Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Fish That's a Must Have for Chinese New Year - Prosperity / White-Belly / Rabbit Fish (发财鱼 / 白肚鱼)

It's the second day of the lunar new year celebration and my family was about to leave my uncle's place when my cousin persuaded us to wait for a few more minutes for a delicacy said to be a must-have in the new year. 

Two plates of steamed fish appeared shortly on the dining table; i know the significance of fish, given its pronunciation in Chinese which sounds like the word "in excess'. However, don't be too fast to discount this common-looking species.

Popular among the Teochews (a Chinese dialect group) and known as white-belly fish (beh-tor-heu), legend told of a man who prospered right after having the rabbitfish and the saltwater fish kind of became the must-eat for good luck and prosperity for the rest of the year. Why the man didn't think of pork, poultry, beef and vegetables is something i don't wish to argue since i am not THAT man. 

My cousin didn't seem to be aware of that legend although she was more excited to share information on the item i should look out for while eating the fish; she termed it the "bulb" and said that it appears only during the lunar new year period! 

One fish was sacrificed cut open for my viewing pleasure and she pointed to that white stuff at the tummy area. When she claimed that only the male fish is blessed with the "bulb"; my first thought was of disgust. 

Not an expert on fish, i can only draw reference to mammals and i looked at her with an appalling expression:"Don't tell me that's the fish testicle?!" Anatomically speaking, i had a rough inkling that's not the answer and it slowly dawned on me that it's likely solidified semen! 

The female fish was obviously full of fish roe, defined by the yellowish tinge even though it could have also been mistaken as lung. 

Cooked fish roe and semen (known as milt) side by side - cooked roe was commonly eaten and i shall not say much about it. The milt (i eventually gave in to my cousin's relentless persuasion by taking a small bite) tasted like soft tofu with a seafood flavour; should i not know the truth, i might have really enjoyed it. 

Not interested in roes and milt? No worries; just go for the fish meat which was tender and sweet without any bitterness from even the area surrounding the stomach! Leave the roes and milt to those willing parties! 

Have them with sambal chilli and huat for the rest of the year! p.s. I didn't win the 4D yesterday and i sure didn't become the sole winner of the over S$9 million TOTO draw today. 


Where To Get Them
From the fishmonger in the wet market. As mentioned earlier, you can only find the fish with the roe / milt sometime before / during the lunar new year period. 

Teochews might be the biggest eaters for the fish but other dialect groups in Singapore would not have given it a miss given its auspicious significance; hence, prices can shoot up to over S$100 a kilogram during this period. My uncle got it for about S$40 a kilo from his regular fishmonger.  


  1. Haha! I totally hate this fish. It stinks! :P

    1. Aiyo!!! Not during this period of time!!!


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