Common Bream
Live Carp Bream [Carp Bream, Bronze Bream, Fresh Water Bream, Caspian Bream; Abramis brama]

The Common Bream is a highly commercial fish from Central Europe to Central Asia, and was once an important food for the poor in Britain. The flesh has been described as "bony, insipid and soft". It can grow to 32 inches and 13 pounds but is more typically 12 to 20 inches and 4 to 9 pounds. Juveniles are often mistaken for Silver Bream, but the scales of this fish are smaller. Count from the leading edge of the dorsal fin down to the lateral line 13 or more scale rows (11 max for the Silver Bream). This fish is not found in North America, but is imported salted and dried. IUCN listed as LC (Least Concern).   Photo by Russian Name contributed to the public domain.

More on the Carp Family.

Dried Salted Carp Bream Buying:   This fish can be found in markets serving a Baltic, Russian or Central European community, but is not as common as Vobla. The photo specimen, from Lithuania, was purchased from a multi-ethnic market in Los Angeles, for 2014 US $11.49 per pound. They were sold in packages of two or three, store marked as "Vobla" but package marked as "Bream dry, Abramis brama" and "Caspian Bream" (though I doubt a fish from Lithuania was actually caught in the Caspian Sea). The photo specimen was 14-1/2 inches long and weighed 6-1/4 ounces.

Eating:   This dried fish is heavily salted, flat, thin, completely covered with large hard scales, full of bones and stiff as a board - so how do you eat this thing? Do you really want to eat this thing? Well, you eat it pretty much the same way as you eat a Vobla, but I consider this fish even more challenging because it's bigger and tougher. Please note, this is not something you want to do when you are in a hurry, or have plans to go somewhere. Also, it is not a fish for ladies with delicate fingernails, you need to claw this thing apart.

  1. First, you need beer. You cannot eat dry salty Bream without beer - and plenty of it - preferably Russian beer. Around here that is most commonly Baltica. This bottled beer has the unique advantage of a ring pull cap, like on a can. No other sauce or condiment is used, but it goes well with conversation.
  2. Cut off the head - use your kitchen shears.
  3. Hold the fish firmly and Pull out all the fins.
  4. Now, open the belly of the fish (it has been disemboweled, because it is illegal to sell it here otherwise, at least in "over regulated" California - botulism risk). Pry it open and start tearing it apart. Yes, it's ugly as sin, but sin does have its attractions, no?
  5. Pull off the scaly skin. It will come off in large shards.
  6. The thickest and easiest to recover flesh is above the backbone, but, unlike a Vobla, the backbone doesn't pull out easily, you just have to tear into it however you can.
  7. Pull off small bits of flesh from the inside as you can find them, picking off any tiny bones, as best you can.
  8. Pop a little piece in your mouth and chew, along with a generous swig of beer.
  9. When no more flesh can be found, discard the debris - and start working on another one, with more beer.
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