Tsing Yi street market surprised by the appearance of elongated strange fish

Red cornetfish

29th September 2023 – (Hong Kong) Recently, netizens on a local Facebook group shared a photo of a peculiar fish found in a local market in Tsing Yi. The picture depicted a long, slender fish with a pointed mouth, sparking discussions among internet users. It is said that this fish is called the red cornetfish, and there are rumours that it can help prevent cancer and enhance male vitality.

The photo sparked discussions among netizens. Some clarified that it is called the red cornetfish. Various cooking methods were suggested, such as baking and pan-frying. One netizen commented, “I think it’s best to use it in soup, not suitable for steaming,” while another said, “Steaming it with preserved vegetables is excellent; I often see it in street markets.” Additionally, suggestions like “boiling it with tomato and potato soup” and “braising it with black bean sauce and tofu” were given. Interestingly, some netizens warned the original poster not to try it, saying, “Don’t buy it, it’s difficult to eat!” and “It’s hard to eat.”

Red Cornetfish, also known as the rough flutemouth or fire-tube fish, primarily inhabits coastal areas with soft substrates in the ocean and is commonly found at depths exceeding 10 meters. It is widely distributed in the three major oceans. Alvin, a head chef at a seafood restaurant in Hualien, Taiwan, previously introduced the red cornetfish on his personal website. He described the fish as having a whip-like body shape, typically measuring 70-100cm in length, with maximum lengths reaching 200 to 300cm. However, only the middle section of the fish is edible. The pointed snout, resembling a long smoking pipe, is composed of hard bone and cannot be consumed, and the forked tail fin lacks meat as well.

According to information from “Chinese Materia Medica,” red cornetfish has properties that help relieve heat and promote diuresis, particularly beneficial for treating esophageal cancer. This is based on the Chinese belief of “treating like with like” by associating the fish’s whip-like shape with potential aphrodisiac effects. However, in reality, the fish has no such properties; its elongated body is purely a physical characteristic. The red cornetfish (Fistularia petimba), also known as the rough flutemouth, belongs to the family Fistulariidae. It is found in subtropical and tropical oceans worldwide, at depths ranging from 10 to 200 meters. The fish can reach lengths of up to 2 meters but typically does not exceed 1 meter in length.

Distribution-wise, the red cornetfish is widespread in warmer regions of the Atlantic Ocean and Indo-Pacific, including Australia and Hawaii. On rare occasions, it has been sighted in the Mediterranean Sea. The species mainly inhabits subtropical areas and tends to reside in deeper waters or regions with cold upwellings in tropical locations.

In terms of biology, the red cornetfish dwells at depths between 10 and 200 meters, with a preference for depths ranging from 18 to 57 meters over soft substrates. It follows an oviparous reproductive strategy, laying large pelagic eggs that hatch into 6-7 millimetre larvae. The juveniles eventually move into estuarine habitats. The red cornetfish is a crepuscular predator characterised by stealthy behaviour. It stalks its prey by slowly approaching shoals of small fish, utilizing its slender physique to hide. Once in close proximity to its prey, it swiftly lunges forward, sucking the prey into its mouth.