My father was a great fresh water fisherman. I remember when I was a kid seeing him escaping into the solitude of the forest early in the morning or late in the afternoon for his fishing/hunting trips. He did that for a hobby and the family got to eat those delicious fresh fish from the pristine waters of rivers and lagoons around my village in the beautiful hilly State of Minas Gerais, Brazil . There was a huge variety of fish, all with different names, sizes, colors, and textures. My mother would prepare them in many different ways so as to enhance the flavors. Except for the scales and innards, we ate everything. That’s right: everything, including the bones!
I especially liked it when she deep fried small fish or bony parts from the bigger ones. For the larger, she’d prepare the prime parts some other way. The fried bones became an exciting and fun amuse bouche: so crunchy, crisp and tasty. Yum! I loved it.
Some may say fried fish bones make a gourmet food that’s an acquired taste. Recently we had a marvelous example of this at Live Sushi. Others might be grossed out or complain that the practice of eating the fish bones is too primitive. I feel that they are just plain, delicious peasant food.
Last week at Sun Fat, my fishmonger advised me to get the wild red snapper, which was fresh and on sale. He cleaned it for me by removing the scales, innards and bones, then filleted it. I cooked the fillets separately but kept the bones to fry. Not only is not wasting food “politically correct,” but it’s good too, in a naughty way. So just like my mother before me, I deep fried my red snapper bones and enjoyed sweet memories while chomping this savory dish.
Edible Fish Bones
Canola oil for frying
1 red snapper skeleton sprinkled with salt and pepper
Using a deep pan, pour in enough oil so that the bones will be submerged about ¾ of the way while the fish is in the pan. Heat the oil on high. Once hot, gently place the bones in the pan, avoiding splashing oil. Fry for about five minutes or so. Try not to touch the frying fish too much as it will break apart. Adjust temperature up or down depending on how it’s going. You don’t want to burn the fish but it won’t fry properly if too cool. Using a tong, turn fish to fry the other side for about 4 minutes more. Remove from oil to a plate lined with paper towels. Let it cool a bit. Serve it as an appetizer with wedges of lime and a cold beer or a nice white Bordeaux or maybe even an oaky chardonnay.
The only down-side of this recipe, at least at my house, is that at it makes the whole place smell fishy for a few days. Oh well…