Types of Eel Catfish

Eel Catfish

Scientific name: Ariidae

Locally, there are 6 species of catfish.

  1. Striped Eel Catfish,
    Teochew : Sua Muar( 砂鳗)
    Hokkien : Thor Sat
    Malay : Ikan Sembilang Karang
  2. Eel Catfish,
    Teachew : Wuea Cher(刷 or 月鼠)
    Hokkien : Thor Sat
    Malay : Ikan Sembilang

  3. Lowly Catfish,
    Teochew : Ng Kee Seng(黄支成 )
    Hokkien ; Seng Her
    Malay : Ikan Duri

  4. Smooth pined Catfish
    Teochew : Chiang Cher(尖薯)
    Hokkien ; Seng Her
    Malay : Ikan Duri

  5. Spotted Catfish
    Teochew : Seng Her(成魚),
    Hokkien : Seng Her
    Malay : Ikan Duri

  6. Sagor Catfish
    Teochew : Long Gang(隆钩)
    Hokkien : Thor Sat or Sai Seng
    Malay : Ikan Badukang

Catfishes are named for their prominent barbels, which resemble cat’s whiskers, Where visibility is poor, the barbels act as sense buds that smell and taste food.

The caudal fin(tail) of the Eel Catfish and striped Eel Catfish is oval in shape, just like an eel. Both have dark brownish body.

The others, commonly referred to as “Seng Her” or Ikan Duri have fork or scissors caudal fin. Their body colour is shining metallic light brown, green or grey.

The Sagor Catfish is light bluish grey with vertical darker stripes. It has a very strong offensive fishy smell that kids will keep distant away. Until the late 60s, toilets were built along the seashore. During high tide, the Sagor Catfish would visit those toilets in search for food. It was disgusting and Sagor Catfish was never eaten.

I knew of an erudite who is very adventurous with food. He told me that the Sagor Catfish is sweet and tasted like eel. To clear the fishy smell, he peeled off the skin and cleansed the blood. Though I could subscribe to his preferences but the older folks would nevertheless consider him an imbecile or retard.

The judgement of Catfishes as to the quality and flavour varies with each fish eater. While some consider them a delicacy for eel catfish, others simply dismiss them as low end and only eaten by the poor especially the Seng Her.

To the local Malays, eel Catfish is forever a favourite. Their preferred cooking is to boil with their classic sour and spicy gravy. (assam pedas)

The Indian restaurants or hawkers usually deep fried the Seng Her Catfish fillet coated with curry powder.

I still miss the authentic otah sold by the kampong Malay folks. The aroma, feel and pungent taste are excellent. You could feel the generous pieces of sliced fish that enhance the devoured joy of biting and chewing. Many suspected that the much despised “shit eater” Sagor Catfish was commonly consumed in those days. Nowadays, most otah tastes and feels like fish cake. You hardly see the fish. It is boring and without character. The closest to authentic otah are those imported from Muar, Johore. It cost a premium but is worth every penny.

Our family’s favourite are both the eel and striped catfish. Traditionally, in our family, we always cooked this in soup. The ingredients consist of salted dried radish ( known in Teochew as Chye Poh), crushed white pepper, crushed garlic and shredded ginger. I learned from the old folks that this cooking method was introduced by my late grandfather. Have you eaten or seen fish cooked with such ingredients?

Why is Chwee Kueh (steamed milled rice cake) a regular breakfast? How will it taste without the Chye Poh? It will definitely be tasteless!

Hopefully, this inconspicuous Chye Poh recipe for fish soup could satisfy every gourmet’s palate.

Written by Freddie Tan

About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I write for pleasure. I also write mainly for my family and friends.
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1 Response to Types of Eel Catfish

  1. Chao Zhouzi says:

    Would be helpful if we can have photo illustrating the different type.

    Liked by 1 person

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