Sardines is a common enough type of fish for everyone to be familiar with. It’s a type of herring that is small and oily. They’re usually found in the supermarket in rectangular cans.
Sardines in a can already taste good. But because canned goods lose their nutrients, health-conscious people prefer the fresh ones. Fresh sardines can be easily found in the supermarket. Simply ask your fishmonger for it and they’ll surely have stock. Most of the time, they will do the cleaning and the filleting for you. But there are times when they give you the sardines without so much as a wash.
A Simple Guide to Cleaning and Filleting Fresh Sardines
You don’t have to be a professional chef to deal with your sardines. In fact, it’s pretty easy to clean and fillet them once you get the hang of it. The trick here is to be gentle on the fish so it doesn’t break or get squished. The last thing you want is a sardine that looks like mashed fish. To help you avoid that experience, here is a 7-step guide in preparing fresh sardines.
Step 1: Removing the Scales
The first step is to remove the scales. There are two ways you can do this. The first one is by washing the sardine while removing the scales. Using a pair of scissors or a paring knife, remove the scales by starting at the tail. Scrape the scales upward towards the head. Remember, do this gently because the scales are soft and easy to remove. The other way to do this is by going straight to scaling. Some people prefer to wash the fish before or right after the scales get removed.
Step 2: Chopping off the Head
Once you’ve removed all the scales from the fish, the next thing you’ll do is to chop off the head. This step is very easy and fast so you don’t have to worry about anything else. With a pair of scissors, position the blade right after the gills. Then, in a diagonal direction, cut the head off in one snip. Make sure that when you cut it off, there are no fins left on either side.
Step 3: Opening the Belly
Step 3 is like Step 2. All you have to do is cut open the belly using scissors. Position the sardine facing you with the side of the head near you. Then, cut open the belly the same way you would cut a paper in half. Cut it right at the center until you reach the tail.
Step 4: Removing the Fins
The next thing you have to do is to remove the fins, specifically the dorsal fin. The dorsal fin is at the opposite side of the belly. So, turn over your sardine and pull the fin out of the fish. Even if the fin looks edible, you don’t want to risk it because it can be hard to swallow.
Step 5: Cleaning Out the Belly
And now for the ickiest part of cleaning a sardine. To make the sardine edible, you have to remove all the internal organs found inside the belly. This means you have to scrape out all the blood, the veins, and the other reddish things you’ll see there. This time, you’re not supposed to use a pair of scissors because you might ruin the fish. Instead, use your bare thumb to scrape off the internal organs towards the head. To make it a little easier and less gross, clean it under running water.
Step 6: Removing the Spine
Once you’ve removed all the contents in the belly, it’s time to remove the spine. This part needs more concentration than the other steps. So when you remove the spine, start by spreading the body open. You’ll see that there’s a long strip of fish bones. Lift the side nearest the head and then pull it away. You’ll hear a snap when the bone gets removed.
Step 7: Cleaning the Sardine
When the spine’s gone, you now have a perfectly filleted sardine. Before you start cooking or serving it, clean it a bit for a better presentation. You can do this by cutting off the tail, and then cutting off the sides just so it looks perfectly shaped.
Following these 7 steps will produce a nicely cut and filleted sardine. But you should also remember that to produce nicely cut sardines, you should buy fish that are in their best condition, freshly caught if possible. Make sure that you check the sardines first before buying them.