These Indo-West Pacific fish are found in reef environments, mainly in the West Pacific, but some are found as far west as the Maldives. They are not usually all blue like the photo specimen, and the big patch on the chin is usually green in adult males. They range as far north as the Ryukyu Islands, as far south as the northern tip of Australia, and all through Indonesia and around Papua New Guinea. They can grow to almost 28 inches (TL), but the photo specimen was 14-1/8 inches long and weighed 1 pound 13-3/8 ounces. This Parrotfish is fished commercially, and is IUCN Red Listed LC (Least Concern).
More on Parrot Fish
As you can see below, Parrotfish is a little more hassle than some fish to prepare, so why deal with Parrotfish? Well, because they have a unique combination of taste and texture. Parrotfish flesh is pure white in color, with no dark strip down the center under the skin. It's flavor is mild, but sufficiently interesting to be enjoyed by the fish connoisseur - yet not so assertive as to deeply offend those who want their fish "white and lite".
The flesh stays firm enough for any mode of cooking, but on the plate, can be flaked apart into unusually thick firm textured flakes.
Cooking: This fish needs to be cooked as skinless fillets, as its skin shrink is too severe to be controlled. For pan frying, I use just a dusting of rice flour and fry in a light oil so the true taste of the fish can be enjoyed. It also poaches very well. In both cases, use a very light sauce. This fish cooks firm enough it can be used in fish soups and stews.
Buying: Parrotfish show up fairly regularly in the Philippine fish markets here in Southern California and occasionally in other Asian markets. It's not a fish you go out to buy, it's a fish you buy when you see it. The photo specimen, 1 pound 13-3/8 ounces, was purchased from a Philippine fish market in Los Angeles (Eagle Rock) for 2016 US $3.99 / pound.
Scales: This fish is completely covered with very large stiff scales that have a lot of tight overlap, making them difficult to scrape off, and impossible to scrape off on a larger fish. For a 1-7/8 pound fish I had to pull them off in clumps with my long nose pliers and fingers. Fortunately, they are so big that there aren't that many of them.
Cleaning: This is not the easiest fish to clean as there are some tough membranes that aren't easy to pull out, and the gills are hard to get to. Use your long nosed pliers and strong kitchen shears. You will find a set of millstones in the throat, used to crush coral pebbles into sand to extract food.
Fillet: The fish is fairly easy to fillet with an easy to follow bone structure. When you get to the rib cage, it is easiest to cut the ribs from the backbone with kitchen shears and pull them from the fillet. Pulled lengthwise they pull out taking little flesh with them. There are some substantial sharp centerline pinbones for the full length of the rib cage. Pull these out straight forward.
Skin: The skin shrinks very severely when heated, it doesn't let go, and it doesn't soften until the damage is done. Trying to hold a fillet flat when it's turned skin side down is futile, the skin just pulls the fillet into a lump. Fortunately, the skin is tough, enough to be easily removed cleanly using the long knife and cutting board Method. The skin does not have a strong or "off" flavor, but I do not use it in the stock pot because it will color the stock oddly.
Yield: Yield is a bit better than some parrotfish. A 2 pound 15-3/4 ounce fish yielded 1 pound 3 ounces of skin-on fillet (40%) and 1 pound 1/4 ounce skin off (34%). Yield is a bit low due to the large heavy head.
Stock: The head, fins and bones make a light flavored stock with almost no oil, but the stock will be distinctly green in color. For details see our Fish Stock page.