“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day;
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
~ Chinese Proverb
I’m not sure if you’ll agree with me, but I see many similarities between selling fish in a market and selling yourself during an appraisal at the end of each year.
A fisherman would head out to the seas everyday, sailing out at the early hours of the morning and braving its wrath and fury without a clue what they will return with. Everything rest on faith and their experiences. They cast their nets out, haul it up and do it over and over again until the call of the first prayer. And before the sun breaks over the horizon, they return with their catch. Some days are good, while others are not. And when it’s dry, it’s really barren with not a tail to their name. Everyday, come rain or shine, they still go through the same routine. Working hard out at sea.
When they arrive at the port, they hand their catch over to their families who’d take over to sell them at the market while the fishermen spend the rest of the day mending their nets under the scorching sun. Their sons or daughters would display the day’s catch for all and sundry to browse and purchase.
But laying out their fathers’ hard work on the silver trays doesn’t guarantee a good day of sales either. Their fish are just as good as their neighbours. They start by dressing up in bright colours. They even wear a handsome smile on their face for good measures. Then comes the blocks of ice to help keep their harvest fresh and keep the “fishy” air at bay, especially in our tropical weather. They start chopping up the fishes to show the early morning aunties and makciks, hoping the textures and colours would entice them. They even put up little cute signage and labels to be noticed. And when nobody does after all that work, then they start to make desperate and loud calls.
“Any kind of fish!”
“Buy 1, free 1!”
Some even resort to selling themselves short. All so they can draw attention to their tiny little 5′ x 5′ stall and sell off all their hard work. Doesn’t that just sounds a little too familiar? The desperate and sell-fish cry for attention or validation, the tiny cubicle, the whole year of hard labour and being adrift at sea with many others fighting for the same salvation. Not to mention going home with a fishy smell too.
A couple of months earlier I made a working trip to Dungun, Terengganu. During one of the mornings, I managed to visit the town’s Pasar Besar (the main market). I’ve always wanted to experience a wet market on the eastern coast as I’ve heard much about them, especially the abundance of seafood offering (Terengganu is blessed with the longest coastline on Peninsular Malaysia), fresh farmers’ crops, and food peddlers. However, I had a mission in mind. Mum has already requested for some keropok lekor (fish crackers), a local snack that is originated from Terengganu and has become one of the many culinary pride of the state since.
The Keropoks here are traditionally made by grinding fish, of various grades, into a paste and mixing it with sago. Basically, there are two types of keropok. The first one is a tube-shaped that resembles long sausages called Keropok Lekor (fish sausages) and the second one is the cracker called Keropok Lekor Keping (sliced fish crackers).
Keropok Lekor, comes in a wet slippery sausage-like paste and can be enjoyed in two ways: deep fried for a crunchy and chewy sensation, or boiled and eaten while it is hot. The boiled version is often preferred by the residents of Kampung Losong as a healthier alternative as it doesn’t involves any oil in the preparation, hence earning this version the Keropok Losong nick name.
If you are not a fan of “fishy” smell or taste, then it is recommended that you try the deep-fried Keping version instead. It is also made up of larger tube-shaped paste that is sliced very thinly and let out to dry under the sun. This process hardened the paste into chips, which helps the keropok to be stored much longer, unlike the lekor that has to be eaten fresh. Once again, you will need to deep fry them before consumption. This crunchy finger snack is nice to be eaten alone or dipped into a local chili sauce-vinegar-sugar mixture.
Anyway, the time of year has arrived again for one to fish for compliments and to see if a pat on the back is in store. Let’s hope you sell your fishes well. All the best.
Good quality keropok can be found at various spots around Terengganu:
Kampung Losong, 007 Stall (near floating mosque) | Pengadang Baru Weekend Market ( every Tuesday) | Panji Alam Weekend Market (every Thursday) | Batu Burok Hawker Centre (Friday) | Pasar Payang Central Market | Cabang Tiga Market
Kampung Kelulut Weekend Market (Saturday) | Alongside Marang Road
Kuala Dungun Weekend Market (Thursday) | Pasar Besar Dungun
Markets at Kerteh (Tuesday), Kemasik (Sunday, Wednesday), Chukai (Tuesday)
* extracted from Tourism Terengganu website.