Can’t forget you…

My Indonesian blogger friend, the Dentist-Chef, asked what fish it was…


…that we had for our Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner.

Then, the celebrity food blogger in Penang, Ken, asked if that was terubok (toli shad) and no, it wasn’t…nor was it the empurau…or what they call in Mandarin, the Wang Pu Liao (Cannot forget) – the same as in the lyrics of that very popular song from the movie, “Love without end” (不了情) starring the Asian movie queen, the late Lin Dai (林黛)…

Well, I sure would not be able to afford one, the poor ol’ pensioner that I am, no question about that. When my Singapore friend, Alfred, was in town, he snapped this photograph…

Empurau for sale
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

…at a shop here and he even went in to have a look…

Empurau, frozen
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

…and goodness gracious me!

Empurau, price
*Alfred’s photo on Facebook*

Just look at the price!!! *faints* That certainly makes me wonder whether it is the price that people will never forget or its very sweet, very smooth, very soft and so very delicious flesh.

They catch these freshwater fish – the empurau, semah and tangadak upriver and yes, I cannot deny that they taste really very good, absolutely out of this world, but I am not particularly fond of the small forked bones that they all have in them. I guess one would have to eat very very slowly to make sure they would not swallow any accidentally and at the same time, enjoy every little bit of the fish to make it worth the price…or get ready to fork out some dough to visit the ENT specialist in town.

I’ve tried the empurau before – they served it at Chinese restaurants before – just a slice of it, steamed, would cost a bomb! And once when I went to Belaga to give a talk to the students at a secondary school there, I had a very small one for dinner, about the size of the aforementioned slice. I hear that these small ones are more affordable and are equally tasty…if and when available. I’ve also enjoyed the ikan semah before – once, a friend went to Kapit and when she came back, she gave me one…and on another occasion, we had it at a dinner that my friend invited me to…and yes, it was very very nice too. From hearsay, I gathered that the empurau is 1st class, the most expensive selling for over RM200 a kg at one time while the semah would be somewhere in the region of RM150-200.

Well, what we had was the tangadak – the third in the class of the most expensive fish found here. I was quite surprised when my missus told me that she bought it at around RM50 a kilo – in the past, those from upriver would be going for at least around RM100-120 a kg. I asked if it was farmed but she said that the seller said no, it was freshly caught from the river. Yes, they do farm these fish now…and if they are from the huge lakes at the Batang Ai electricity dam, they would be just as nice, I am sure but if that is the case, I would expect those to come at very much cheaper prices, don’t you think?

Author: suituapui

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

23 thoughts on “Can’t forget you…”

  1. I really wonder how empurau fish taste like to command such a high price. Most probably I would never know because I won’t be paying that price to find out for sure.

    Neither would I. Lots of other things just as nice or even nicer…and a whole lot cheaper, the other types of fish, for instance. I would much sooner go for the kembong than the much more expensive white/silver pomfret (bawal putih), just to give one example.

  2. OMG, I would faint at those prices too! How can something possibly taste that good? Although sometimes I think prices have nothing to do with taste – it’s all about exclusivity. The less there is the higher the price. But that should also mean, we shouldn’t be eating those rare things as there’s not enough of them.

    Exclusivity. That’s a nice word for it. I would just put it down to snob appeal, something for people to flaunt their wealth, or in other words, to show off. Gross! I don’t think it is all that rare (though I did hear of the fish population being affected by the logging activities and pollution upriver) – the astronomical price is more because of the reputation and I heard that those sellers catching the fish – once they’ve caught a big one, they would sit back and relax for a month or two. Wouldn’t be THAT exclusive anymore if they keep on catching and there are lots available.

    Like I said, I’ve had it before and yes, it is very nice but no, I would not say that it is something to give an arm or a leg for. My father was a businessman and everytime he had associates from Singapore or even as far as NZ or the US, he would take them out for dinner and this fish would be on the menu…and of course, they loved it! It wasn’t THAT expensive then…and anyway, usually, it would be just a slice, steamed.

  3. Haha, cute name for a fish.. Honestly, I’m very bad at recognizing and naming fish.. I only know a few – sekk pann, mah yau, pak chong (pomfret), cod fish, that’s all.. Oooo maybe patin too..

    I’m no good either. You show me a tangadak, I would not even know what it is. I do know some of the common ones. Even patin, I may think it is tapah or buris…but I can tell the pomfrets from the rest, black or white.

  4. I haven’t had the chance to try any of the fish mentioned here, would really love to try one tho!

    Come, come. You go and buy one and we’ll take to a restaurant here and get them to steam and WE eat! Hehehehehe!!!!!

  5. I’m very bad at recognising fish or their names…I just know how to eat them…kekeke!! 😀 So, when I go to the wet market, I just point to the cut blocks of fish! I usually buy fish slices and hardly ever buy a whole fish except for pomfret and tau tai cheong (that I can recognise). So, what fish was that for your reunion dinner?

    Some of those slices can be very nice. They’re sliced because the fish is VERY big. There’s one that they call “ngor hu” but sometimes, it can be “lor kor” – hard, the texture is not nice at all and they say it may be like this if the fish is too big. Quite a waste of money if one ends up with any like that.

    The one at our reunion dinner – I mentioned that in the post…the third in the list of the most expensive fish around, tangadak. It was just ok, maybe frozen and kept for too long. I can say there are other cheaper types of fish that would be nicer.

  6. The steamed tangadak looks good.Maybe I have seen this fish but doesn’t know its name. I only eat the common ones which I know. Not familiar & very colourful fish I won’t dare to buy too. Almost fainted at the prices of the Emparau.

    Yup, we’d for the more common ones…and even those do not come all that cheap these days. 😦 I’m also not into those colourful ones.

  7. It has been a while since I tasted all those expensive fishes. Must go back to Kapit to eat them. Love the way my mil cooked them. Steamed or baked.

    Yes, your in-laws would be able to get these a lot more easily than us here. Nice, eh? Just be very careful with the bones – so many! 😦

  8. Holy crap! Almost RM1k for a fish! I guess I’ll just stick to cod fish as my luxury fish fix..

    I’d stick to some of my local favourites too, more affordable…and in my opinion, some are even nicer, minus all the bones.

  9. The other day I ate what they called “Sultan fish”… guess it must be pricey too… but there are so much bones inside the fish!! I took the challenge to eat more cos it was so wasted when I saw it lying on the plate unfinished… just have to be more careful.. but the flesh is not too bad… wonder why so expensive when there are so much bones embedded…
    Think I will not pay one thousand to buy the fish and eat… hahaha… won’t be able to sleep if I do…

    Sultan’s ok, has its own peculiar smell…ok with it, not really a fan but definitely not the farmed ones – most would have the horrible mud smell.

  10. I heart pain to pay that amount for the fish….

    Unless i kena strike big for the toto this coming fri CNY toto, haha….

    Not so expensive for you, divide the price by 2 something… 😉

  11. Fresh water fish, no thanks. I dislike the tiny bones and it is such a chore to eat! Goodness, I would faint too at that price tag. I would rather not eat hah..hah…. Oh, I remember my grandma told me the tragic life story of the late Lin Dai.

    Yes, she committed suicide, dunno why. Your grandma? Gee!!! Now I feel really old. Muahahahahaha!!!!! Yup, the problem with most freshwater fish – the bones, can be such a chore to eat. Terubok’s like that too – I think that’s a sea fish, not too sure.

  12. Thks for sharing the song! Donkey years since I’ve heard this song and almost 4gotten how Lin Dai looked like! Hahaha Is the man Kuan Shan?

    Yes, Kwan Shan. He used to be a popular leading man in those early Shaw Brothers movies. The good ol’ days!

  13. eeks, yeah, it’s scary to imagine that a single bite of the fish might cost us dozens of ringgit … maybe 20 of us could share and chip in to buy one fish and enjoy it together 🙂

    Probably enough for a bite each. Hehehehe!!!! Find a rich tycoon to host a dinner – you may find the fish in the menu and you can eat to your heart’s content.. 😉

  14. I’m learning a lot from your blog – the empurau is a fish I’ve never heard of and never likely to taste at that price! On the other hand I have a copy of that song in my collection.

    Many would not know of the empurau even around here but a lot would have heard of the “wang pu liao”, the Chinese name given to the notoriously expensive fish. Hah! You listen to Mandarin songs?

  15. I learn so much reading your posts, there are just so many things I have never tried…not sure if I would try some of the things or not, but I definitely enjoy reading your posts on everything you eat. 🙂

    Yes, there are many things here that are quite different – like in western cuisine, it is usually fish fillet, deboned meat and all that and it is not quite so in ours. Have to watch out for the bones when we eat.

  16. Gong Xi Fa Cai arthur! my uncle gave this fish as cny present a few years back, his friends farmed this fish in Kalimantan. Tengadak is not too bad, in hokkien we say bo hoo hay poon ho. 🙂 The flesh itself is not as silky as that of Empurau’s, at least it is not on the brink of extinction lah. I like it steam with homemade chilli sauce.

    Yes, we had it steamed but it was not very sweet. I suspect it was either farmed or it had been frozen for a while. We ourselves kept it for around two weeks – saving for Chinese New Year so that could be the explanation. At best, just ok…not really sensational. 😦

    Qong Xi Fa Cai to you too. Didn’t see your dad on Facebook today – he’s been very active sharing photos of what he has been eating all over town. 😉

  17. Wow. I don’t think I’ve eaten such expensive fish before. I find it hard to even eat ikan parang due to its bones but i like ikan parang. it’s so sweet. yums.

    And terubok too. Must have a lot of time at hand – eat slowly, pick out the bones slowly. Not to be eaten in a hurry!

  18. I do heard about some fresh water fishes in sabah that cost a fortune. My sil had ir few months ago when she visited KK. Too expensive for me ! Hahha

    Freshwater? In Sabah? KK? Never heard of that there. All I know is Sabah is a haven for SEAfood, fish included – especially in Sandakan, from the sea onto your plate. People would wait for the fishing boats to arrive to grab the fish, and it’s not as expensive there. A lot more pricey in KK but you can get a lot there too, fresh…but not cheap. I’m in Sarawak, Sibu…not the same.

All opinions expressed in my blog are solely my own, that is my prerogative - you may or may not agree, that is yours. To each his/her own.

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