Shorthead Lizardfish
Fresh Fish [Synodus scituliceps]

Native to the eastern Pacific from the southern tip of Baja California to Chile and the Galapagos Islands, this lizardfish is not famous like the Bombay Duck, but does occasionally show up in Asian Markets here in Los Angeles, at least at 168 Market. Many of its characteristics are quite similar to the Duck, but handling is a bit different. My identification of the photo specimen as S. scituliceps is not certain, but the best match I could find. Saurida tumbil is similar but its pectoral fins attach high againsr the lateral line. This fish was 10-5/8 inches long and weighed 3-1/2 ounces, 2014 US $1.99 / pound.

More on Varieties of Fish (very large page).

Pan fried with a powdering of rice flour, and eaten with my standard lemon, white wine and butter sauce, this fish was surprisingly delectable, with a light, non-fishy flavor. Preparation was a bit tedious though.

Cooking:   Any wet method of cooking will turn this fish into mush - it's almost mush to start with. It can be lightly powdered with rice flour (a little heavier on the skin side to prevent sticking) and pan fried until very lightly browned.

Buying:   I have purchased this fish from 168 Market on Valley Blvd. in Alhambra CA (LA county) - they have had it multiple times, but it's not a regular item.

Scales:   Unlike the Bombay Duck, this is completely covered with tiny scales with moderate adhesion. The main problem scaling this fish is that it is so limp. Start by scaling the top, then go to the bottom, because the belly is likely to break open and be messy. If you find a few more scales during preparation, you can easily remove them with a thumbnail.

Skin:   The skin is very thin and has almost no shrink at all in cooking. Don't try to remove it, it's what's holding the fillets together.

Cleaning and Filleting:   This fish is easy to clean and fillet, but it's done a bit different from most fish, more like you would prepare a Bombay duck. The main differences are that this fish must be scaled, and the backbone is better calcified (harder). for more details see our Photo Gallery

  1. Scale the fish (see note above).
  2. Cut the head off diagonally passing just aft of the pectoral fins.
  3. Cut off the tail.
  4. Cut off the strange little platform the pelvic (bottom) fins are attached to
  5. Slit the belly all the way back to the tail. Insert you fillet knife into the body cavity sharp edge out and cut outward.
  6. Pull out all the innards. There isn't much, unless there's a large fish being digested inside. Scrape off the dark blood works on the backbone. Unlike the Duck, the backbone will now be fully exposed and the fillet will open out flat.
  7. Find the anal fin near the tail, it will be on one side of the fillet, and cut it away. There is also a tiny fin on the dorsal side just in front of the tail. You can grab hold of that and just pull it out, if you want to bother.
  8. Make a shallow "V" cut from each side of the backbone so you can get under it and cut it out.
  9. Set the fillet skin side up and make a cut on each side of the dorsal fin. Pull it out.
  10. Trim off any skin-thin areas along the edges.
  11. Rinse the fillets and drain.
  12. Roll the fillets back up skin side out and gently wring out excess water. This is not as effective as with the Duck.

Yield:   Pretty good, actually. A batch of 10 fish weighing 1 pound 12 ounces yielded 14-7/8 ounces of trimmed fillets (52%), after wringing out excess water.

Stock:   You've got to be kidding - you'll end up with a pot of slime.

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