Different colours…

The ikan bawal (pomfret) or what we call ikan duai locally is one of the more popular fish around here but the white ones are held in much higher esteem than the black ones. For this reason, it is often featured as one of the dishes in a Chinese banquet here, be it for a wedding or for other auspicious occasions.

Usually, the pek chio, as it is called in Hokkien, is steamed…

Steamed pek chio

…and for that purpose, it has to be very fresh so one would be able to enjoy the sweet, smooth and succulent meat and the size of the fish would be a fair indication of the price of the “table”, that is the cost of the whole dinner. There have been times when it is fried and served with a pale/colourless sweet and sour gravy (minus the tomato sauce) with lots of chopped garlic, chili, spring onions and what not…and the general feeling is that the fish is not fresh and served this way, it would not be noticed. I actually like it very much when they do it like that and needless to say, it is anytime better than when the fish is not fresh and is kind of bland, not nice and sweet at all and they just go ahead and steam it and serve.

You will never find the black pomfret featured at such dinners but you may see it served at the smaller restaurants, food shops and stalls for the simple reason that it is cheaper and thus, does not have the snob appeal that its white counterpart enjoys. Usually, it is deep-fried and served…

Fried or chio

…but at most Chinese places, it is more commonly served as a sweet and sour fish dish…

Sweet and sour or chio

These days, however, even these or chio, the Hokkien name for it, is no longer as cheap as it used to be.

I bought a big one the other day and the seller told me to steam it. Steam the or chio? That is not the usual practice as the black pomfret has a stronger smell and is not all that suitable for steaming but the seller insisted that it would be very very nice as the one he was selling me was really very fresh. Well, in the end, I didn’t as I wanted to try this instant paste that I received recently from my cousin in KK, Sabah

Chef Ricky pes asam nyonya

– the pes asam nyonya and I added some brinjal and the sour variety – the terung Dayak to it…

Asam black pomfret

…and it turned out really great!

Even though I did not steam it as the seller said I should, we really enjoyed it as the fish was indeed as he said, very fresh – so sweet and nice…

Fresh fish

…though I cannot remember how much I paid for it now. I bought this big one and a very big ikan tengirri/bay ka (mackerel) and at least a dozen or more of these kilat (silvery/shiny) that can either be steamed or fried…


I always consider this one to be a smaller, more affordable version of the white pomfret but these were very big – a whole lot bigger than the palm of my hand (some are very small) and altogether, I think I paid around RM90…but that is all right as I had enough fish to last me way over a week – in fact, I still have quite a lot of the tenggiri in the freezer and especially when the fish is really fresh and nice, I do think it is worth it.

Author: suituapui

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

18 thoughts on “Different colours…”

  1. Good job with the fish, looks delicious. but my eyes on the steamed fish, i like.

    Healthier too but the fish must be very very fresh plus not all fish is suitable for steaming, depends on the taste and smell. Come to think of it, I think do they have steaming for fish in cuisines other than Chinese?

  2. The very small white pomfret is great to be deep fried too. Other than that those bigger white pomfret is best to be steamed.
    I usually deep fry my black pomfret and some day if in good mood, I will fry some onion add in dark soy sauce and sugar to caramelise the onion and pour onto my deep fried pomfret.
    Yours are nice. Anything is good for me as long as it is fish!!

    Chef Ricky. Hmm. Must be a renowned chef from Sabah?

    He’s West Malaysian, I think – peranakan, baba…not sure from Malacca or Penang – the cooking, not exactly the same. He was in KK on a promo or something so that was why my cousin was able to get his instant pastes – not available at the shops there…nor here. 😦

    My girl loves the small kilat deep fried till very crispy, can eat the bones. I still think the bigger ones are nicer but of course, they cost a bomb! 😦 The black ones, I would just deep fry and eat like that usually…while my missus will cook sweet and sour with it or with the fermented beans sauce, also nice.

  3. I also like deep fried fish with asam gravy or sweet-sour tomato gravy, but they say if it is served like that, means the fish is not fresh.. I’m a simple eater, I don’t mind actually, hehe..

    Best to just steam or deep fry, if the fish is very very fresh. Not so bad with just the sauce and gravy, poured over it and served. If cooked in curry or some asam or tom yam soup, those would go into the fish and drown out its nice taste if it is very fresh…but on the other hand, this will make the not-so-fresh fish taste better.

  4. For me, black pomfret, deep fried or cook sweet & sour…..for kilat & mackerel, I prefer deep fried only while as for very fresh white pomfret, steaming is best.

    Can steam kilat too but if they are too small, we’d just fry. Not as nice as white pomfret though, there is a difference in taste and texture, not just the size.

    We never steam mackerel – deep fry, cook sweet and sour or with other sauces, assam or curry. Try cooking that with my masak kunyit recipe, add brinjal…very very nice!

  5. I love to eat fish, in this the one with nyonya taste is the one I love the most!

    Assam fish has always been a favourite of mine – I think I like it more than curry.

  6. I used to like this type of fish a lot when i was a kid but not now…. i find them very fishy these days

    But you love salmon, don’t you? I am not fond of the fishy smell but my girl loves it! To each his own, I always say! I would much sooner go for these – expensive though they may be, they are so very much cheaper than those frozen imported ones and in our not-so-good economic situation right now, I would not be able to afford those all that often, poor ol’ pensioner…me! 😦

    There are some fish that I do not like so much…because of the taste but they are the favourites of many like tapah, sultan and so on. The worst would be the farmed ones with the horrendous mud smell. These are fine – I enjoy them, as long as they are fresh. I have had the not-fresh ones at some ikan bakar places here – you can bet I would never go to those places and order that ever again…and even at some of the big Chinese restaurants around here – I have had those at times…unfortunately. 😦

  7. i love black pomfret, esp when served sweet and sour. during chinese festive season, my mum will cook this dish. it is selling at around A$15 per kg for white pomfret and A$13 per kg for black pomfret in Brisbane.

    Oh? You’re new here? Don’t recall seeing you around but never mind, always welcome and thanks for dropping by and commenting.

    Guess you’re in Brisbane. My cousin and family is there too. Gosh!!! That is very very cheap. The prices are almost similar. White pomfret is lighter, one big one would probably not cost as much as a black one there. It is a lot more expensive here. I guess in basic economics terms, demand exceeds supply. 😦

  8. We only get the frozen ones here in the bigger Chinese grocery shops. Love this fish.

    These days, they have freezing facilities on board the fishing ships so as soon as they are caught, they are frozen. There are some shops here selling those, very very fresh…but I always feel the weight that you pay for includes the ice. 😦 But once you defrost it and cook it right away, it is absolutely fresh.

    The sellers at the market may defrost for sale and freeze the unsold ones to sell the next day and the next and the next…so at times, the fish is not all that fresh, not so sweet and delicious anymore.

  9. steamed fish is the way to go, but the fish has to be fresh, if not you cannot use it to steam, but to deep fry, cooked with curry, or grilled instead.

    Janice loves fishes, especially steamed ones, and those are not cheap to order in any restaurant. They do say fishes are good for the brains, hence I’m cultivating the fish eating habit with my 2 kids now. For me, it’s too late, i’m more of a meat person, seafood, not so.

    Exactly what I said! Yup…can’t order these at the restaurants. It will cost a bomb. That is why we go for the fish fillet, sweet and sour – those are more affordable. You’re not into fish? Anytime better than meat or any of the other types of seafood.

  10. this was one of my favourite fishes growing up, though i do recall my grandma saying that white was more expensive than black, so we usually had black, reserving white for once every few weeks only πŸ™‚

    I think I had it better when I was young – we would have it interchangeably but we had white a lot as my father liked it more – black would have to be sweet and sour or with some kunyit sambal, he would not eat it plain, deep-fried. He’s more particular about food…not me – I eat anything and everything, mostly. Hehehehehe!!!!

  11. Black pomfret is my pa’s favourite. My mum will pan-fry it before drizzling dark soya with fried ginger over it.

    I love to eat the very fresh ones just like that. Will only dip in soy sauce or tomato sauce if not so fresh, bland…not so sweet and nice. Same with everything else, I do not resort to dips if the thing is really tasty.

  12. I always prefer deep fried fish and if it is cooked sweet and sour style, even more so!

    Everyone’s favourite, sweet and sour. If very very fresh, I like it just deep-fried plain – can eat and really enjoy the sweetness and freshness of the fish. My missus is the opposite – must have lots of chili, then only she will see it is nice.

  13. So many fish dishes. I like! I like! πŸ™‚

    My daughter “claims” she does not like fish; however, she gobbles up whatever fish dish I make. A few weeks ago, I made a spicy dish for her and my father they both liked it a lot. My BF had stopped by so he was able to sample it. He loved it and I sent him home with the leftovers.

    Lucky guy! I sure wouldn’t mind any leftovers too. We’d doggy-bag anything we can’t finish when eating out and that would save a little bit of work, just heat up for the next meal, no need to cook. Hehehehe!!! πŸ˜‰

  14. It’s true, the white promfet is highly regarded in Chinese banquet cuisine. I must be in the minority camp – I much prefer the black ones. Your fish look so fresh from your close-up photo. It’s actually healthier to eat steamed fish but fish must be fresh. But I love, love a deep fried ikan tenggiri accompanied with a big dollop of sambal tumis. Hands down winner for me!

    Well, I’m with you – I also prefer the black ones. Here, for banquets, the white pomfret is not top on the list – there are others like the tapah but I am not really a fan, just ok with it.

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. For food and other reviews, you may email me at sibutuapui@yahoo.com

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