Deliciously deceptive ‘Ikan Baung’ still in high demand among locals

Freshly caught ‘Ikan Baung’ on display at the fish market.

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By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, March 17: ‘Ikan Baung’, a species of Mystus catfish that is quite common in rivers around the city, are delicious when cooked but can pack a punch if mishandled.

There are many tales of fishermen being stung by its spines which can be found on the edge of its dorsal fins, which can be razor sharp, after landing the catfish and attempting to remove their fishing hooks from its mouth.

They can also pose a hazard during the cooking preparation process, and despite this natural deterrent, they are still prized by fishermen as they make tasty meals when prepared right.

Commercially, this local freshwater fish is not as famous in name as the expensive ‘Empurau’ or ‘Semah’ fish, but in the city’s various fish markets, it does command a relatively hefty price.

This reporter was a little surprised that it fetches a price of RM28 per kilogramme, especially if it is caught from freshwater rivers or big lakes, as it has a more savoury taste in its meat.

“This catfish is always in demand ,and we usually have a fresh supply that come from the rivers. The ones that we’re selling today were caught in the Mambong Dam area,” a fishmonger told DayakDaily when met at one of the city markets.

“This species of Mystus catfish is popular and there are many types and the bigger ones can fetch a more lucrative price than the size I sold today,” she added.

In a rural setting, ‘Ikan Baung’ is popular, especially in villages where other relatives are invited to join a meal and when the fish are caught in large amounts.

‘Ikan Baung’ cooked in fermented durian paste, broth and lemongrass.

The local favourite dish prepared by local natives is ‘Ikan Baung pansuh’ or cooked in bamboo culm dish.

Others prepare it with fermented durian paste broth, while some prefer a more spicy flavour such as prepared with ‘Asam Pedas’, or cooked as fish broth with ginger and lemon grass, steamed with canned salted black beans and many more.

The next time you visit a fish market, glace at the freshwater fish section and look out for a fish that has whiskers, or barbels, and there is a pretty high chance that you will be looking at a species of the deceptively dangerous, but delicious, ‘Ikan Baung’. — DayakDaily