Purple-spotted Bigeye
Whole Purple-spotted Bigeye [Thread-fin Bigeye; Priacanthus tayenus of family Priacanthidae (Bigeyes or Catalufas)]

This fish is native to the Indo-West Pacific region, as far north as Taiwan and as far south as northern Australia. It occurs in the Persian Gulf, but is most common in Indonesian waters. The photo specimen was labeled "Big Eye Snapper" in a large Asian market in Los Angeles. It can grow to almost 14 inches, but the photo specimen was 7-1/2 inches (not counting a thread extending from the tail) and weighed 3.5 ounces. the purple spots are on the pelvic fins. This fish is a minor commercial catch and not considered threatened.

There are many other Bigeys, most of which look much alike. They are also called Bullseyes or Glasseyes. Most are small, but some can get up to 18 inches long. Most are concentrated in the Indonesian region. This is the only one I've found for sale in Los Angeles, so far.

More on Varieties of Fish (very big page).

The flesh of this fish is firm, light, tasty and definitely worthwhile. On the other hand, this can be a real problem fish if you don't know how to handle it. The scales are so hard and densely packed they're nearly impossible to scrape off, and it has plenty of fins and bones. Further, the skin doesn't come off easily after cooking, it breaks up into sticky little pieces you have to pick off one by one.

So here's how to handle this fish efficiently:

  1. Thaw the fish - since frozen is the only way you're going to find them in North America.
  2. Above the eye and behind the collar make a short downward cut through the skin, then make a long cut along the top of the fish as if to fillet but just through the skin.
  3. Grasp the skin at the point behind the eye and peel it off in a downwardly direction. It should all come off nicely without damaging the flesh.
  4. Cut the head off, using your kitchen shears to cut down just through the backbone, and use your filleting knife to cut the rest of the way around the collar. Pull the head off and much of the innards will come with it. From the front pull out the gut and the swim bladder and anything else in there. You should end up with a cleanly hollow fish.
  5. Steam the fish, about 10 minutes over high heat.
  6. On your cutting board, holding by the tail, pull out the dorsal (top) and anal (bottom) fins completely. If the fish is done they will come out easily leaving a groove top and bottom.
  7. Now, working from the tail and top, lift the fillet off the bones. Use a butter knife to assist if necessary. Check the rib cage area for any bones that have come loose from the backbone and remove them. the fillets should be quite firm so this should be pretty easy.
  8. You should now have a bunch of cute little fillets (the inside side is the best looking) ready to serve however and with whatever sauce you wish, or as an ingredient in other recipes.
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