Though you can rely on your fish store to scale and gut fish for you (ask that the head and tail be left on), this quick and efficient Chinese technique is handy to know should you find yourself with a freshly caught uncleaned fish. It is also a good way to learn the anatomy of a fish.
Using the back of a cleaver, scrape toward the head to scale the fish. The fresher the fish, the less the resistance to the cleaver.
Holding the fish belly up, free the head from the body with a partial cut under the mouth. Leave the head attached at the top so that the “neck” works as a hinge.
This exposes the gills, which can be cut out.
Discard the gills. They add a bitter taste.
Feel for the point where the stomach sac ends and the bone structure of the tail begins. Make a cut 1 inch deep across the fish at that point.
Make another cut perpendicular to it through the stomach for about 2 inches toward the head.
This exposes the entrails, which can now be pulled out easily. Rinse the cavity and the outside of the fish with cold water.
If the cavity of the fish is to be stuffed, the entrails can be pulled out instead through the gill cavity behind the head. In this case, do not make the V-shaped, cut on the belly.