Having a taste of the legendary Empurau (忘不了)

>> Oct 18, 2010

King of the Rajan River, the Malaysian Mahseer (Tor tambroides), better known as the Empurau by locals is a highly priced fish by diners. A direct translation 忘不了 (its Mandarin name) can be summed up by one word - Unforgettable. Whether or the fish got its name from its taste or its price tag, still remains a mystery among many diners.

This fish has actually been successfully cultivated throughout Malaysia. Breeding this fish is extremely difficult as it requires a rocky bottom and a very large pump to simulate the running river in the wild. Water pH level as well as a cool temperature is require to get the fish in the 'mood' for mating. This fish can grow up to 30kilos. However, their growth rate is extremely slow, which is quite similar to their distant cousin, the Red Mahseer (Kelah Merah).

The wild Empurau, thrive on 'Buah Kepayang', a type of fruit found by the river bank. This is probably the reason the fish has a very unique and special taste compared to other fish. Some diners claim the Empurau taste different depending on the location the fish was caught at. The Empurau should only be consumed once it grows above 3kg, or its meat would not have firmed up, leaving it mushy to the taste.

It is extremely challenging even for professional anglers to catch the Empurau by hook and line as they have a tendency to throw off hooks. To make matters worst, the quantity of this fish in the wild has been depleting in the recent years due to its high demands from diners.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to taste this rare fish at River Fish Restaurant ( 九和鱼餐馆).


Steamed Empurau with Superior Soy Sauce

Gill of the Empurau Fish

A plate of Empurau Fish

Steamed Empurau with Superior Soy Sauce

This baby weighted slightly over more than 4 kilos. Since it was our first time tasting the fish, we only ordered a kilo. We chose to have the tail part of the fish. The fish had a rather unique taste. Its meat was soft yet firm and extremely juicy. Its meat had a very delicate texture, that can't really be described in words (It had a sort of sponge-like texture that emitted lots of that juices when pressed against your palate). Its scales (which is edible) was very nice, thick and crunchy, resembling a vegetables sort of texture.

The remaining of the fish scales that could be removed from the steamed segment of the fish was deep fried with salt and pepper.

Fried Empurau Scales

Deep Fried Empurau Scales with Salt and Pepper

The fried scales were rather crunchy and quite tasteless on its own. The flavour of the scales were mostly from the salt and pepper (its a style of cooking in Chinese Restaurants that contains more than just salt and pepper).

Frankly, I personally feel that no fish could never be worth that much, no matter how good it tastes. My suspicions were correct after tasting it. My only conclusion was the fish was so highly priced due to its rarity. It is true, the fish taste better than other fish, but I don't think it justifies its hefty RM700 per kilo tag.

Note: I do not encourage the consumption of endangered fish from the wild. Please do not flame me for eating the fish above.

The pictures below will sum up some other other dishes we had that night.

Roasted Suckling Piglet

Roasted Suckling Pig

For a seafood restaurant, I didn't expect their suckling pig to be of such high standard. The pig had a rather crispy skin with a thin layer of fat beneath. It was rather good.

Winter Melon Soup with Giant Grouper

Winter Melon and Giant Grouper Soup

Winter Melon Soup with the Head of a Giant Grouper

The flesh of the winter melon was boiled together with the head of a giant grouper (long dan) and then placed into the melon for presentation sake. The soup was rather tasty.

I didn't bother snapping the some of the similar dishes I had on my previous visit. Do check out what I thought of this place on my previous visit.

Click here for my other review on River Fish Restaurant at Damansara Kim.

All in all, I doubt I will want to eat this fish again. I still feel that the price tag does not justify its taste. RM700 can get you good food at lots of other places.

Non Halal

*Opinions expressed are solely based on my personal experience

Map to River Fish Restaurant (Damansara) Sdn. Bhd. 九和鱼

17, Jalan SS20/11,
Damansara Kim,
47400 Petaling Jaya,
Selangor Darul Ehsan,

Telephone number: 03 7727 8029
Fax number: 03 7727 8019
Email: riverfishdamansara@yahoo.com

Opening hours:
11.30am-10pm daily


babe_kl October 18, 2010 at 6:21 PM  

You're so lucky to at least get to try a bite :p but it's very forgettable now eh?

Tummy Rumble October 18, 2010 at 6:34 PM  

@babe_kl: thanks.. and yes, its something like that.. Nothing extraordinary. You won't get that 'all other fish no longer taste the same' type of feeling.. The taste is rather unique, but its not something I will want to eat on a daily basis..

J2Kfm October 18, 2010 at 8:01 PM  

RM700 per kg? I have heard of restaurants charging >RM1k per kg! To imagine RM1k can already buy me so many types of seafood.

Tummy Rumble October 18, 2010 at 8:28 PM  

@J2Kfm: The priced have dropped.. South Sea charges RM700 per kilo as well.. Yes, 1k can buy lots of other seafood.. I think the fish is over rated..

"Joe" who is constantly craving October 19, 2010 at 5:15 AM  

yeah no fish should be worth 700 a kg..i heard some place serving it for 400 a kg but that still, thats just ridiculous.

Tummy Rumble October 19, 2010 at 1:45 PM  

@Joe: the price can vary as quality on the fish can be subjective.. Its how you perceive the taste, so different people might have their own preference as long as the fish is fresh..

Anonymous,  October 25, 2010 at 7:04 AM  

Matchless phrase ;)

Anonymous,  October 26, 2010 at 5:00 AM  

Completely I share your opinion. In it something is also idea good, I support.

boo_licious November 6, 2010 at 3:30 AM  

I found it way too oily though! They also serve this in South Sea (alive and kicking) if you wanna indulge in it again.

Tummy Rumble November 8, 2010 at 4:27 PM  

@boo_licious: They say the bigger the empurau, the better it is.. If the fish is too small, the meat will be soft.. South Sea's fish are rather small, and their cooking is pretty bad..

foodbin November 9, 2010 at 3:05 PM  

for a frozen fish-it's just not worth the money.

Tummy Rumble November 11, 2010 at 4:47 PM  

@foodbin: yea, but you can't find an empurau bigger than 3kg unless its frozen.. There's no point eating a small fish as its meat hasn't firmed up yet.. The bigger the empurau, the better actually..

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Anonymous,  November 24, 2010 at 2:08 AM  

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Mary Stone
rf sweep

Anonymous,  November 25, 2010 at 9:29 PM  

Agree with foodbin. Frozen fish doesnt really worth that much of money.
And it is only expensive, but not RARE as ppl have started to breed it for commercial purpose.

thenomadGourmand December 2, 2010 at 11:39 AM  

hey hey!
Today's yr exam? ( I rmbr u said everything over by 3rd Dec?) Good luck yo!

TKO April 28, 2011 at 2:36 AM  

Sorry to say that the "Empurau" you ate is not the real from Sarawak. That's "Kelah" from else where. Why? From the pictures u post, the colour of the fish simply tell me so. I am the empurau dealer in Sarawak, Kuching for 5 years already. And another thing, the "Empurau" u ate really really not niceeeeeee. As I can c thru your posted picture. 3 reasons I say so.
1)May be the fish over cook.
2) the fish got no "Fat". why? The skin of the fish strink and bcom curve upward if cooked . That's bcos of poor food source at that environment. as I said the river in Sarawak is RICH of Wild Fruit, but not in West Malaysia's rivers or lakes..
3)The flesh of fish u ate was "sticky at tooth" when u chew it and the skin is "springy" or we call it "hard skin" or more common we call it "loko" locally. (LOKO cause by stunded growth bcos of starvation or simply bcos old age fish) With the size u ate, that fish will not loko if it is real empurau. The most lousy type of empurau only loko at size of 4kg and above. For Kelah, some time over 1.0kg fish will already loko!!

So... Im pretty sure that's not the real empurau from sarawak. The Kelah fish had been change it's name from "Kelah" to "Empurau" recently. Why?
1) Capturing of Kelah is prohibited & against the law now.
2) Empurau always was & is much more expensive compared to kelah. Then changes it's name will simply make more money$$$ lo.... There are full of fake so called "Empurau"
in the KL restaurant now. Even the life Breeded fish in restaurant's aquarium also being called "Empurau from Kapit!!"

By the way, If u wish to find the original empurau again, please Call me: Mr Tang = 012-302 9000

I have agent(s) that sell my fish in KL.

Tummy Rumble May 2, 2011 at 10:07 PM  

@TKO: i will do so when I'm back in msia.. thanks..

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