Silver Sillago
Whole Silver Sillago [Sillago sihama]

This Indo-West Pacific fish is found from the east coast of Africa to the Pacific islands, and from the southern tip of Japan to the north and west coasts of Australia. A few have gotten into the eastern Mediterranean through the Red Sea. They can grow to 13 inches but the photo specimen was 5-1/4 inches and weighed 0.6 ounce. Both caught wild and farmed, this is considered a good eating fish and is not threatened.

This fish has good flavor and would be an excellent eating fish if grown to an 8 to 10 inch size. In the 5-1/4 inch size I've found around here it's a bit of a problem. First of all, it needs to be scaled, a bother for so small a fish, even though the scales have almost no adhesion and are easily scraped off with a thumbnail.

Deep fried, gutted or not (there's not a lot of guts in these fish), doesn't work well. The head is long, hard, and has a strong taste, but makes a convenient handle when eating the rest of the fish. Problem is, the rest of the fish has noticeable fin spines, there's a hard bone at the back of the body cavity and the backbone is just a little too crunchy.

Having bought a bag of them, I had to develop a satisfactory way to eat them. Below what I came up with. It does take close attention so you don't want to eat these while engaged in animated conversation, but it is kind of entertaining and the flavor is good. It's also good for weight control - you'd starve to death if you tried to live on these things.

  1. Scale and clean the fish. You can remove the head if you wish, but if you do make sure you get the collar and the pectoral and pelvic fins with it.
  2. Select an appropriate eating utensil - a pair of pointy tipped Japanese style lacquered chopsticks is what I found works.
  3. Put a steamer grate in your wok and bring water to a boil. Arrange the fish on the grate, cover and steam over moderately high heat for 7 minutes. Much more and the backbone will break up making eating difficult.
  4. Arrange on a plate, sprinkle with lemon juice and salt.
  5. With the point of a chopstick nick the flesh at the top of the fish just in front of the tail to get under the fin rays. Draw the chopstick forward along the top of the fish, peeling out the dorsal fins. For a larger fish do the same for the bottom side.
  6. Now just pick the flesh from the bones with the points of the chopsticks and consume.
sf_sillagsz* 061224   -
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