GEORGE TOWN - A Hong Kong businessman flew to Penang when told that the massive 200kg grouper caught near here would be served as noodle soup.
"I took the first available flight out of Hong Kong after receiving a text message about the catch, and arrived late Monday night," said Johnson Chan, 67.
"Every time this eatery gets a large fish, I will be on the first available flight here," said Chan after he had indulged on his "extra special" large bowl of fish head bee hoon soup.
Chan, who manufactures printed circuit boards in Hong Kong, was among the 500 early birds yesterday at the renowned Chew Jetty Ka Bee Cafe in Weld Quay, which paid RM11,000 (S$4,200) for the fish caught on Monday.
The head alone tipped the scale at 60kg. The belly weighed 15kg, the liver, 17kg, and the massive swim bladder weighed 18kg.
Five men took three hours to scale, gut and cut the 200kg grouper down to manageable pieces. It took another 12 hours to turn it into the main component for fish head noodles.
Cafe proprietor Chew Kean Ghee, 41, said eating a 200kg fish was more than just a novelty and described it as "a rare chance to sample a grouper this large".
"The belly, liver and maw of this fish are rare delicacies.
"I pressure cook the belly for three and a half hours to create a springy texture that rivals that of the sea cucumber. The liver, deep-fried, has a unique, sweet taste," said Chew, who he has the phone numbers of over 300 regular customers in his cellphone.
Whenever he acquires a rare specimen, he flashes everyone a text message.
"Many Singaporeans have already made reservations and some have specific requests for choice parts such as the lips or the belly.
"I keep good relations with fishmongers and try to buy every big fish they have," he said, adding that he gets about 20 big fish a year, weighing at least 50kg each.
Another recipient of Chew's text message was state executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow, who promptly showed up with his friends for lunch.
"When I saw the front page photo of the fish in The Star, I couldn't resist. Penang is the land of great food and this fish head bee hoon tops it," said Chow.
Chew's regular servings cost RM15 for a bowl with only fish fillet, and RM20 for added deep-fried fish head chunks.
Those who want to be on the "invite list" for the next big catch can message Chew at 012-465 2744.