Preserved fish popular Kelantanese food during Ramadan


KOTA BHARU – It has been a great sale season for preserved and dried fish trader Nor Azreena Mohd Nor as demand for the fish, a favourite delicacy among Kelantanese, has been increasing this Ramadan.

According to Nor Azreena, 37, who has been in the business since the Movement Control Order (MCO) was imposed last year, she started off with about 50 kilograms (kg) of fish in the first few months but as demand kept increasing, the amount had risen to 150 kg since the start of Ramadan.

She said the idea of selling preserved fish came after she sat down to think of ways to increase her family’s income during the pandemic.

“Its really surprising as I didn’t expect that the response will be so good.

“During the fasting month this dish makes a great appetiser when breaking fast and as well as for the pre-dawn meal because it can be very tasty when cooked with just onion and chillies with a squeeze of lime ,” she said when met at her stall at Kampung Berangan in Jalan Kota Bharu-Ketereh, here.

Elaborating, Nor Azreena said she now has two branches in Kadok and Tanah Merah and is assisted by seven workers to clean and prepare the fish before they are soaked in brine overnight.

“The next day, the salt water is removed and the fish is then soaked in plain water for four hours to remove the excess salty taste. After that they are dried for three to five hours depending on the weather.

“Once the fish are dried they are refrigerated as this will allow them to last longer for up to three weeks,” said the International Islamic University (IIUM) graduate in Business Management.

Nor Azreena said she gets the fresh fish from suppliers in Tok Bali, Pasir Puteh Geting, Tumpat, Jelawat and Bachok,

“For the preserved fish, gelama bongkok, gelama gigi, cencaru, layur, talang, selar kuning and ‘butir nako’ are used and for dried fish I would choose the tambang, pari, pelata and bulu ayam varieties,” she said adding that the price ranges from RM18 to RM45 per kg depending on the type of fish.

According to Nor Azreena she had requests for the products to be marketed overseas such in the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia, but she had to put the plan on hold due to some constraints such as shipping costs, keeping the fish fresh and packaging, to ensure that they remain in good condition during delivery.

“However, to meet the demand of customers outside Kelantan, I have 20 to 30 agents nationwide,” said the mother of seven who gets great support from her civil servant husband, Muhammad Ai’Amin Mohamad Kasim, also 37.

Meanwhile, customer, Tuan Jusoh Tuan Dollah, 50, from Pasir Puteh, said he had been buying the fish to break fast as he loves the taste and texture and it goes down very well with steaming hot rice

“Preserved fish has been a traditional food and usually during the fasting month people need something to whet their appetite, especially after waking up for sahur,” he said.