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Sardines ("kilu") are very common out here in Tallinn, and are very commonly eaten raw (e.g. kiluvõileib). It's particularly easy (and cheap) to find whole sardines that you can filet yourself. I have tried this at home in the following steps:

  1. Cut off the head.
  2. Slice open the belly.
  3. Remove gizzards and nonsense from belly.
  4. "Unfold" the sardine.
  5. Using a fork, grab the spine at the head-end of the fish and pull it straight out.
  6. Spend several minutes collecting bazillions of leftover rib bones, one-by-one, for each tiny fish.

The final step is obnoxious. I must be doing something wrong. How do I get the ribs out of the fish, efficiently?

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aren't sardine bones edible? – dassouki Jul 19 '10 at 12:24
@dassouki: yeah, but depending on size (and cooking technique), they can be unpleasant. – Adam Shiemke Jul 19 '10 at 12:58
Yeah, especially in some of the fatter ones, I find they irritate the throat. Of course, the answer could still be, "get over it, eat the bones." – Andres Jaan Tack Jul 19 '10 at 13:46
+1 for "nonsense" removed from the belly. :) – Sobachatina Nov 17 '10 at 17:01
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Perhaps a little bit late, but ...

There is a "correct way" to do it:

alt text

Of course there is a video :)

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OMG, never too late. :) – Andres Jaan Tack Nov 16 '10 at 23:44
@Andres Jaan Tack The secret is removing the dorsal fin that keeps the spine "attached" to the body. – Dr. belisarius Nov 17 '10 at 0:06
This answer would be better if it summarized the key points of the video. I'm not quite sure how helpful the included image is. – KatieK Jun 19 '14 at 22:05

I find it easier to take the fillets off after it has cooked, although this is not always practical. Once its cooked you can prise the meat away along the spine and remove the top fillet. once the top one is removed you can pick up the tail and generally are able to peel the skeleton away from the bottom fillet.

I know not everyone likes to, but I think you can eat the bones of sardines too

I appreciate that this may not be much help if you are wanting to do something with the raw fillets, but may be useful...

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