Master blaster…

Things were much simpler way back then in the good ol’ days and people would be able to tell the quality or snob appeal of the full 10-course Chinese banquet dinner by looking at the amount and the size of the sharks’ fins in the soup that was usually served as the 2nd dish in the meal.

There did not use to be so many different kinds of fish before – more often than not, you would get a plate of steamed white pomfret (pek chio/ikan bawal putih)…

…and of course, the host would have a great deal more to flaunt if it was a really big one and one that was truly very fresh.

If the coveted pek chio (bawal putih) was deep-fried or worse, served with a sauce…

…everyone would know that it was not so fresh and they had to resort to deep-frying and adding a stronger-tasting sauce…

…to camouflage the fact, even though it could have been cooked that way by choice – I, for one, would prefer my fish this way.

As a matter of fact, one could tell right away the instant one started eating the fish as to whether it was fresh or not. It was not difficult at all to tell when it had been frozen using the phak hong (air-blasted, in Hokkien) method whatever that might mean especially if you are truly a discerning fish eater. That was why I thought the fish we had at our Chap Goh Meh dinner…

…was very good but my brother-in-law insisted that the sweet and sour one my missus cooked for our Chinese New Year’s Eve Reunion Dinner…

…would win hands down. Later, my missus told me that it was because they had used the phak hong or chio whereas the one I bought for our dinner had not undergone that same process so everyone could detect its superior quality in comparison.

Thankfully, most of the restaurants and chu char (cook & fry) shops and stalls here will not resort to using this phak hong fish…

…so we can be sure that what we are served in the end will be very much to our satisfaction.

These days, more and more types of fish have appeared at the dinner table ranging from the super-expensive and prestigious upriver fishes – the empurau or the semah or the tangadak and the rest, the also very expensive imported cod fish…

…also called the snowfish or the Alaskan fish and others such as the tapah or if you opt for a relatively cheap package, you may end up getting a tilapia instead.

Author: suituapui

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

6 thoughts on “Master blaster…”

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the changes in the types of fish served at Chinese banquets. It’s interesting to hear about how people used to judge the quality of a meal based on the size and amount of sharks’ fins in the soup. It’s also good to know that many restaurants and food stalls still prioritize using fresh fish and avoiding the use of the phak hong method. It seems like there are more options available these days, from expensive upriver fishes to cheaper options like tilapia. Nonetheless, I agree that being able to discern the freshness of a fish is still an important skill to have as a discerning eater.

    1. I guess this is a very Asian thing, very Chinese, in particular when it comes to the matter of “saving face”, something very important to them. Whatever it takes, they must not lose out to any Tom, Dick or Harry. But obviously we would know our fish better than westerners who go for the convenience of filleted fish instead of buying them whole.

  2. Ikan bawal hitam is my family’s favourite fish. It doesn’t come cheap these days, with prices ranging from RM30 – 33/kg. I like the or chio done in the way like all the pictures above…😋🤤

    1. Yes, that’s more or less that same price here for the good ones, those not phak hong ones. They are easy to get at the stall near my house but we do not get a lot of different varieties like before when Mdm Lau was running the business.

  3. Fish!! Whatever way it is cooked, it is always my favourite. Black pomfret is always on the dining table as my mum usually buy this or mackerels. Just deep fried and they are good enough. Now mackerels and black pomfret’s are getting more expensive.

    1. Now that you mentioned it, I hardly buy mackerel these days as it is hard to find big ones, a slice as big as the palm of my hand. If there is any so big, it is very expensive and just buying one will mean there will be a lot to cook!

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

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