This is the king of fish – Chinese grey promfret 斗鲳鱼 aka known as Dou Chang. It has been for centuries. It is 5 stars just like the Shangri-La(SGP), The Oriental(Bangkok), Waldorf Astoria(NY Manhattan), The Peninsula(HK) etcetera.
Today they refer to Empurau or Ritz-Carlton as 6 stars ostentation. Has the king lost its luminary?
Nevertheless, two weeks before Chinese New Year, prices of locally caught fresh pomfrets will rise to $100 or more especially if the catch is limited.
You cannot compare this king of fish to those served at wedding dinner.
All of them served in local restaurants are imported and preserved with formaldehyde. The king of fish will lose its texture, aroma and sweetness. Even house fly will distance away from it.
There is a place that has comparable quality. It is in Pontain Kechil, Johore.
The CNY seasonal price was RM300 or more.
The $100 bench mark started circa 1986. In those days, the normal price ranged from $30 per kg for table size of 1 kg or smaller to $25 for more than 1 kg. Today it is $45 irrespective of sizes. Link
Two weeks before CNY, most fishermen will try their luck on this king of fish. Just like the Pek Tor (Rabbit fish), this fish is in abundance during CNY period. Fishermen catching 50 pieces a night is not uncommon. Sadly, over the last two years, I haven’t got a chance to buy this locally caught fish.
Is it because of over fishing? I beg to differ.
There is very little area left for fishing due to extensive reclamation works and designated prohibited areas. Pomfrets’ natural habitat is anchored along the fairways (where all the ocean going vessels are moored or sailing) from the eastern anchorage in Changi waters to the western anchorage in Tuas waters. The latter and including other areas, these are OB (Out of Bounds).
☝️ The difference between fresh and frozen fish
Ten years ago, a fisherman friend specially reserved one such fish for me. He was very disappointed when I didn’t accept his offer. He casually remarked that I was frugal. I then opened up my car trunk to show him revealing a carton of twenty four cans of Calmex Mexican abalone. It was coded 10 and cost me $160 per can (Total cost of $3840!). They later found out that I would rather spend thousands of dollars buying the lucky CNY Pek Tor (Rabbit fish).
I got to enjoy eating Pomfrets all year round. It is good to have it for CNY but not a must have. It is not wise and I don’t pay 3 times the price just because demand is high on CNY. Rabbit fish is different, it is the only time of the year where male and female are both pregnant with milt and roe. To most Teochew, it is a must have for CNY.
Besides taste, grey pomfret aka Chinese pomfret has the best value for money. It is probably the easiest to slaughter and scale. The head and innards, weigh less than 5% of the entire fish. As for grouper, it is no less than 40%. Hence, at one kg, the pomfret meat is equivalent to having a two kg grouper.
We shall have it cooked Hong Kong style. It is definitely ample for 6 dinners. Let’s enjoy ourselves this evening.
Every Tues we golf in our club. After golfing, usually they had dinner at restaurants within district 16 or 15. Since I drink, I seldom joined them cuz it’s either too far and also the food is not exciting. It’s quite boring. Some how, it started some 6 months ago when I invited them to Kopi Soh’s “Everyday Come” coffee shop in Tampines with fresh seafood supplied by yours truly. Link
It was an unforgetable experience. Today some of the wives will free themselves and made their way by taxi to meet their husbands for this seafood dinner organized by yours truly. Wives are charged at $10 which includes dark beer. I always do a little write-up answering their expected questions.
Written by Freddie Tan