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Aug 19, 2006 06:26 PM

Eating a whole fish


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!

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  1. 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. 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. 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. 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

            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. 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

              ...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

                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: prunefeet

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

                    1. re: ricepad

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

                  2. re: Das Ubergeek

                    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

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