Cooking 101 – Cleaning Fish

Mktg - 001 Clean Fish edited re-sized

Our Tokyo days had several pluses, one of them being an abundant supply of fresh fish and the fishmongers did a most excellent job cleaning and filleting them. They were ready for cooking without any additional washing or cleaning. In comparison with the other countries in which we had lived, they did the best job.

Here in Singapore, when you buy a whole fresh fish from either the wet or supermarket, the fishmonger will scale and gut the whole fish. He may even fillet it at your request. However, we still have a few more steps of cleaning to complete back home. Have a look at the photo of the pieces of Ikan Parang (Wolf herring) above. This fish is used as an example for cleaning other types of fish.

Simple diagram of parts of a fish.

taken from


Most people will rub the fish with some coarse salt, wash, drain and dry it before packing it into plastic bags for freezing. I have found that if we want to completely remove all the fishy smells, it is very important to remove all blood clots inside the fish.

Place a plastic bag in the kitchen sink. Roll and open plastic bag. Hold fish over bag and use the sharp end of the kitchen scissors to cut and scrap away the fishy blood clots. Do a thorough job.

If your fish monger was in a great hurry, you might find that he had left the gills in the fish head as well. Use care when removing them as they are sharp.

For safety purposes, use kitchen scissors to cut off the Dorsal, Pectoral, Pelvic, Caudal and Anal fins since they are sharp.

Once all the fishes or fish pieces have been thoroughly cleaned, sprinkle salt and rub salt on each fish, both inside and outside. Wash and drain well. If you are intending to freeze those fishes or pieces of fish, use a clean muslin cloth to wipe them dry before packing them into freezer containers or plastic bags for future use.

I am using a large fish as an illustration and the same principles apply for all kinds of fishes. If your helper’s home-town is near the sea she will understand these instructions easily. In fact, you may not,  please run through this post with her.

Here is a short video clip runs you quickly through quick steps on how to choose a fresh fish, to de-scale and fillet a small whole fish. If you are keen, click this link –


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s