This is an old Teochew recipe, using a fish that is not always found in the market.
It is the grey mullet, or “oh her” in Teochew, which is traditionally steamed and eaten with a piquant tau cheo or salted soya bean dip.
What is unusual is that this mullet is served chilled after being cooked with its scales on. I do this too with sea bass, which I roast with its scales on, to protect its delicate flesh; I do the same with ikan terubok or shad, that other hard-to- find and richly flavoured fish.
I like cooking fish with its scales on. Apart from the convenience, the scales protect the fish during the cooking. You need not worry about it being dried out – the scales act like a foil wrap, leaving the flesh within moist and sweet.