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Malaysian Seafood

Malaysian seafood are abundant, in quantity and also variety.

Fresh PrawnsWith thousands of kilometers of shoreline as well as numerous fertile lakes and rivers, seafood thrives. Malaysians also love to eat seafood, which is prepared in many ways. Malaysian seafood restaurants are available at almost every corner. Despite the higher than average price, diners flock to these restaurants.

Steamed, baked, curry, stir fried, with soup or braised seafood.  We have them all.  Fish, shellfish and crustaceans both from salt water as well as fresh water are consumed all year round.  The way Malaysians prepare seafood is pretty different from the rest of the world because we use plenty of herbs and spices which grow all around us.

The seafood is also preserved by processing them into salted fish and also pickles. Some farms freeze or process their produce and export them overseas.  Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong are some of the places where these products are shipped to.

Dried Ikan Bilis
Dried Ikan Bilis

Fish are caught in the wild seas or bred in fish farms. Fresh wild fish are usually more expensive than those that are bred in the fish farms.

However, the advance in modern aqua culture techniques enable farmer to breed expensive, much sought after species that can grow big in captivity.

The mangrove is another natural place where fish come to breed.  I have seen blue spotted stingrays swimming freely under the jetty at Merang village at a river mouth. 

The locals also catch garoupa fish fry for sale.  They use a simple trap made out of the branches of the casuarina trees.  By leaving this trap for a few days, the fish fry which were attracted to seek shelter there are captured.  These fish fry command quite a high price to fish farmers. 

Kelong is a traditional way to breed fish (man-made fish shelter, surrounded by nets).  They are built in the middle of the sea.  Fish farms,instead, are built in rivers or lake (some are built natural lakes, some are man-made).  Abandoned tin mines are also developed into fish farms in some suitable places.

bbq mullet
BBQ Mullet

Local fishermen and fishing enthusiasts proudly bring home their catch for the family.  Many organizations also hold annual fishing contest.  During squid seasons, boats go out at night in droves to lure these sea animals (candat sotong). Fishing industry is indeed a big business in this country.

Other than whole fish, the fish are made into fishballs, fish cakes and also dried snack. Malaysians consume seafood for breakfast, lunch, dinners and during special occasions.

Fresh cockles or
Cockles (kerang)

Nasi lemak, the national favorite is incomplete without sambal ikan bilis

Not only ikan bilis, cuttefish, squids and prawns also find their way into the sambal.  On the east coast (Kelantan and Terengganu), the dish nasi dagang especially, uses ikan aya (or ikan tongkol) - a kind of tuna curry as the main dish.   In the wild rivers of Pahang, one can get ikan toman (giant catfish), ikan tapah and also ikan jelawat (also known as the Sultan Fish, because of its prohibitive price). During the Chinese New Year, Yee Sang is a fish dish that cannot be left out.Laksa is a local delicacy that uses fish based stock to make the gravy for its noodles.

Sea Cucumber
Sea Cucumber (gamat)

Come night time, the open air, Malaysian seafood BBQ restaurants (ikan bakar) start firing their barbecue pits and entice customers with smoky, aromatic smell wafting all around.  Many towns and small villages around Malaysia have special areas that serve unique seafood BBQ, with their special dipping sauces.  Mmm...yummy!  Favorite fish for barbecue includes garoupa, tilapia and also stingray.

fish head curry
Fish head curry

Besides fish, other crustaceans such as prawns and crabs are also very popular. Mollusc which includes oysters, mussels, cockles, cuttlefish, squid and octopus are also daily favorite.

Cockles (kerang) is one the cheapest seafood available. It is interesting to see how this mollusc are harvested in Kuala Sepetang.

Despite health warning that consuming too much seafood is dangerous to health (in terms of cholesterol level, toxic from purine and even hepatitis threats), not many Malaysians can resist their seafood treats.

Other exotic seafood such as sea cucumber, seaweed and sea urchins are also available.  The way to cook them is limited only to the chef's imagination. In fact, fish head curry is a big favorite here in Malaysia and commands high price. There are many secret recipes to cook the fish head including claypot fish head curry.

Yes, some are even consumed raw like oysters, of course. Malaysian seafood is definitely an interesting way to have your meals.

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