Lizardfish Family
Whole Bombay Duck [family Synodontidae]

These rather strange fish are voracious predators, sometimes swallowing fish 2/3 their own length. Their large mouths have multiple rows of needle sharp teeth, and they even have rows of needle teeth on their tongues. They are mainly ambush predators. Their flesh is strangely soft, almost gelatinous, and their bones are incompletely calcified. The most famous is the Bombay Duck, very popular in India, Southern China and Vietnam, both fresh and dried.

More on Varieties of Fish (large page).


Shorthead Lizardfish   -   [Synodus scituliceps]
Shorthead Lizardfish

Native to the eastern Pacific from the southern tip of Baja California to Chile and the Galapagos Islands, this lizardfish is not famous like the Bombay Duck, but does occasionally show up in Asian Markets here in Los Angeles, at least at 168 Market. Many of its characteristics are quite similar to the Duck, but handling is a bit different. My identification of the photo specimen as S. scituliceps is not certain, but the best match I could find. Saurida tumbil is similar but its pectoral fins attach high against the lateral line. This fish was 10-5/8 inches long and weighed 3-1/2 ounces, 2014 US $1.99 / pound.   Details and Cooking

Bumalo / Bombay Duck   -   [Bummalow, Bombil, Bumla (India); Lutia (Bengal); Loitta (Bangladesh); Luli (Malay); Latia, Khô cá Khoai (Vietnam); Long tou yu (China); Harpadon nehereus]
Whole Bumalo

This Indo-West Pacific fish is native to the Gulf of Arabia, around India and through Southeast Asia and the South China Sea. It shares many characteristics of fish living at great depth: gaping jaw with many needle sharp teeth, translucent, almost gelatinous flesh, uncalcified bones and nighttime phosphorescence, so it may be a deep benthic fish that returned to shallower waters. It does, in fact, have deep sea relatives in family Bathysauridae. this fish inhabits moderate depth water along the coasts and sometimes enters estuaries. This fish is currently abundant, IUCN NE (Not Evaluated).

This fish is considered a delicacy, particularly in India and parts of southeastern China. Bumalo can grow to 16 inches but are commonly 10 inches or less. The photo specimen was 11-1/4 inches long and weighed 5-1/8 ounces, but at least 1/2 ounce of that was two tiny squid and a small fish it had just swallowed, which is why this one looks a little pot bellied.

Salted and sun dried, this fish is called "Bombay Duck". Origin of that name is uncertain, but usually associated with the rank smell of cars in the Bombay mail train (Bombay Daak) during monsoon season. Unfortunately that can't be true, the name predates the railroad.   Details and Cooking.

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