THE Soong Yee (silver carp) or genus Hypophthalmichthys molitrix is a freshwater fish that originates from China.
Here in Malaysia, it’s called ikan Tongsan and was introduced by the migrant Chinese at the turn of the century as a food fish.
At the dining tables here, the Soong Yee is considered a prized table fish as there are ready and willing parties to consume them.
Having said that, the irony is that in some parts of North America, the carp is considered an invasive species that is posing a threat to the waterways there.
It’s such a big fuss there and recently, I saw a documentary on Astro’s History channel where schools of silver carp that were spooked by outboard engines made a leap into passing boats, making them an easy catch.
The segment showed carp darting out of the water like missiles and “bombarding” small boats until the hulls were filled to the brim.
Rather than eating them, the carps were treated like trash and processed into fertiliser.
I guess the Americans favour their Cajun-grilled catfish and alligators as the carp had no place on the dining table.
To the uninitiated, the carp is a “smelly” fish.
Its blood stream is rich in the blue-green algae that gives it a “muddy” aftertaste.
The flipside is that what is trash to the Americans, is well-loved in this part of the world.
In poorer Asian countries, the silver carp is a cheap staple diet that is also threatened by overfishing and destruction of habitat.
Eating the carp itself is an art.
It has fine bones running across its lateral line and it takes plenty of patience to savour the carp.
The Malays call it ikan Tongsan, kap sisik halus and kap kepala besar. It’s a popular freshwater fish served in many restaurants here in the Klang Valley.
On where to find a decent makan place that serves the Soong Yee, one such outlet is restoran Puchong Seven Kari Kepala Ikan in Bandar Puteri, Puchong, Selangor.
Here, the house dish is the Shiong Thong Soong Yee Thau (steamed silver carp’s head in superior broth) and the regular clientele who frequent this makan place would order it without hesitation.
So, how does it fare?
I would say that since the dish is prepared fresh, you can taste the fine texture of the Soong Yee’s flesh and modern aquaculture techniques in harvesting the carp reduces its muddy aftertaste.
And since this is a Shiong Thong styled steamed dish, cooks can go overboard by adding too much Mei Cheeng (monosodium glutamate) to enhance its flavour.
This is the downside if you develop hypersensitivity to MSG, but the tradeoff at Puchong Seven is the RM28 pricetag for the dish.
As for the quality of the food served, restoran Seven’s Soong Yee Thau is decent enough to clock in a 5.5 out of 10 on the Samo-scale.
Other than the hallmark steamed fish head dish, this makan place is also known for its meat dishes but there are simply too many to name.
Noteworthy, is the claypot Garoupa fish head curry. As far as taste and quality is concerned, you can’t go wrong with this saltwater fish.
The makan place is also linked to Restoran Bintang Kari Kepala Ikan in Kinrara off Jalan Puchong.
To get there, the GPS coordinates are: N 03 01 394, E 101 36 959.