Squirrelfish / Blotcheye Soldierfish
This is an Indo-Pacific fish, ranging from the east coast of Africa through the Pacific Islands, as far as the Galapagos Islands, but is not found around Easter Island. It can grow up to nearly 12 inches long, but is commonly around 9 inches. This fish is not considered threatened, IUCN Red List rated NE (Not Evaluated). It is a commercially exploited fish within its range
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The pure white flesh of this fish has a good mild flavor. It holds together well during wet cooking, so it's good for soups and stews. It can only be used as skinless fillets, because skin shrink during cooking is extreme.
Buying: This is not at all a common fish here in Southern California, but it may be considered very desirable in the Philippines, which would explain the price. The photo specimen was purchased at a Philippine market in Los Angeles for 2014 US $9.99 per pound.
Scales: The scales are rather large and very stiff. They scrape off a little hard, but with only moderate flying about.
Cleaning: This fish presents no particular problems in cleaning. The gills do pull a little hard, and the esophagus is tough, so use long nose pliers.
Fillet: This is an easy fish to fillet with easy to follow bone structure. I usually remove the head before filleting. When you get to the rib cage, just cut the ribs away from the backbone with kitchen shears and pull them from the fillet using long nose pliers. There are a few substantial centerline spines which need to be pulled, and they pull a little hard.
Skin: The skin has no strong or "off" flavor, but shrink is extreme, and it does not weaken or let loose during cooking. Since the skin is so tough, fillets can be skinned rather easily using the long knife and cutting board Method.
Yield: A 12-1/8 ounce fish yielded 5-3/8 ounces of skin-on fillet (44%), and 4-3/4 ounces skinless (39%).
Stock: The head, bones and fins make a very usable soup stock (I didn't use the skins). There is quite a bit of yellow colored oil, which should be removed - use your gravy separator. For details see our Fish Stock page.