Kulung, Most Delicious River Fish In Sarawak

While fishes like Empurau and Semah is the most sought after fishes in Sarawak, there’s one fish that not much people know. Unlike Empurau and Semah, this fish is not as expensive as those other two. But, for those who have tasted this fish, they will admit that it is more delicious or as delicious as Empurau and Semah. That fish is called “ikan Kulung” by the Ibans in Sarawak. We are not sure its name in English or its scientific name but if you mention ikan Kulung, those who knows will know it.

Like we said, it’s not as rare as Empurau and Semah, it is also not as expensive as those two. But it is not easily available. This fish can only be found in the upper river areas in Sarawak. We also heard it has been found in Kalimantan but we are not sure if it was the same species.

To get this fish you have to go to those upper river area. One of that place is the upper Batang Rajang or Rajang river in the central region of Sarawak. If you want to buy it, you have to go to towns like Song and Kapit. If you’re lucky, you can find some sellers selling it in Sibu wet market. It was also can be found in a place called Batang Ai but last time we heard it, it was almost extinct there. Not sure how true that is.



This fish live in a clear water area of fresh water river. According to some, they occur in the upper most part of the river, like Empurau and Semah. It’s not easy to get because it is very hard to reach those areas. The journey is tedious and difficult that only those who live in those areas know how to get there safely. Even to get to town like Song and Kapit you will have to use at least two type of transportation. You can google on how to go there from Kuching or any other parts of Sarawak.

Steamed Kulung fish, so delicious and scrumptious.

Steamed Kulung fish, so delicious and scrumptious.

This fish is best steamed, soup or cooked in bamboo, also known as “pansuh” by the Ibans. It can also be grilled in open flame but this will waste some of it because river fish’s flesh normally very easy to fall off. We will share its recipe in the future, hopefully.

Next time you’re in Sarawak, visiting Sibu or towns like Song and Kapit, ask those sellers in the wet market for this “Ikan Kulung”. If you’re lucky, local eateries there might have it in their menu.

Warning: Like most of the fresh upper river fish, like Empurau and Semah, this fish got a lot of small bones all over its flesh. You need to be very careful when you eat it. The bone is quite sharp and if you swallow it, it will stuck in your throat. It can be painful and it will take a while for it to be gone.

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