In Praise of Seafood (or Riverfood or Lakefood)

I love seafood so much. I love grilled red snapper or leatherjacket fish withsambal matah. So when my colleagues invited me to a lunch one day and asked whether I am allergic to seafood, I shook my head. They took me to a very nice restaurant.

“What is it? It looks nice. Tell me,” I said to the waiter.

“It is seafood. Braised tilapia with spring sauce,” replied he.

“Tilapia is a freshwater fish. It is not sea-food,” I said jokingly.


The waiter looked surprised but he smiled and said, “Ah, so. Is there anything you’d like to know?”

I asked him where the restaurant sourced the tropical freshwater fish. He said, “I’ll ask the kitchen guys.” He then darted into the kitchen.

I have forgotten all about it until the sight of this fried catfish (lele) at this market brings me back to the question.

Jual lele goreng

What exactly is seafood?

Many restaurants in Jakarta or Bali put catfish, gourami, crayfish and their freshwater contemporaries in seafood section. It brings me back to that question.

By consulting Wikipedia, I find out that seafood is any form of sea life regarded as food by us, humans: fish and shellfish, seaweed, and sea mammals. In many places, seafood is extended to any edible aquatic life. Alright then. I think the French people had it right, they call it fruits-de-mer. Fruits of the sea. Even we call it boga bahari (food from the sea) or masakan laut.

I was not being snob when asking from where the restaurant source the tilapias. I was just mimicking some of my friends (whose names shall not be revealed). Before ordering any seafood, they will inquire:
1. to check the freshness of the seafood in the kitchen.
2. where it is sourced from.
3. how it is caught (they can detect whether the food is caught using cyanide explosion or preserved with formalin. Yes formalin.)
4. the species (they, for example, won’t eat shark fin).

Yes, to that extent! At first I said to them, “You’re gone too far!”

They later introduced me to the concept of sustainable seafood and explainedhow we eat seafood affects both humans and the sea. We have to consume seafood wisely.

And now tell me what your favorite seafood items are!

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