When Malaysian freelance travel guide Amanda Omeychua made dinner on Sunday, she did not expect her meal to attract international attention. The 26-year-old’s recipe for turning her dead pet koi into soup has rocked social media, amassing thousands of views and comments expressing varying degrees of incredulity.
Omeychua said she had taken the reactions, even those criticising her, in stride.
“I am feeling OK, I can accept what people are saying. Not all types of food can be in people’s mouths, so that’s why many people are shocked. But it is still fish and it can be eaten,” Omeychua, who is from the Rungus ethnic group in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah, said in an interview.
Omeychua, who now lives in the country’s administrative capital of Putrajaya, said she had around 40 Japanese koi in her pond, half of which died when her domestic helper left the tap water on while filling up the pond. Omeychua believes the concentrated levels of chlorine and shortage of oxygen killed the fish, which are “very sensitive”.
Smaller koi cost between 300 ringgit and 500 ringgit (US$74-US$124), while a larger one can go for up to 1,000 ringgit, she said, and she did not want her precious fish to go to waste.
On a Facebook group called “Masak Apa Tak Jadi Hari Ni”, which roughly translates to “Cooking Fails Of The Day”, Omeychua shared a montage of six pictures, describing her soup dish as a “recipe fit for royalty”.
Her post went viral, with more than 10,000 reactions and 4,500 comments so far. Some users were aghast at how someone could eat their pets, while others questioned if it was normal for people to eat dead ornamental fish.
On Facebook, a user said she had once lost 24 big koi fish. “The pool man accidentally drained my fish pond and in an hour or two, the dead koi started smelling so bad,” she wrote. “How can she cook it? You also do not know what koi eat. Most of all, how can you eat your pet?”
With their colourful hues and patterns, koi are often seen just as ornamental pets, but they are a variety of carp and are therefore edible. This was why, Omeychua said, they tasted delicious – similar to catfish.
“I cook and eat all fish that died in a good way. In my hometown, we eat pufferfish too. Sometimes my family and neighbours would cook pet fish, just that it is not as expensive as mine,” said Omeychua. “I have given half of the dead fish to my brother. He has eaten it with his son, who said it tasted delicious.”
When her koi meal hit the internet on Sunday, it dominated conversation not just on social media, but on news websites across Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. Some comments went as far as to associate her culinary efforts with unverified rumours of the coronavirus pandemic originating from exotic animals like bats.
Omeychua has shrugged off the fearmongering, saying she believed it was okay to eat her fish as she had kept them clean. She said the pet koi were still fish and were therefore halal, according to the Islamic faith to which she belongs.
While many countries in Asia see brightly coloured koi as a symbol of good luck and fortune, Omeychua clarified that she did not subscribe to such notions and saw fishkeeping as a hobby.
Undeterred by the demise of her ornamental fish and the reaction to her story, Omeychua has since bought 30 more koi – in a mixture of sizes.
“Maybe if they die, I will try cooking the fish with turmeric and chilli,” she quipped. “And this time, I may film myself eating this fish.”
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.