[Largehead Hairtail (FishBase), Ribbonfish, Cutlassfish, Scabbardfish; Kalchi (Korea, lit. "Sword fish"); Tachiuo (Japan, lit. "Sword fish"); Peixe-espada (Brazil, Portugal, lit "Sword fish"); Trichiurus lepturus]
This fish is found worldwide in tropical and temperate waters, usually not far from the coast. It can grow to over 7-1/2 feet long and 11 pounds, but the photo specimen was a mere 34-1/2 inches long, weighing 1 pound 3/4 ounce. This is a highly commercial fish, primarily for Asian markets, so it is very common here in Los Angeles, but it is also popular in Brazil, Portugal, Italy and Pakistan. Beltfish have no scales and make no effort whatever to be kosher.
Beltfish is one of the many small fish that are salted and dried in the
Philippines, categorically called
"Daing". The larger of the photo
specimens was 19-1/4 inches long and weighted 1-1/2 ounces. It was
purchased from a Philippine market in Los Angeles for 2016 US $2.99 for
3-5/8 ounces, or $13.20 / pound.
More on Varieties of Fish
(very large page).
Beltfish is popular for grilling, pan frying, deep frying and stir frying - all dry, high heat, short cooking time methods, because it becomes mushy with long or wet cooking. The flesh is medium flavored and low in oil. It may be cooked as fillets, or as cut sections of the fish to be deboned on the plate.
In Japan it is also eaten raw as sushi or sashimi, usually served with ponzu rather than soy sauce. It may be lightly grilled so it has a crust but is still raw inside.
Another popular method is to make fillets into rolls. For this, fillets are cut to about 2 inch lengths, rolled around a filling and pined with toothpicks to keep skin shrink from unrolling them. The filling must then jell to hold it together because the skin will quickly soften.
In India, Indonesia, Philippines and some Pacific islands, this fish is usually salted and sun dried, after which it may be used in curries.
Buying: Beltfish can be found in just about any of the Asian fish markets here in Southern California, both whole on ice, and in the frozen cases cleaned and cut to size for rolls. The photo specimen was purchased from a Philippine market in Los Angeles (Eagle Rock, actually) for 2016 US $3.99 / pound.
Filleting: This might seem a bit daunting for a fish over three feet long, but it's not that hard. Note: Because of its shape, this fish finds it hard to stay upright, so you may find a few bony counter weights along the bottom of the fish. These are normal.
Yield: A 1 pound 3/4 ounce fish yielded 9-1/8 ounces of fillet (54%), but smaller fish will yield a slightly lower percentage.
Skin: The skin shrinks significantly but is weak and quickly softens.
Stock: Stock made from beltfish heads and bones is rather "fishy" and I don't recommend it.