Needlescaled Queenfish
Whole Fish [Slender Leatherskin; Lapis, Forado, Talang-talang (Philippine); Scomberoides tol | similar: Doublespot Queenfish; Lapis (Philippine); Scomberoides lysan]

Native to the tropics and subtropics of the Indo Pacific, from the east coast of Africa to the west coasts of North and South America, This fish can grow to 2 feet long and a little over 1 pound, but the photo specimen was 13-1/2 inches long and weighed 8-3/8 ounces. The Doublespot Queenfish is almost identical except it has another row of smaller spots below the main spots, and it grows a little bigger.

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Flesh of this fish is medium in color, with a wide strip of darker meat down the center under the skin, but this dark meat doesn't differ greatly from the lighter flesh in taste or oiliness. It's not a fish for those who want "fish lite", but is quite suitable for those who like fish.

I prefer this fish dusted with rice flour and fried in a good quality oil, but it poaches well too. The main problem is simply the small size of the fillets - you'll need at least 4 per person.

Buying:   I have seen these only in Philippine markets. Here in Los Angeles, California these are to be found near almost any large hospital complex, because our healthcare system here runs mostly on Philippine immigrants. I purchased these fish for US $0.99/pound, and yes, they were selling fairly well.

Scales:   These are very tiny and needle shaped. They are very difficult to see and impossible to scrape off - don't even try.

Cleaning:   Nothing unusual here, except the body cavity extends well aft of the vent. You'll have to cut in both directions from the vent. The gills pull out fairly easily with your long nosed pliers.

Filleting:   The main problem with filleting This fish is cutting through the tough leathery skin. Not so hard at the top of the fish, but tougher at the bottom. When you get down to the rib cage don't bother trying to follow the bones with your knife. Just use kitchen shears to cut the ribs from the backbone and pull them from the fillets with your long nose pliers. They pull easily and take almost no flesh. The skirt is very thin on this fish and will be mostly lost in skinning.

There are centerline spines for the front half of the fish, but they are soft and disappear in cooking. You might want to pull a couple of the largest at the very front of the fish - just pull them out straight forward.

Yield:   An 8-3/8 ounce fish yielded 4 ounces of skin-off fillet (48%), not bad for a small thin fish.

Skin:   The skin is entirely inedible. It is stiff and tough, like a sheet of leather, and it's shot full of needle like scales. It is, however, so tough that skinning this fish is unusually easy. You will loose most of the thin skirt, but that's very little loss. If shards of it remain, make sure they don't have any of those needle scales attached to them.

Stock:   The head, bones and fins make a serviceable medium flavored stock, typical of jacks. There is little oil, but what there is should be removed before use (use your gravy separator). For details see our Fish Stock page.

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