January 29, 2011

Chicken Fish What?

I’m a true-blue-born-and-bred Malaysian and I didn’t know the existence of Chicken Fish until a friend mentioned it in passing! Talk about being a Katak Bawah Tempurung (a local saying to mean someone who has never been out of his comfort zone).

It was on a night out for dinner with friends that I discovered this so-called Chicken Fish, which some foreigners said is a Malaysian treat. Really? Or did some smart a#@$ Malaysian coin the name because I believe there’s no such fish.

These aren't chicken but they sure do taste like one.
Somehow, I got lucky that night because the stall we ordered dinner from was just opposite to a fresh fish stall. And so my friend checked out the fish stall and hey presto – there were some fresh “Chicken Fish” at the counter.

So my friend dragged me to the stall and I started inspecting the fish they called a chicken. Just like any other fish, this one also comes in varying sizes. It looks like White Pomfret, only longer and smaller in width. And it doesn’t have as much meat as the pomfret.

I forgot how much the fish cost but it isn’t any more expensive than a medium sized Black Pomfret. In-fact if I remember well it does cost cheaper than the Black Pomfret.

The guy managing the fish stall seemed fascinated with my fascination over the fish. I can almost hear him thinking aloud under his put-on smile: Stupid perempuan, Chicken Fish pun tak tahu (Stupid woman, doesn’t even know what’s Chicken Fish).
The grilled Chicken Fish served with sauce didn't get me wanting more.
My friend suggested we try the fish, just to prove to me the reason for the name. He picked up a medium-sized piece and got the cook to grill it. In just a few minutes the Chicken Fish arrived looking nice and juicy and with several small bowls filled with some kind of chilli sauce.

We tackled the fish as soon as it got to the table and it was wiped clean off the plate in just a few minutes. And I got the answer as to why it’s called a Chicken Fish. The fish tastes like chicken. But why eat fish that tastes like chicken!!!??? It’s like a vegetarian not wanting to eat meat but enjoy vegetarian meat dishes. I don’t get it.

So my conclusion is if I were to eat fish than the fish will have to taste like fish and not any other kinds of meat. So Chicken Fish is out for me. But please, if anyone knows what is the real name of Chicken Fish or from which fish family it is, do leave me a note. I’ve researched online and I can’t find an answer.


  1. One of my 6th grade students in Amman, Jordan mentioned the chicken fish and I tried to find out more about it. I came across your blog.

  2. "Chicken fish" are actually just direct translated from Malay words. The Malay called it "Ayam Laut", the Chinese called it 鹿仔鱼 (Lùzǐyú) and it is called Unicorn Leatherjacket or Unicorn Filefish in English. Its scientific name is Aluterus monoceros. It is a type of saltwater fish.

  3. Great article. I stumbled across chicken fish while translating a tourism document. Information about it is scarce online.