Thai basil leaves from my garden. Well, I guess it is quite obvious that with all those fragrant ingredients used, you just can’t possibly go wrong – it has got to be nice, that’s pretty certain.

Anyway, firstly, I fried the pounded ingredients and the lemon grass in a bit of oil and when they were good and ready, I added the leaves and some water. Finally, I put in a teaspoon of tom yam paste and some sugar to counter to very sour taste of the paste. Once the gravy had started boiling, it was ready for use.

Since it was very big, I decided to cook only the bottom half of the fish. I placed it in a plate and threw in some ladies’ fingers, cut into halves…

Pre-steaming 1

Then I  poured the gravy onto the fish and everything else in the plate…

Pre-steaming 2

Oh dear!!! It looked like the plate was too small so I transferred everything into something bigger and steamed it till the fish was cooked…

Steamed 1

So was it good? Absolutely!!! Very nice and smooth texture and completely no smell at all!!! Even Melissa, who is somewhat picky about the fish she eats, loved it a lot and of course, we let her enjoy as much as she wanted…

Steamed 2

Well, in case you are wondering what happened to the top half, I cooked that in our kampung masak kunyit style…

Masak kunyit

…to give to my mum as we did not let her try that the first time around. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very well done – not sour enough and not salty enough…but nonetheless, my mum said she enjoyed it very much as the fish tasted really good.

Thanks so much to Annie’s mum for the fish…but please don’t give me anymore as I have nothing to give in return. Should I be feeling like having that again, maybe I can just ask around at the market to see if there is anyone selling ikan patin from Batang Ai – I’m pretty sure there would be some around.

Author: suituapui

Ancient relic but very young at heart. Enjoys food and cooking...and travelling and being with friends.

42 thoughts on “Bad reputation…”

  1. oh, i do enjoy the stomach part… omega patin oil… hahaha…

    I love that part too. Simply the best, so lemak!

  2. Looks really good! Btw, are you refering to the ‘mud’ smell ?

    Yup, the mud smell would ruin any fish. I don’t mind the original smell of fish e.g. bawal hitam would have its own…and tenggiri and all the rest. I am not fond of salmon’s though – a lot of people love it, including my daughter.

  3. I love patin fish.
    If the fish is fresh enough, steam it nyonya style with lots of garlic, chillies, ginger…
    So syiok~ mmm I’m hungry now!

    >They make really good crystalware there…

    Indeed, I visited Swarovski HQ in Austria last year. 🙂

    My sister went when a cousin was based there – he worked for MAS and they had an office there then, dunno now. She bought a lot of the crystalware.

    Nyonya? Sounds Chinese to me…but then again, peranakan is a mixture of Chinese and Malay so I guess there would be some things similar. I love steamed fish, Portuguese style too – nice sauce!

  4. Hi Arthur! This looks like the Assam fish here which I really enjoy! I’m sure the spicy and sour gravy goes very well with steamed rice! Hungry now as I type this. 😀

    We do cook assam fish sometimes – our masak kunyit (the last pic) is a very simplified version…and very very nice! Will surely want a second helping of rice… This tom yam one is very nice too – I did not want to cook the fish in it, something I would have done usually, so that the flavour of the ingredients would not go into the fish and drown out its freshness and sweetness.

  5. Very nice the way you cooked the fish. I can’t recall if I have ever eaten Ikan Patin before 🙂

    I have not eaten patin for a long long time myself. Everytime they suggested it at a restaurant, I would go…ugh, no thank you! Instantly that mud smell and unpleasant taste would come to mind. But I’ve got two from Annie’s mum now…and both were very very nice! The problem is how one can be sure they’re from Batang Ai…unless we’re like Annie’s mum – she knows the supplier personally. 😦

  6. Your Patin looks much nicer than mine.

    Patin got smell ka? Usually tilapia that sometimes have smell. Maybe am just lucky la. Usually got it from pasar tani in trengganu or by the riverbank in Termeloh. No smell

    The ones from the farms that do not have flowing water – stagnant mud pools with all the fish inside – those would smell terribly. Used to love ikan sultan until they started rearing them…and I bought those – horrible mud smell. Today, I would never buy that fish again – dunno which are not the farmed ones with the mud smell, can never trust those sellers. They’ll lie through their teeth to get your money!

  7. hahahaha, when i saw that round plate, i thought to myself, will it be too small?? hehehe, and i was right!! tsk tsk tsk, bigger plate suits your image more i guess, muahahaha!! nice dish BTW, though i would finish up the fish and leave all lady fingers untouched, hehe~~ 😀

    It wasn’t exactly too small…but the additional gravy after steaming would make it hard to take out especially when it’s hot – might just spill it all over. You don’t like ladies fingers? Good for men, yunno… Wink! Wink! Muahahahahaha!!!! 😀

  8. Omg, I like the before cook and after cook picture, nice catch!!! =]

    LOL!!! Only a slight difference between the two, I thought?

  9. I like both ways you cook the fish. Reminds me to cook kampung masak kunyit style this weekend, hehehe!!!…Never buy ikan patin cos always hear people complain it has the mud smell. I like Tilapia. Texture very smooth and nice.

    Tilapia must be from Batang Ai too – still alive. If those from the fish farms, you will get the mud smell too. They serve it at Sugar Bun – deep fried…with rice. Nice! I do go for that sometimes.

  10. Yea, that’s what I remember about ikan patin, strong unpleasant smell!!

    But I like the kunyit style, looks delish!

    These ones from Batang Ai, completely no smell at all – so very nice…not even the natural fishy smell like what I dislike in salmon, for one. So sweet, smooth – really good!

  11. I quite like patin fish… it’s expensive over here, I think.

    Expensive here too but not as expensive as tapah – these two are the usual fish they use in restaurants here for their steamed fish dish.

  12. Came by and saw ikan patin, just had to click and ogle at the screen. Love Ikan Patin !! Very ‘lemak’ and silky smooth flesh … too bad it’s getting more and more expensive here 😦

    You don’t have ikan buris over there – our local freshwater fish! Very much nicer, I would say…but getting to be extinct. Hard to come by these days and very expensive. 😦

  13. AH! Now you make me hungry!! I can just eat the fish and the rice, will be enough. yum yum!!

    Don’t shy, next time want to get fish, call my mum, she can help you to get. 🙂

    No lah!!! She would not accept my money one, so shy!!! No, thank you…I would rather not eat. 😦

  14. Patin is famous of its smell??? I love my Patin to be steamed and drenched in premium soy sauce with generous amount of spring onions/ garlic/ ginger/ chopped bird’s eye chilies!

    I never eat fish with soy sauce…unless it is not fresh and bland – would have to resort to soy sauce to make it edible. Soy sauce would drown the sweetness of the fish – what a waste!

  15. coincidentally I’ve seen two fish dish cooked by blogger to day
    and I must say this was kinda interesting too,
    as for me, I can;t really differentiate fishes hahaha

    Young people. Guess you only know salmon…but sliced – and served in Japanese restaurants. Don’t even know what the whole fish looks like.

  16. ooo, i guess in kl, it’s relatively more difficult to get fresh/live patin. i do kinda like patin though, especially cooked in malay preparations (like the ikan patin tempoyak that’s popular in pahang). your recipe looks ravishing too.. the fish looks meaty and perfectly cooked 😀

    I love it! Will certainly try cooking it with tempoyak next time – I usually cook prawns that way. This one, I thought it would be a waste as I was sure it would be really good and steaming would let us enjoy its sweetness and taste. Guess I made the right decision… 😉

  17. I would prefer Ikan Buris. I remember when I was a kid before, every morning there would be Pekmo singing ‘ikaaaaan buuuriiiss’ cyclimg around our kampung.

    Yes, Kampung Nangka people, all would know ikan buris!!! So nice…masak kunyit, masak daun bandong…or tempoyak, masak sayurrebus, masak kuden…or just simply deep fry. Any way is good when it comes to ikan buris. Slurpsssss!!!!! These days, can go up to RM30 a kilo!!! 😦

    1. Mine is Kampung Bandong. I like to have it ‘pais’ (cooked with banana leaf) Yeah, it’s very expensive now. You should blog about this fish someday. Not many people know about this fish. 🙂

      Yes, pa’is is very very very nice! I have blogged about ikan buris here:
      …and here…
      …and here…
      …and I’ve ikan pa’is here too:

  18. i like steam patin. it has lots of natural oils and the flesh should be tender and smooth. yummy

    I didn’t use to as what I had before had the mud smell…but I do now. Really nice!

  19. I’m “allergic” to those fishy taste and smell hence would normally go for those “safe” fishes. Did you know sometimes in sweet and sour fish (meat) not the whole fish, if they add in the fish skin inside it will taste fishy to me too ><

    Most of the time, they just use those frozen fish fillet, imported – dory, most of the time. Some are nice, some are bland, quite tasteless…maybe old stock, frozen for too long – I’m not crazy about those. Oooo… fish skin! I like!!! 😉

  20. I’ve not tasted patin before, but my favorite fish has to be either the salmon or golden pomfret. I think it depends on the way you cook the fish, and how fresh it is.

    Silver pomfret, you mean? VERY expensive and a bit mild or bland for me – I prefer fish with a stronger taste but I don’t like the smell that salmon has.

  21. Patin is a very good fish, and expensive too. Just a simple steam with lots of ginger, and it’s so yummy… 🙂

    Yes, but have to be fresh and just make sure it’s not from the mud pools in the farms.

  22. Patin is a very good fish. I have eaten twice. I like their smooth meat.

    You get it for the steamed dish in restaurants here – mostly tapah but sometimes they have patin. I guess the suppliers of good patin will sell to the restaurants…and all that we have left at the market would be the ones with the mud smell from the fish farms. 😦

    1. Haiyo sorry ya. I wanted to say I’ve eaten twice. Will probably visit here more often by next week. Still busy with reports…

      Ya, I was just wondering why I haven’t seen you around for a while. No worries, I’ll still be here… 😉

  23. Patin is one of my fave fishes. Actually I like it for that “patin” scent that many people dislike. Interesting preparation of steaming. Must give it a try one of these days since we acquired a new steamer 😀

    If it’s the original smell of the fish, I like! Very nice…and not as strong as others like bawal hitam or tenggiri (but I also like)…but unfortunately, we get those with the horrible mud smell. Not nice at all…

  24. Ohh I have cooked fish with assam sauce before but not by steaming. Usually cooked the sauce and fish together on the pan. Will try steaming next time. Easier job for me too! Hehe

    I do that too but this time around, I decided to steam it. Fish has to be fresh and nice.

  25. oh, that looks good! good patin is very rare at the market, because this fish is very much sought after by the foochows in sibu. have to have some connections with the fishmonger to be able to get hold of one. most of the patin available at central market are farmed fish.

    That’s the problem – I don’t know any…and if not for Annie’s mum, I would not be enjoying it either. I guess all the good ones all booked by the restaurants here and I would not want to buy those from the market, those farmed ones…

  26. I rarely eat Ikan Patin. Its quite expensive here. Alot of bones too.

    Bones? No leh? Same as bawal or tenggiri – the big one in the middle, that’s all.

  27. I love patin fish coz of the relative lack of bones – you’re right, there’s just a big one down the dorsal fin (think it’s the dorsal) and no tiny bones that gets stuck in your mouth!

    Yup…but if cooked in soup, you may need to deal with those along the sides – the fins, once the fish has disintegrated from over-boiling.

  28. There are several ways to reduce the ‘mud’ smell and it has all got to do with the skin because that’s where the smell comes from (basically it is because patin are pond bottom feeder where the mud are). Some dip the fish in boiling water and some use lime and both basically remove a thin layer of slim off the skin. As a scientist, I took a step further to prove my theory so I actually asked my mum to go to market to buy a patin that is confirmed to be farmed and with smell. Now you see all sort of advertisements about how powerful are washing powder, right? So I actually used washing powder to wash the skin and you see lots of slim being washed off. Then we steamed it and nobody would touch it except me and yes, there isn’t much smell. Not for the faint hearted.

    Eyewwwww!!!! Soap? Never mind, I’d just opt for other types of fish, thank you very much.

    1. Told you it’s not for the faint hearted. Any way, I only tried it once just to prove it works. What scientist would do just to prove a point.

      KIV, who knows I may need to do it someday…but not with soap. 😀

  29. Here, we eat the Patin. In Thailand, there are plentiful of them especially near the temple by the river and nobody catches them. Same fish, different treatment.

    Is it considered sacred by any chance?

    1. That’s what I thought also.

      We’ll never know…like how some people will not eat some kinds of fish as they are considered “unclean” – saw somewhere, the ikan keli (catfish) head must be of a certain shape bla…bla…bla…

  30. Are those lady Fingers like Okra?

    Yup, the one and the same. Great for vegetable curry – with bean curd sticks, fried tofu, brinjal (eggplant), pineapples. Nice!

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