Golden Thread
Whole Fish [Golden threadfin bream; Bisugo (Philippine); Pla Sai Dang (Thai); Nemipterus virgatus]

This small West Pacific fish is commercially important in the East and South China Seas and is common in Asian markets in California. It is aso sold as Daing (dried fish) in Philippine markets. While these fish can grow to a little over 13 inches, the photo specimen, caught wild in Vietnam, was 10-1/2 inches long and weighing 8 ounces. The name comes from a yellow thread extending an inch or so from the top tip of the tail but this will be missing by time the fish is in the market, due to handling while frozen.

This fish varies in color from almost all silver with light iridescent color to the rather gaudy paint job of the photo specimen. All I have seen do have the yellow markings on the fins and the top tip of the tail is yellow.

More on Threadfin Bream.

Golden Thread flesh is lightly colored with enough flavor to be interesting but not notably strong. There is, however, a dark layer right under the skin with a stronger taste. The flesh is very tender raw but firms up when cooked. It flakes apart easily on the plate.

Cooked whole or pan dressed this fish is a bit of a problem on the plate because the rib cage comes completely apart, so all ribs and centerline spines have to be dealt with individually. The fins do pull away fairly neatly.

If baking or steaming whole or pan dressed, you want to make a couple of diagonal cuts half way through the flesh because otherwise the fish tends to break unattractively.

In China this fish is often used to make fish balls. In the Philippines this fish is often dusted with salted flour, pan fried and served with lemon and bagoong alamang (shrimp paste).

Scales:   The scales are surprisingly large but scrape off easily without a lot of flying about. Because they are large, very thin and almost totally transparent they do stick to everything and are not the easiest to clean up.

Cleaning   Most of the innards seem to be up in the head and not easy to get at. The gills are very far forward and pull rather hard. For these reasons I recommend immediately removing the head unless you really want a head-on fish. Even removed from the fish the head is not easy to clean out unless you cut under the chin and remove the collar for better access. The body cavity extends somewhat beyond the vent.

Fillet:   This is an easy fish to fillet with an easy to follow bone structure. Cut down from the top to the backbone, then over the backbone at the tail until you get to the rib cage. Cut the ribs off with kitchen shears and pull them from the fillet - they pull very easily. There are a few significant centerline spines that need to be located and pulled straight forward as they do not soften in cooking.

Skin:   The skin has no strong or "off" flavor. It has moderate shrink but soon releases from the fillet. Skin-on fillets can be pan fried successfully lightly dusted with rice flour. When turned skin side down the fillet will curl a bit but within a few seconds can be patted flat with your turner. This is a rather difficult fish to skin because the skin is so thin and delicate, it tends to break. If it breaks while skinning from the tail end, turn the fillet around and try skinning from the point at the top front.

Stock:   The heads (well cleaned and split), bones and fins simmered slowly for about 40 minutes make a light flavored, nearly clear and serviceable stock with very little oil. Remove what oil there is using your gravy separator.

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