24 June 2019
Photos of a local fishpond during (left) and after the drying process. Photos: Facebook/Fisherman Kwok Mok Tai
Photos of a local fishpond during (left) and after the drying process. Photos: Facebook/Fisherman Kwok Mok Tai

The many ways to cook Yuen Long gray mullet

I had a fun and meaningful Sunday afternoon as a judge in a cooking contest in Causeway Bay.

Organized by the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, the cookfest is aimed at promoting the locally raised gray mullet to the public. It is part of the Hong Kong Fishpond Conservation Scheme.

Fishpond owners in Yuen Long have a problem with migratory birds. In order to protect their stocks from being eaten by these winged predators, they have to constantly frighten the birds away.

The Bird Watching Society is hoping to achieve a win-win solution for both the fishpond operators and the migratory birds.

And so they suggested that the ponds be emptied during the migratory season. This would allow the birds to consume the fish while the fishpond owners could also benefit as the process would turn the ponds into better breeding grounds for fish.

Promoting locally raised gray mullets is actually good for the environment.

A total of 15 contestants gave full play to their creativity by whipping up delicious versions of the locally renowned specialty.

Traditional ways of cooking included salt-crusted gray mullet and steamed gray mullet with homemade pickled lemon and kumquat.

Some made good use of fresh produce from a nearby vegetable farm, and came up with inspired dishes such as gray mullet in coriander and lemon grass soup.

There were also exciting fusion ideas such as a variant of oyakodon with gray mullet as the main feature of the Japanese rice bowl dish.

From time to time we read about abhorrent food scandals in the mainland, where we get most of our food supply.

Such developments, while scary, should also encourage us to support the development of local agriculture and fisheries.

Take the case of the organic rice farms at Yi O on Lantau Island. Although their rice grains sell for HK$100 per kilogram, they are still highly sought after.

People not only want to show support for local farmers; they are also willing to pay more for quality products.

Raising gray mullet is a smart move on the part of local fishermen because it is a species that the mainland is not exporting to Hong Kong.

But the gray mullet aside, we can produce many other fish varieties and boost the quality of the local fisheries industry to make it more competitive.

I’ve been told that the famous Yuen Long gray mullet used to be raised from fries that were caught in the sea and fed on peanut cakes.

That’s why the fish comes with a strong umami flavor and a lovely fatty layer of oil.

I sincerely hope our local fishermen will revive the old, traditional ways of fish farming. I’m sure more people will be willing to pay more for their quality produce.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 21.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ columnist; art, culture and food critic

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