Monday, February 15, 2010


While slurping a cup of warm bitter tea, right after having the last bit of irresistible spicy ikan keli masak sambal for lunch, I was teleported to the other world where snippets of my childhood memories paraded in mind like grainy moving pictures projected from an old dusty cinema film projector.

I saw Father jerked back his fishing rod sidearm a few times. It bent down half moon like a grass blade blown by sea breeze. His muscle-rippling arms fought hard the resistance relentlessly and aaah finally, the divine relief – as if he was having a glorious pee after a long morning assembly.

“Ah! A fish, finally!” said Mother.

Father grinned.

“Is that ikang keli? It has whiskers,” I said.

Dok ahu gok (I have no idea),” Father said.

Ikang keli mana dudok dalang laok (No keli ever live in the sea),” Mother explained.

Ikang duri kot (That must be ikang duri instead),” Father suggested. He was still holding the fishing rod. That poor thing, still got its mouth hooked, was laid on the ground that it flipped and flapped and quacked like a duck.

Ikang dukkang tu! (That’s dukkang fish!)” said a man who was approaching us. His very thick moustache wagged as he spoke. He was thin on top, dark-skinned, and smelled so hanyir, which is the smell of the nearby wet market. I saw him fishing near us. He had stood there a lot earlier than us already, probably missed his garek (early evening) prayer intentionally, as Mother speculated. He generously handed Father his baits. Smelled like rotten fish. Because they really were. He taught Father to cut the flesh into bigger bits because dukkang liked it so much and off he went.

That night, Father caught many dukkangs. Mother marinated them with salt and turmeric. Fried. I didn’t really like the taste. The next day, I told my friends at school about dukkangs we caught that night. “Semalang ayoh aku dapak banyok ikang dukkang! (Last night my dad caught many dukkangs!)” I said. They laughed. They said, dukkangs eat shit.


  1. ikan dukkang look almost identical to ikang keli, but I thought Ganukite will throw back ikan dukkang whenever they got caught in their Jala?

  2. DrSam,
    Never did I ask the fishermen why would they throw back ikang dukkang to the sea. But it's good to have it than going home empty hand. It sounds funny when it quacks. Like a duck.

  3. i dont bother getting acquanted with my food.

    'oh he was good. what was his name again?!' doesn't quite sound right.

  4. Dear sir,
    My sister just introduced me to this blog and this was the second post I read from the blog, after the "About The Author" post. I cannot say much, but thank you for writing these stories. Now I'm off to continue reading your other posts. Keep up the good work. BTW, do you have Facebook?

  5. The Tea Drinker,
    So you did tell her/him his name?

    Thank you for liking this post. It makes me big in heart. Yes, I am somewhere in Facebook world. I reckon it is far more adventurous if you do the search. I am there. Send my warm regard to your sister. =)

  6. Hey, I love ikan keli OK. The only fish we have here in Ohio are salmon, carp and tilapia. Not much choice there. :-) On another note, I do too have a habit of having a cup after a meal. Only for me it's coffee and not tea. Keep them stories coming!

  7. Silent Scribbler,
    Salmon, hmmm... I eat them raw. Sushi. It's kinda expensive here but satisfaction is the most important thing of all.

    Tilapia... I went out fishing them few weeks ago. Managed to catch three or four "black tilapia", which tasted not as good as its cousin, the red tilapia.

    I was informed that tilapia is one of American's favourite, isn't it? They grill them with salt and pepper. I saw it on Youtube. Wonder what kind of tilapia it was.

    Ah, coffee! I do love it too, ma'am! I'd take it longer than tea to finish up having the whole cup. But no, not the whole cup. I have a weird habit leaving the sediment. :)