Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fish on your platter?

(Image from the web)

In the Chinese restaurants, you might see some tanks with live fish . So, you get to pick your choicest. The attendant scoops it with a net and and disappears into the kitchen. Then you wait, sip cups of tea and chat. How gleefully you and your guests greet the nice platter of steamed fish! Hmmm... the aroma of the ginger, shaoxing wine(chinese rice wine), and light soya sauce and the spring onion sitting atop the white flesh of the steamed fish whets the palate!

I'm talking about the soon hock, also known as marble goby or ikan ketutu, (Oxyeleotris marmoratus) one of the most expensive table fish in Malaysia.

My friend, May and I happen to witness the soon hock - babies and adult under the tender loving care of Mr R. It was a surprising 'discovery' that morning. We were looking for plants and we found fish - soon hock in different surroundings, scientific and sterile.

The natural habitat of the soon hock is the brackish waters of the streams, canals and lakes. This predatory fish is found in many Asian countries including Malaysia Now, there's a growing industry of rearing it in ponds and former mining pools. Soon hock is successfully spawned and reared under artificial conditions. However, the mortality is high during the larval stages. It is a major problem in the mass production of this species.

Thought I'd share our encounter with Mr R who gave us a peek into his daily routine of minding soon hock fingerlings. We didn't linger long as Mr R was busy and we were his unexpected visitors! We thanked him for sharing his work with us. Cheekily I wished him well with his 'babies' !!

The fingerlings are so tiny I had to squint my eyes to cries of, ' Where? Where? Oh! I see them!' Detecting the quite colourless ones in the water can be a little tricky - barely 3 weeks old. Food like algae is given to a different population in each pail , to chart the growth. Others which have grown bigger are easy to spot.

Looking after his 'babies'. Mr R is seen changing the water. He explains this is necessary to prevent a build-up of ammonia which will cause the fish to die.

Mr R's interest in marine biology keeps him busy a few days in this lab. He works closely with the researcher, keeping data and carrying out the necessary care of the fish.

Many buckets in the lab - all well utilized for the experiments.

Months into years of research to cultivate the soon hock for the commercial market.

I thought the plastic tubes were just to serve as resting places. More to this. The hollows are for the soon hock which tend to be solitary. Some were seen hiding inside the tubes.

One of the mating pair in another tank.

The other partner of the mating pair in the tank. Isn't he handsome? Note his large head, symmetrical patterning on the dorsal surface and on the rounded outstretched pectoral fins. He hardly moved as we watched him.

Feeding time for the immature soon hock. Frozen bloodworm is fed to the fish in the tank.

The lump of frozen bloodworm slowly breaking up. This causes a stir among the fish. And they swim to gulp their food.


  1. I love eating fish and your little story is very interesting. Thanks for sharing it..

  2. I love "Soon Hock" especially steamed type. The fresh fish ordered in restaurant is quite expensive.

  3. The fish fingerlings are adorable! I wish they didn't have to be eaten! Can't we keep them as pets? :(

  4. Nice to read your story !!!
    We eat many fish at home
    its yummieeeee......
    Thanks for sharing this information!!

  5. Hi
    Turquoise Diaries, same here - especially steamed fish. Hope you are keeping well.

    Anncoo,a favourite among many. perhaps prices will drop when there is more supply.

    ~Covert_operations '78~, a pet-lover like you will keep many in denial!!! the' fish-tarians' will miss a lovely fish like this! So will I!

    Anya,thanks! the fresher the catch the better too.

  6. I know. It's called marble goby and I've asked this so many one can give me the name, not even the restaurant. They all know it as soon hock. Yes, not expensive but super expensive. There was once we had some foreign guest here in KL and the waiter (they always do this) recomended soon hock. when I heard that I already knew it will cost a bomb..and it did.. Happy weekend Keats.

  7. Wow, very interesting! Mr.R is a very dedicated man. I love to see how clean the environment is. Have a wonderful weekend :)

  8. I love all kind of fishes, be it Soon Hock or mermaids.

    Don't like to look at fish tanks, there's always a sense of guilt.

  9. What a fishy post haha. Thanks for the insight of the expensive 'soon hock' eaten and experimented.

  10. Hi Keats! Interesting post!! Do you know that (except for some island countries (Maldives, etc) Portugal comes after Japan and before Norway and Malaysia in fish eating per capita? Amazing!!

    Blogtrotter 2 is still in Jamaica. Enjoy and have a great weekend!!

  11. This is interesting indeed and educational. Normally we do not pay attention on how anything gets in front of our face. Or into our mouth.

    And I am always impressed how people just opened up and warmed up to you.

  12. Hi
    M.Kate,I know,soon hock rings $$$$! it'd be good if people in the hospitality business like waiters etc can be more knowledgeable.

    Rosidah Abidin, Mr R should be retired but he enjoys his work.

    Shingo T, mermaids might be too elusive and brainy to be on your platter!!!

    CheaHS@n, just by accident to come across Mr R and his babies!!! I learnt something too.

    Trotter, wow! that's a lot of catch and a lot eaten! What types of fishes do you eat besides cod?

    Ocean Girl, thanks! i really wanted to linger a little longer but it was time to make a quiet exit with thanks. I know - GULP and instantly the food before our eyes is gone and we're no wiser except slurpy smacks of delight!!!

  13. The soon hock is a pricey fish but very popular. This is my first time of seeing a frozen blood worm - really looks like a lump of blood.

  14. Love the information, the pictures, and yes the dish is to die for right now. I'm so hungry and love fresh fishes!

  15. hi ya
    how much does this soon hock cost

  16. hi,
    Can i know where is the place?


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