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How to Filet a Pacific Saury (Sanma)

How to Filet a Pacific Saury (Sanma)

I wrote down the procedure for breaking down a whole fish that I learned from a professional sushi chef.

Ingredients

Fresh Pacific saury (sanma)
1

Steps

1. Wet your cutting board. Place the knife on the far side of the board, and have a kitchen towel ready too. This is the basic mis en place? for professionals. I used a 15 cm knife.
2. You are supposed to hold your knife like this when cutting up a fish, put your index finger on the back of the blade.
3. Scrape the scales off the fish by scraping the knife lightly over it.
4. Insert the knife into the gill and cut off the head.
5. The head is cut off.
6. Cut into the belly of the fish from the tail end towards the head.
7. The belly is cut now. Wash and scrape the guts out under running water.
8. This is how it looks after the guts have been washed out. Pat dry with kitchen towel.
9. Score the belly of the fish, then cut into it towards the backbone. When the knife hits the backbone, stop.
10. The white line shown in the photo represents the back bone. Cut up to the red part, and stop your blade at the bone.
11. Score the back side of the fish. Using that as a guideline, cut into the fish towards the bone.
12. The white part is the back bone. Cut up to the red part, and stop your blade at the bone.
13. Insert the knife from the tail end over the bone. Hold the tail with your left hand as you do this.
14. Holding the tail with your left hand, run the knife over the bone as you cut it. You go from left to right as shown in the photo.
15. It will look like this.
16. Score the rest of the fish on the belly side in the same way, then cut into the fish towards the bone, holding your knife at a 45 degree angle.
17. Score and cut the back side towards the bone in the same way.
18. Insert the knife into the tail end as in Step 10, and cut and slide it over the bone. Work from the tail end towards the head end.
19. The fish is now divided into three parts.
20. There are some small bones in this regions, to slice through them with the knife.
21. Remove the small bones with fish bone tweezers and you're done! I bought mine from a 100 yen shop.
22. For pan frying you can just leave the skin on.
23. If you want to remove the skin, start from the head end and peel it off slowly with your hands. It should peel right off.

Story Behind this Recipe

Notes from what I learned during a one-day sushi making class.