From tenggiri batang to ikan kurau, these regional swimmers taste great and are good for you. By Estelle Low

Fish are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which means they are great for the eyes, brain, heart and just about every other part of your body. They are also high in essential vitamins D and B2 as well as minerals including iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium and potassium.

The Health Promotion Board of Singapore recommends eating two or more servings of fish a week. One serving amounts to about 90g. In general, a cooked serving provides about 20g of protein (about one third of the average recommended daily intake for an adult), plus less than 160 calories and 100mg of cholesterol.

We asked food blogger ( and general practitioner Dr Leslie Tay to identify some of the region’s great-tasting fish from wet markets and supermarkets (yes, other than salmon!), and Makansutra’s KF Seetoh for the best ways to cook them. Enjoy!


1. Orange-spotted grouper
Also known as Brown-spotted grouper, kerapu bintik jingga (Malay), jia kau (Hokkien) or shi ban yu (Mandarin).
Found in Shallow waters, coral reefs and mangrove areas.
Identify it Orange or brown spots, large mouth and sharp teeth.
Cook it Steamed with soya sauce and julienned ginger or fermented bean paste; deep-fried and topped with oyster sauce.
Taste Sweet and slightly oily, and comes off in large flakes.

2. Yellowstripe trevally
Also known as Smooth-tail trevally or ikan kuning (Malay).
Found in Shorelines.
Identify it The markings are similar to the yellowtail scad, but it’s much smaller.
Cook it Deep-fried till crispy and served with nasi lemak.
Taste Slightly oily, firm flesh.

3. Yellowtail scad
Also known as Horse mackerel, selar (Malay) or sek la (Hokkien).
Found in Coastal waters.
Identify it Streamlined elongated body, vertical stripes and deeply forked tail.
Cook it Fried and served with sambal; stewed in assam pedas (spicy and sour Malay curry); boiled and flaked for Penang laksa.
Taste Slightly oily, firm flesh.


4. Asian sea bass
Also known as Barramundi, sia kap (Malay) or kim bak lor (Hokkien and Teochew).
Found in Rivers and shorelines.
Identify it Silvery to dark grey body and slightly upturned mouth.
Cook it Steamed with fermented bean paste or Thai-style with lemongrass, chilli and lime sauce; deep-fried or grilled and served with chilli.
Taste Slightly earthy.

5. Flathead grey mullet
Also known as Sea mullet, andapong (Malay) or or hu (Hokkien and Teochew).
Found in River mouths and shorelines.
Identify it Long, silver-white body and flattened head.
Cook it Steamed and served with light sauces.
Taste Mild and delicious, firm flesh.

6. Malabar blood snapper
Also known as Scarlet sea perch, red snapper, merah (Malay), ang sai (Hokkien) or hoong see (Cantonese).
Found in Deep waters and reefs.
Identify it Oval body with red or crimson scales.
Cook it Stewed in Indian curry or assam pedas; deep-fried and topped with caramelised onions, chilli and soya sauce.
Taste Similar to the grouper but with a firmer texture.


7. Silver pomfret
Also known as Ikan bawal putih (Malay) or pek cheoh (Hokkien or Teochew).
Found in Coastal waters.
Identify it Flat body, forked tail fin and long pectoral fins.
Cook it Steamed with preserved sour plum, ginger and mushrooms; fried with black beans.
Taste Delicate and tender.

8. Narrow-barred Spanish mackerel
Also known as Tenggiri batang (Malay), tek ka (Hokkien) or chuk kau (Cantonese).
Found in Coastal waters and reefs.
Identify it Long, torpedo-like body, pointed mouth and scores of narrow, vertical lines down the sides.
Cook it Sliced in fish soup or porridge; grilled with sambal; flaked for otah; deep-fried with black bean sauce.
Taste Strong, rich flavour with firm texture.

9. Slender fivefinger threadfin
Also known as Kurau (Malay) or ngor hu (Hokkien).
Found in Shallow waters with muddy bottoms.
Identify it Dark grey, slender body.
Cook it Steamed with preserved sour plum and ginger; braised with light sauces; simmered in Indian curries; grilled in Nonya otah.
Taste Fairly sweet, firm flesh.

Source :


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