Soft Fishbones

Sardines! This this brings back memories. One can, saute and a lot of water. Before, whenever we had it, it was a sign of very tight budget. I was not sad. I was happy. It used to be one of my favorite fish. No head with bitter gall bladder to deal with. She was not good at removing it without breaking and free fish cleaning service at wet market was not popular at that time. No spiky tails to hurt my tongue. And, the best of it all, no sharp bones to lodge in my throat. Removing fishbone was not my thing. I was so lazy with it that it often lodge in my throat.

Sardines fishbones are soft that you could barely feel it.

Hmm… How do they come up with a soft fishbone. If there is such thing as fast and easy way to do it. Then perhaps every household will do it. Lodge fishboad in throat could be dangerous but we just force it down with traditional and recommended method. Like swallowing a rice ball or large chunk banana. My wife can cough it out safely. I couldn’t do that. Perhaps there are more like me who couldn’t. Drinking soda do, cause the carbon dioxide gas may help dislodged it. Another is vinegar. The liquid may soften the bone after some time. In case it take longer, gurgling vinegar every hour or so is not a good idea.

Thankfully, it is not a rocket science. Anyone can do it provided with few resources and enough patience.

If vinegar works on softening fishbone. Then, my mom cooking expertise, which is pinangat na tulingan at galunggong should have relatively soft bones. I think they are softer after, but not enough to pass throat unnoticed. It gonna give pain and discomfort for few hours to two days. I think internal acids are strong enough to break it down. The longest time I have lodged bone was three days. It goes off on its own without doing anything.

Boneless Bangus in marinade has no noticeable bone softness. So as the fried fish soaked in vinegary sauce.

Eggshell soaked in vinegar have immediate bubbling reaction and noticeable degradation after few days. Both have calcium components but may have different bond structure. Mammalian bones are way stronger to be affected by such.

Fish, if fried to crisp. All the bones become brittle and safe to eat. Whenever I was assigned for cooking task, I was setting aside a piece or two for toasting. Both fish meat and bones taste great. No worries on pointed things. Accomplishing it is easier for smaller anchovies, like the popular dilis. Oh! I remember it now. Pinangat na dilis can have soft bones provided with longer cooking period.

In the end, int is all about heat and pressure. A sardine can be organic and still have soft bones. Cooking it in oven for 200 C for three hours might be enough. Lowering the temperature means extending the time. Adding pressure shortens it significantly. The exact case of sardines. Raw sardines have strong bones. Pre-cooking have no effect on bones at all. Retorting is responsible for that.

Marvin is the lead chocolate maker of Ben and Lyn Chocolate Inc. Has strong background in food research and development. Occasionally conducts training and lectures. Lecturer of Cocoa Foundation of the Philippines. Do coaching and consultancy services on his free time.