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portugal: how to eat bone-in fish

Portugal, sardinhas assadas, grelhadas, before, after, antes, depois

For years I joked about making a video on how to eat grilled fish with the bone in… now that I’m guiding groups for Rick Steves in Portugal, I’ve been convinced to do one. This example demonstrates sardinhas assadas or grelhadas which are a Portuguese staple, in season from the end of May to the end of October. Make no mistake; these are fresh, not canned. And because their season coincides with summer as well as Lisboa’s biggest party —the feast day of Santo António— just the smell of these yummy fish on the grill conjures up all kinds of great memories.

I decided to film this since many of my tour members from the United States aren’t familiar with eating a whole fish. Growing up in Memphis, I can understand their initial reaction. No one in my neighborhood ate fresh fish, & the thought of a fish head on a plate was hardly appetizing. But long ago I learned to appreciate seeing the whole animal, overcame the challenge of using a fish knife & now I wouldn’t have fish any other way.

As I explain in the video, everyone has their own style for doing this; however, this method works for me. In a more relaxed, beachfront atmosphere, sardines in Portugal are often deboned by hand over bread… not missing a single drop of goodness. Also keep in mind that different fish have different anatomy; dourada have a line of small bones running across the top (dorsal) side to look out for. In the end, each fish you eat in Portugal will be a learning experience.

Hope you find this useful!

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