Silver Seabream
Whole Squirefish [Squirefish, Pink Snapper, New Zealand Snapper, Australian Snapper; Pagrus auratus; invalid Chrysophrys auratus]

This Porgy is often sold in North America as "New Zealand Snapper" or "Pink Snapper", though it isn't a snapper nor closely related to them. It is found off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. A distinctly separate population is found from northern Vietnam to southern Japan. Farming this fish is in the development stages (2015) so some market fish may be farmed. This fish can reach 51 inches and 44 pounds, but is more commonly around 16 inches. The photo specimen was 12 inches long and weighed 1 pound 1 ounce. This fish is IUNC listed as DD (Data Deficient), but is not considered threatened.   Caution:   The name "Snapper" and reddish color allows this fish to be sold at a premium price, but it's not a snapper. It has excellent flavor, but has limitations that may make it not worth the price to you.

More on Porgy / Seabream Family.

Regardless of how it may be labeled, this fish is not a snapper. It's flavor is very good, but it's cooking characteristics are not the same as a real Snapper. it's flesh is mild with excellent flavor, but the flesh is so tender it cannot be used for many forms of cooking.

Any kind of wet cooking is out of the question, the flesh will just fall apart. Skin shrink is sufficiently severe, and the flesh so tender, it must be skinned for applications like pan frying, but the skin may be all that's holding the fillet together.

This fish can be baked or steamed whole or pan dressed, but the head is very large so pan dressed would be better.

Buying:   This fish is quite common in the Asian markets here in Southern California, usually sold as "Pink Snapper", "New Zealand Snapper" or "Snapper from New Zealand". The photo specimen, purchased from a Philippine market in Los Angeles, was 2016 US $7.99 / pound, and low yield exaggerates that high price.

Scales:   This fish is completely covered with moderate size scales with medium adhesion. They will fly about a fair amount when scraping them off.

Cleaning:   Nothing unusual here, except handle the fish very gently because of the tender flesh. The gills are a little hard to get at, so use your long nose pliers.

Skin:   The skin shrinks strongly when cooked, so it must be removed from fillets or they'll curl up - but the flesh is so tender the skin may be all that's holding a fillet together. It does soften by time cooking is complete. For baking, broiling or steaming or grilling, make diagonal slashes through the skin every inch or so.

Fillet:   This is a fairly easy fish to fillet with a coherent, easy to follow bone structure - but, the tender flesh can take no abuse at all, so be very gentle. Cut down to the backbone, then over the backbone at the tail and forward. When you get to the rib cage, use kitchen shears to cut the ribs from the backbone, then pull them from the fillet with long nose pliers. There are a few substantial centerline pin bones which must be pulled for the length of the body cavity. The skirt will probably pretty much fall apart, so just cut it from the fillet and toss it in the stock pot.

Yield:   A 1 pound 1 ounce fish yielded just 6-3/8 oz of skink-on fillet (38%) because of its heavy head and bone structure. Skinless this was 5-7/8 ounces (35%). Low yield is to be expected in a fish that makes its living grinding up starfish, sea urchins and crustaceans.

Stock:   The heads, bones, fins and skins make an excellent light stock suitable for soups, needing no other flavor than a little salt, though it is somewhat cloudy. Remove the small amount of oil using your gravy separator. For details see our Making Fish Stock page.

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