Wild river patin is an exotic white fish which will grace any grand dinner.
In the 1960's in Sibu, patin was sold in slices which weighed more than 400 grams each. And patin as big as 8 kg was often caught in the Rajang River to the delight of both fishermen and the consumers.
Restaurants like Yien Ching Restaurant would serve just one whole big slice of patin in a deep bowl, and that would be enough for 10 people. Those were memorable days of eating patin in that way. Steamed in a huge crockpot the patin steak was aromatic and awesome!!
Today the serving of patin is different. A small fish of about 2 kg is butterflied and steamed in Foochow , Teochiew , Cantonese, or even Hakka style would be served. Sometimes only the head is served as a tom yam dish.
Pond raised patin is often smelly and not worth buying. So we usually look out for the big ones, and hope that the fishmonger would sell them by the slices or "steaks".
My mum used to portion a fairly large patin she bought into three. She would have the head made into soup with kiam chye, the middle portion steamed with kim chiam and wood ears, and the tail cut up and cooked in a soy sauce sauce which would be so good with porridge.
Recently I was told of a story of a great mother in law. She loved her homesick daughter in law from another country. The whole family would eat one fish but when she saw that her daughter in law was not comfortable with the recipe she used (lots of kim chiam and wood ears which she was not used to) So the mother in law fillet the fish into two, deep fried one side for the daughter in law and the rest of the family ate the other half. The daughter in law was so touched that she promised that she would learn to eat kim chiam and wood ears. A few years later she became a very good "Foochow" daughter in law to the great happiness of the family.
Eating of fish together as a family is always such a loving bonding time. I never forget how wonderful my mother has been when she would carefully prepare the fish dish for us, especially Patin.