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Food, Singapore

Linette Heng
Sunday, Apr 13, 2014

Food, Singapore

Fish stakes

The New Paper | Linette Heng | Sunday, Apr 13, 2014

He has net himself a 172kg Queensland grouper - and he isn't letting it go.

Not even for the $10,000 he claims to have been offered by a businessman from Tianjin, China.

Mr Johnny Tan, 52, owner of seafood restaurant Grouper King, bought the rare 2.3m giant for "between $5,000 to $6,000".

It was caught by local fishermen in waters off Pedra Branca on Tuesday evening.

"It would have been easier for me to just sell the fish, but this is my first 'big' fish of the year," said Mr Tan.

He said that fish this size are popular in China and Hong Kong and can reel in a high price.

Mr Tan, whose restaurant is at the SAF Yacht Club on Tanah Merah Coast Road, intends to serve the fish to customers on Saturday.

"My phone has been ringing non-stop as a lot of loyal customers have already heard the news," said Mr Tan.

A businessman has reserved the 60kg fish head for himself and some friends. The businessman is overseas now, but will fly back on Saturday to savour the fish head, which is likely to be steamed, Mr Tan said.

The fish head costs about $120 per kg. The restaurant owner did not reveal how much other parts will cost.

But that has not stopped orders from coming in and more than 150 customers already have reservations to eat it this Saturday at the 700-seater restaurant.

Mr Tan told Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao that the fish skin is an inch (2.3cm) thick and rich in collagen. It has a chewy texture, much like sea cucumber.

"I would steam or braise the fish instead of frying it. It would be a waste to destroy the collagen in the process of frying," said Mr Tan, who is also a chef.

"I will boil the bones of the fish in ginseng for 20 hours and it will be good for detoxification," he said.

Even the scales can be eaten, he claimed, and they are said to be good for the joints.

Groupers served in restaurants usually weigh between 20kg and 50kg. Those weighing over 100kg are rare.

45 minutes to clean

It took eight people to lift the fish and three hours to clean it. A typical 30kg grouper would take about 45 minutes to clean and carve up.

This is not Mr Tan's biggest fish. Last June, he bought a 270 kg, 2m-long grouper. It required a forklift and seven men to carry it into the kitchen. The price: over $6,000.

In 2010, he bought a 220kg fish that was more than 2m long and had a girth of 1.52m.

Mr Tan said that the size of the grouper deters most people.

"Because of its size, some people think it's a thousand-year-old monster," he said with a laugh.

"It's a full-grown, adult fish and many parts are very tender. The bigger the fish, the faster it sells out," he said.

This article was published on April 11 in The New Paper.

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