TEH YOON PENG,
Eeast Coast Grilled Seafood, Cafe Goodall,
5, Gottlieb Road, Penang.
Tel: 016-454 7227/ 017-433 7331
Business hours: 5pm-midnight, Wed-Mon (Closed on Tuesday).
Grilled stingray is a seafood delicacy popular for its unique taste and texture.
FEW would turn down an invitingly convenient strip of grilled stingray.
Their uniform rows of mildly sweet and sticky meat, the delightfully slippery skin and the total absence of bone make the eating experience even more fuss-free.
Oh, by the way, that crunchy-chewy centre is cartilage, and some folks believe eating it will help with creaky pained joints.
The stingray is related to sharks and is a common fish in all tropical waters.
On almost any grilled fish stall in Penang, neatly cut chunks of stingray occupy a goodly portion of their ice-topped display tables.
Only the freshest
“As far as I can tell, all of us use stingray caught in local waters.
“We never use stingray brought in from Thailand,” grilled fish hawker Teh Yoon Peng, 34, declared as he manfully hefted a side of stingray nearly 80cm long.
“The meat needs to be pink with red streaks. The thing about stingray is that after being kept for some time, even under ice, it will develop an unpleasant ammonia smell.
“It’s very easy to detect stingray that is not fresh, so that’s why we never use imported frozen stingray.”
Teh comes from a family of grilled fish hawkers in Penang and his relatives run similar grilled fish stands in Paya Terubong, Sungai Pinang and George Town.
His own stand — East Coast Grilled Seafood — has been serving customers at Cafe Goodall in Gottlieb Road for more than 10 years.
Like any other grilled fish stand, they grill the fish atop the all-important banana leaf to keep it from burning on the grill.
When they turn the fish over, they use a new banana leaf for the other side.
After a chunk of stingray is half-cooked, Teh smears curry paste onto it.
“There’s fish curry paste and about 10 other spices in the blend.
“We changed it many times years ago until we got the flavour just right.
“We don’t use belacan (shrimp paste). We serve many tourists from all over the world and many of them cannot stand the strong flavour.”
So instead, the belacan is added to the chilli dip that is served with the fish.
Seahorse Grilled Seafood, Viva food court,
303, Jalan Tanjung Tokong, Penang.
Tel: 012-906 8368
Business hours: 6pm – 1am, daily.
Not all rays are alike
Slightly further north, over in Tanjung Tokong, is another grilled fish hawker who also believes in using only the freshest stingray, with an interesting twist.
“Try this one,” Kevin Heng, 38, said excitedly as he pulled out a small piece of ray, only slightly larger than two hands and less than 4cm thick at its fattest point.
From the shape of the cut, this was clearly half a whole ray.
Unlike the king-sized stingrays of greyish green skin and yellowish-white undersides, this variety had black skin with a snow-white underside.
The meat on the smaller ray was markedly tenderer, even stickier.
“Another type has blue polka dots on light brown skin.
“Such rays are smaller, and the meat is much more delicate,” Heng said.
He added that there was no difference in price, even though the smaller variety was rarer.
“I tend to reserve the small rays for regular customers who can appreciate the difference,” he smiled.
Heng’s grilling method contrasts against Teh’s.
He smears the curry paste while the fish is still raw and he uses a low fire.
Also, instead of a chilli and shrimp paste (sambal belacan) dip, Heng provides diners with a tangy tamarind and shrimp paste sauce, reinforced with fiery bird’s eye chilli.
“Never overcook a ray. It’s a juicy fish. But the meat will taste dry and chewy if the fire is too hot or if it’s grilled too long,” Heng intoned.