Sunday, April 19, 2009


One of the fishermen in Bakam has several dried specimens hanging from the roof of his stall. And to my delight I came face to face with this rounded and puffed up form of a buntal!! This fish also called Puffer Fish or Fugu in Japanese. While the Japanese have been famously preparing the fugu as an exotic delicacy for generations we Sarawakians only like the eggs and in its salted form. However many have also found a new taste in deep fried buntal but its preparation has to be very delicate as prepared wrongly the buntal is fatal.

I must commend the fisherman for his proactive attitude of bringing good well preserved natural specimen to his stall and making it a living classroom!! Pity he was too shy to have a photo taken. May be next time I'll offer to take a photo with him like a tourist or I can persuade him when I bring this photo and a printout of this posting to him in the future.

The Chinese characters for this fish is River Pig. (Shui Ju) The Japanese actually eat thousands of tons of well prepared fugu every year.

Pufferfish contains lethal amounts of the poison tetrodotoxin in their internal organs, especially the liver and the ovaries, but also in the skin and the testicles. And to be absolutely safe from poisoning only licensed chefs are allowed to prepare fugu. So be warned.
The well preserved puffer fish/buntal specimen hanging from the "kajang" atap or roof of the fisherman's stall in Bakam.

Newly marinated buntal eggs look like this. One pair and not really separated. Today you can buy a pair of salted buntal eggs for about RM10 in Saratok shops.

FromNicolekiss Thanks Nicole!!

Isn't she pretty in blue?

Another pretty puffer fish.

I am writing this post especially for my children who once loved salted buntal eggs. In the early 80's we travelled "up and down" a lot the whole of Sarawak looking at small towns and visiting Kuching and Sibu. We as parents with our own agenda dragged them around everywhere and I am really ashamed of having put them in discomfort and in a lot of personal agonies at time. Perhaps sometimes in danger too. I just hope that as they grow older they too will forgive the nasty nightmarish parts(bad and dusty roads and poor road side food at times of emergency and unpreparedness and of course the occasional puncture) but enjoy the good memories.

One of our favourite places to stop by was Roban near Saratok where we could buy a few tins (!!)of salted buntal eggs and stretch our legs.These eggs were sold not by weight then but by the piece. And then like Santa Claus I would distribute the buntal eggs as gifts to friends and relatives in Miri!! While we would be just so happy to eat one or two of the eggs every day until we finished our stock we would think of other ways to improve our meals!! I really like the way our boy used to ask while we were in the middle of lunch "What's for dinner ma?" He really loves food!

But be assured we were just never too tired of the salted Buntal eggs then. One of my regrets was the digital camera was not invented then. All my coloured photos taken then are turning yellowish brown in the albums like fading memories.

Today alas - we can no longer get buntal salted eggs easily as we don't go to Roban any more. Our friends have moved to Kuching to be with their grandchildren( hopefully just temporarily). I have been thinking of kampong style fried rice served with a sprinkling of fried buntal eggs on top with lots of basil leaves with chopped spring onions and fried onions.

What a pity that these "caviar" of Sarawak may be disappearing slowly.

I can think of Special Sarawak Fried Rice with Five different Kinds of Eggs . What a fusion cuisine it would be - Fresh chicken eggs -Century eggs- Salted eggs- salted buntal eggs- and fresh /salted terbuk eggs!! How more exotic can you get?

19 memories:

A.H.AWANG MOIS said...

Beautiful pictures of beautiful things. Very good anthropology too. Changyi telur buntal ya besar macam telur terubukkah? Does it taste as good as terubuk's?

sarawakiana said...

Telur Buntal - kecil dan berwarna perang merah. Tetapi taste is almost similar. I wish I could buy in Miri! Have to go to Saratok!
Thanks for your compliments.
Terubuk - mahal sikit @ RM80-100 per kg. because it is an aphrodisiac I heard....(?)

Superman said...

That is really a big buntal. never try buntal egg before.

sarawakiana said...

Hi Superman
Buntal eggs are very delicious and can be bought quite easily in second division. However I do not think Sibu has any of it. I think not even the supermarket would stock it as it is quite "foreign" to the Chinese.
Good always to try just a little. Very salty though so not for the faint hearted.

Daniel Yiek said...

There's a town near Santubong called Buntal. Quiet fishing village and you can eat seafood on wooden platforms over mangrove swamps.

Free Bird said...

I wouldn't mind living on the eggs, rice, a little bit of soup(preferably, a foo chow soup).
Perfectly Sarawakian.

There must have been an abundance of buntal eggs during the late 80s and the early 90s, I remember seeing huge plastic bags full of them, probably because I was smaller in size, but I still think that's definitely quite a lot.

The sort of traveling then, is hard to come by now. I kind of miss the traveling up and and down Sarawak, it was good fun, maybe at the time being kids, we didn't really appreciate it.

Daniel, perhaps Buntal used to be a place where there were lots of buntals. ;)

The pictures are turning yellow? Perhaps we should invest in a high definition scanner that I can help to scan all the pictures so you can save them into a CD/DVD,perhaps turn it into a presentation slide that you can use to entertain your friends with. No more having to use your digital camera to retake the pictures.

sarawakiana said...

Yes Daniel there is indeed a village called Buntal and its seafood restaurants are fantastic. But I am not sure if it is actually named after this fish.

sarawakiana said...

Free Bird
Thanks for visiting! Good idea to get a great scanner before all the photos turn white and brown!
Now that all the children are older it is time for you all to swap stories!

bliss said...

You show us the prettiness of the buntal fish. We never dare to touch buntal because of the poisonous element. Sometimes in the Miri Fish Market you see the yellow spotted buntal but we never buy. Never ate the eggs.
Must take my siblings to see the Bakam fishermen.

justin said...

Hi this is new to me especially about the Buntal eggs. We also do not eat the Terubuk eggs in the salted form. Here is one family secret.

When we were young my mother alwaygs bought the female terubuk with the eggs and we steam the fish with lots of water. The eggs were then divided up amongst the boys only.
Mother said this made us grow beard!! Old wives tales? Well I have a good moustache.

sarawakiana said...

Do go up to the Bakam area. Development is taking place very rapidly.
The fish is often more fresh than the Miri Market.

sarawakiana said...

Your story is amazing!!May be we can find some folks who have eaten a lot of terubuk eggs and have good beard!!

kamaliah said...

The photo of the ikan buntal specimen is fantastic. You are really observant. The fisherman is really an interesting guy!thanks.

sarawakiana said...

I always look up to roofs and ceilings after having one traumatic experience of having a python twisted around a beam right above me when we were having a dinner in a dimly lighted longhouse kitchen. For years I would stared at ceilings imagining a snake up there!! But meanwhile I get to see a lot of this one...Unique find.

catherine said...

I have never tasted Buntal eggs. Must ask friends to buy in Saratok.
thanks for the tip. Great attractive article.

sarawakiana said...

Thanks Catherine.

Free Bird said...

I think this article should be in animal planet or national geographic :D

sarawakiana said...

Thanks Free Bird for your nice compliments. I wish the article could get into some kind of good publication.
I am back from 5 days of wonderful ulu trip to Kapit area!! Thousands of photographs too!!


articles that are very good and for the future I hope your article more useful thanks again.
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