LUMUT – Instead of making it to the aquariums of the fish keepers, the odd looking puffer fish that inflates itself into a ball when threatened has been making its way to the showcases of souvenir collectors.
Thanks to a creative entrepreneur in Pangkor, Mohd Arshad Yusup, 40, who has learnt to preserve them and turn the fish into souvenirs to be showcased at homes, cars and just anywhere.
However, making puffer fish souvenirs calls for great care as the fish contains a neurotoxin that could prove to be lethal.
DECORATIVE ITEMS ENTREPRENEUR
“Though the process of making the souvenir is difficult and dangerous, I only sell each between RM30 and RM150 according to its size,” he said adding that sales could reach RM300 a week thanks to the local and foreign tourists’ fascination with the fish.
“Besides, puffer fish caught in fishermen’s traps with other deep sea fishes will be thrown away because they are poisonous. So instead of letting them to go to waste, I decided to turn them into decorative souvenirs,” he explained when met at his home in Kampung Teluk Gedong, here recently.
Arshad, who runs a small food stall at the historical ruins of the Dutch Fort on the island, began selling puffer fish souvenirs on part time basis five years ago after seeing how tourists were attracted to the one he had hung at his food stall.
Since then, he began learning the ropes of turning the fish into a souvenir.
THE MAKING PROCESS
“I learned how to preserve puffer fish from some friends who were already familiar with the fish and now I am one of the most active puffer fish souvenir sellers in Pangkor.
“If Langkawi is famous for its gamat products, I want Pangkor to be known for its puffer fish souvenirs,” he said.
Arshad uses four types of puffer fish in creating the souvenirs namely ‘buntal duri’, ‘buntal landak’, ‘buntal landak jarum’ and ‘buntal pasir’.
The preserving process starts with the puffer fish freezed in the freezer for three days so that the skin and the flesh could be easily separated.
“After three days I will gut the fish using scissors and this process is complicated and requires utmost attention.
“This is because I need to be careful with the poison found in the fish’s bile as it can cause death,” said the entrepreneur who has earned a moniker Alang Angryfish from the local community.
SECOND MOST POISONOUS
The puffer fish is the second most poisonous creature on the planet after the Golden Poison Frog which is capable of killing humans in seconds.
The father of four said once the fish has been gutted he would insert a balloon and sew back its stomach.
“There is bound to be small injuries during the sewing process because the thorns are very sharp.
“I will blow the balloon to make the stomach puff up before hanging it up side down to ensure the fish is completely drained of any slime and water,” he added.
After three days the balloon would be pulled out and the fish is dried once again to rid of any fishy smell.
“It is a tedious process, plus the fish is poisonous, but I want it to become an icon of Pangkor because the species is not easy to find elsewhere.
“I don’t use any chemical on the fish because they maybe harmful to people,” added Arshad.
Besides decorative items for the home, they are also processed into coin boxes, hats and knife cover.
So the next time if one is to go to Pangkor, don’t forget to take a look or buy one of Mohd Arshad’s puffer fish souvenir. – BERNAMA