Fishmongering is hard. The K & S Seafood booth at the Cedar Park Farmer’s Market is one of my favorite vendors because each week besides the usual shrimp on sale, they have seasonal items from the gulf. One week, they had whole red snapper. The eyes were clear so they were probably really fresh. My mom does more things such as poke the flesh and look under the gills to ascertain their freshness but I am not that hardcore.
I remember going fishing with my parents when we were young and catching fish, cleaning and gutting them, and then cooking them at the campsite so I’ve seen it done though I have never cleaned and gutted a fish myself.
The red snapper is an intimidating fish because of its spiny dorsal fins. If I was actually prepared, I would have some sharp scissors to do all the work but all I had was a medium sized knife. The fins are actually very hard and you have to hack at them to remove them. To gut the fish, you insert the knife in the hole that I think is its anus and cut all the way to the head. Next, pull all its innards out. Then I lifted the gills and pulled those sacs out. Finally, I used the knife to rubbed it on the fish’s skin in a perpendicular motion to take the scales off. This part is a lot of work because you have to do it from head to tail even on the face and belly of the fish. Also, learn from my mistake and do all this outside. When you rub the scales off the fish, they go flying all all directions and makes clean up a real pain.
I scored the body and slightly seasoned the flour and rolled the fish in it then fried it in a wok in vegetable oil, head and all. I made a traditional sweet and sour sauce with pineapple, bell peppers,and ginger. It tasted great. I would say same as or better than at a restaurant. There’s something celebratory about having a whole fish but unfortunately in my household, I am usually the only person who gets to enjoy it for what it is. I cut off a filet piece for Andy because he is scared of fish bones and doesn’t like to pick the meat off the fish with chopsticks like I do.
We finished the top of the fish and removed the fish spine to enjoy the bottom half. That’s some kind of Vietnamese/Chinese thing. After eating the top of the fish and getting to the bone, you can’t just turn the fish over and continue eating. The act of turning the fish over is suppose to resemble a boat turning over which is bad luck. Crazy Asians and their silly superstitions but delicious food.