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Eating a whole fish

gummo66 Aug 19, 2006 06:26 PM


I love to eat seafood, but have avoided for several years ordering the whole fish on any menu. I know I should, and I know I definitely want to, but I haven't the foggiest how to eat it. Could someone please give me a blow by blow before I make a fool of myself? Kindest thanks for any help from the seafoodies out there!

  1. mnosyne Aug 19, 2006 06:36 PM

    Make a vertical cut behind the fish's head, but only half way through. Make a similar cut just in front of the tail. Now make a horizontal cut down the center of that side from behind the head to the tail. Using your knife, scrape the flesh upward from the cut and out onto your plate; repeat downwards. You should then be able to remove the backbone and small bones by lifting them out from the tail end. The meat on the other side will be available then; if not, turn fish over and make the same cuts on the other side. Remove any small bones remaining, and put the head, bones, skin and tail on another plate. Enjoy your fish!

    1. anna Aug 19, 2006 06:40 PM

      Depending on where you dine, some restaurant will actually de-bone the fish for you at the table. You can ask the wait person to do that for you if you're more a visual learner. Enjoy!

      1. j
        j2brady Aug 19, 2006 07:17 PM

        When I was in France I was always given a fish knife when ordering fish. It make the scraping motion much easier.

        If you just think about how the bones are placed-the ribs run downward from the back bown to the belly-follow the path of the bones with a downward scraping motion after making a slit from head to tail as suggested by the poster above.

        It always works for me.


        1. w
          wombat Aug 19, 2006 09:23 PM

          These instructions are kind of intimidating! I eat whole fish at every opportunity, especially in Asian places, and it never occurred to me that I had to think about it or that there were any rules. The soft parts are fish, the hard parts are bone, they are not really stuck to each other, and you know which kind of part is good to eat. And who's watching? Don't worry. Just go for it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: wombat
            gloriousfood Aug 31, 2006 01:24 PM

            Yup, growing up in a Chinese family we just take whichever parts of the fish we want--no rules, no methods. When the dish comes out, we all p/u our chopsticks and enjoy! My mother would always go for the head. She absolutely loved it. Per Chinese "legend," those who eat the fish's head are particularly bright people.

          2. chica Aug 19, 2006 10:13 PM

            About those fish at Chinese restaurants, the best parts are, in my opinion, everwhere except the stomach. Oh, and I've had family friends who like to suck the brain. ;-)

            7 Replies
            1. re: chica
              Das Ubergeek Aug 20, 2006 12:20 AM

              ...and in an Asian restaurant, never flip the fish over, it's considered bad luck and even if you're not superstitious, people will stare at you or even make comments.

              Remove the bone, then continue eating.

              1. re: Das Ubergeek
                Dommy Aug 22, 2006 05:59 PM

                That is what we do! Just flake off the front side, and when you are ready for the other, lift up the tail and pull out the spine and head. :)


                1. re: Das Ubergeek
                  prunefeet Aug 22, 2006 06:02 PM

                  I did not know this!!

                  1. re: prunefeet
                    ricepad Aug 22, 2006 06:12 PM

                    Turning the fish over curses the fishing boats to be similarly flipped over, according to the superstition.

                    1. re: ricepad
                      prunefeet Aug 24, 2006 05:22 PM

                      OMG, we can't have that! I won't ever do it again!

                  2. re: Das Ubergeek
                    mabziegurl Aug 29, 2006 02:13 AM

                    i'm chinese, and never flip the fish over in a restaurant as we all know this is proper etiquette. however, we always flip it over at home which i think about it kind of strange. wonder why?

                    1. re: mabziegurl
                      Das Ubergeek Aug 29, 2006 04:10 PM

                      I never thought about that, but we do it at home too!

                2. limster Aug 21, 2006 01:01 AM

                  My favourite part of most fish is the little tube of flesh at the back of the head/neck. It's surrounded by bone on 3 sides and usualy very moist.

                  1. MMRuth Aug 22, 2006 04:39 PM

                    You could also try doing it at home first to avoid any pitfalls!

                    1. designerboy01 Aug 27, 2006 11:03 AM

                      In Asia, they say you can tell what cast a person is from when you put a whole fish on the table. In general, usually the back of the fish is the best. The tail part has more bones and is the 2nd best. The bottom of the fish is somtimes bitter and is the worst part. So when you put a fish down on a table and see where everybody goes for you have some idea. Just a fishy story. Also the cheeks of the fish are usually the smoothest. I don't eat eyeballs intentionally.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: designerboy01
                        Jefferson Aug 29, 2006 01:02 AM

                        Hmmm, I don't know. The belly of many fish is the fattiest/richest meat. In Thailand, I think the average person would be surprised that anyone would turn up his nose on what might be considered the most flavorful part of the fish. I haven't been to China/Taiwan, so attititudes there may well be different. And of course, no one would mistake me for high-so!

                        1. re: Jefferson
                          designerboy01 Aug 29, 2006 01:19 AM

                          You eat the belly of a sea bass and tell me what it taste like.

                        2. re: designerboy01
                          zfalcon Aug 31, 2006 07:56 PM

                          The belly is usually the best part. If it's bitter, this is because whoever cleaned the fish (poorly) cut into the organs when taking them out.

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