When we were young we ate so many different kinds of fish caught in the river and the sea. Sometimes we literally had the free fish given to us by God (Dad was a keen fisherman who could use hooks and traps especially the bubu...)
And I remember that sometimes Dad would share his pailful of fish with some of our employees (Pulau Kerto) especially the bony ones. Their children who were my playmates would then have a fish in their hands throughout the evening. That was their "snack" or "tea". And I could hear the crunchiness of the fish in their hands. To me it was their keropok and I would watch them eat and play at the same time
I would have my meal later..sitting properly at the table with the family Conservative Chinese style. And we would all eat quietly too with only Dad saying a few words. Mum would be holding the youngest while we ate. She would always eat later. (This sounds very much like a paragraph from "The Good Earth" by P.S. Buck..)
Dad would select his own fish - the finger sized ensulai and prawns for us. We might have Ikan Baong or a small tapah. All these depended on what the tide would bring to him (and us). Occasionally we had a big Mata Merah for dinner to my mother's delight. It was especially meaningful when we had visitors staying over night and it was almost like a festival when we had a good fish on the table. Those were the days when we literally had "from the river to the table" kind of meals as we had no refrigerator at home even though my father was the manager of the Ice Factory.
But the other seeing my friend frying her fish in this way...all my memories of my younger days flooded back quickly....and I can still smell the aroma of fish frying in a small kuali in the wooden house(workers' quarters) behind the Ice Factory. We all ate early at about 5 p.mm. in those days because we wanted to save our fuel be it kerosene or electricity. By night fall all of us children would be sent to our bedroom and kept under the mosquito nets.
|Sweet yellow fish which is very bony|
|This is how your seasoned fish can be sliced right across the fish body till the skeletal portion|