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Who would think that eating fishes from head to toe would be so good?
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Frying fishes in a art. Work with small batches proportional to the size of your fryer. Too many fishes in too small a fryer would decrease the oil temperature too much. Heat your oil to 150°C /300°F and drop the fish in for their one-before-last swim.

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Fry for about 5 minutes. Proceed with the rest of the fishes.

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Now for our last dive. Heat the oil to 180°C / 350°F ...

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...and fry the fishes for a second time until light brown and crispy.

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Pat them dry with paper towels.

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Sprinkle with salt.

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Traditionally such dishes are served with an aioli or mayonnaise or another oil emulsion for a nutritionally balanced meal. But if really you feel like making that one exception, you could use like I did, a simple sauce made from yogurt, crushed garlic and lemon juice. Not quite a nutritious, but deliciously refreshing.

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There was my Friday TV tray. The fishes are really crispy and there is much less visible oil than on any French fries I've seen. And everybody knows you can't get fat on fishes.

Published 21/07/2008
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68 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Cj
  • on: 21/07/2008
That is so delish! We here at the Philippines also have a dish like that, exactly like it, and it's called 'dilis'. My mom is great serving this stuff! By the way, there is also a version here where the fish isn't dipped into a batter like yours. Delish, too!
  • #2
  • Comment by Paul
  • on: 21/07/2008
Delicious! I have these when I visit the Mediterranean also, when I go to Spain. The little fishes can be found under the name of "whitebait".
  • #3
  • Comment by hazri
  • on: 21/07/2008
Hi Fx,
It looks really tasty and easy to prepare. I'm going to give it a try as soon as possible.
Keep up the good work. :)

  • #4
  • Comment by Richard
  • on: 21/07/2008
Hi Francois! Ah, what a fabulous TV dinner!!

Otherwise known as "Whitebait" (is that just a UK thing?)

Much, much better (and better for you) than popcorn and sensationally delicious. I urge even the most squeamish of those of you out there to give it a try.

Richard
  • #5
  • Comment by Joui
  • on: 21/07/2008
In Portugal we also eat fish from head to toe: when we have very small sardines, we eat them with "bolo" (cake), which is made of the same dough used for broa (which is a kind of corn bread). The dough is shaped like a rough pizza base, slightly larger, and cooked in a wood oven. When it's ready, you eat it with sizzling sardines from the grill. Yum!
  • #6
  • Comment by mtX
  • on: 21/07/2008
mmm, I just ate but I am suddenly hungry again after seeing your pictures fx :) We have these in Romania too, we call them "hamsii" (a word with greek origin, I think) and we eat them with soft polenta and lots of crushed garlic
I've been reading about this dish in Jacques Pepin's autobiography. They look amazing, I just don't think I'll be getting any in Vermont any time soon!! But I really want some.
You have really taken me back to Guyana with this post. These exact small fish is sold in abundance in the market there. We enjoy them seasoned with some garam masala or turmeric with salt and pepper and fried until crisp. They are often eaten with dhal and rice and a hot spicy pickle such as an achar.

There is another variety where the fish is similiar looking but the body is flat, I think the fisherfolk call it Nettly (not sure of the name).

I like the way you've presented them for eating here, they'd make a great snack.
  • #9
  • Comment by Ricardo
  • on: 21/07/2008
And in Mexico, they are called Charales. Fried with different degrees of saltiness. All they need is lime and tabasco.
  • #10
  • Comment by Su-Lin
  • on: 21/07/2008
I never thought of serving them with a creamy dip but I guess tartar sauce is also creamy! These look so delicious!
  • #11
  • Comment by Gamelle
  • on: 21/07/2008
Et dans le cornet de papier en plus! Quel luxe!
I do like "baits", and yours seem very crispy and not oily at all. The photo where you sprinkle the salt is super!
  • #12
  • Comment by jensenly
  • on: 21/07/2008
Ok - I'll admit to never having had a sardine or any kind of little fishy head-to-toe. Educate me, please, as to how one deals with the bones????
  • #13
  • Comment by Paulina  C. L. Tognato
  • on: 21/07/2008
Hello, François!
We love this appetizer, here.
It!s served in all brazilians beach with much cold beer!
This fish is called like "manjubinha".
Congratullations!!!!!!
Your "manjubinhas fritas" appears very, very crunch!
I'll open some beers, now!!!!!
  • #14
  • Comment by Alys
  • on: 21/07/2008

Thanks for another tasty tale.

Here, on the west coast of Canada, we have smelts and eulachon (the fabled trading fish of the Grease Trail) which are both members of the Osmeridae family. Unfortunately, the stocks failed last year all up and down the coast, so it remains to be seen if any of us will be able to make this snack in the near future.  :-(

wat an amazing TV snack..if only they sell dis fresh out of the fryer at the cinemas..
  • #16
  • Comment by Ouroboros
  • on: 21/07/2008
Never expected to see this here, FX!  Here in northern Wisconsin, USA, "smelting" is a big deal in the limited time that one can net a large quantity of smelt (smelt is a mini-fish species that is full grown at this particular size, for those that don't know).  Traditionally, the first smelt out of the net is eaten while still alive (yep, it's as nasty as it sounds), and the catch is either sold or fried in a method similar to this minus the breading mixture.  It's revolting in theory, but damn is it ever tasty in practice when one adds a good dose of lemon juice to the little fritters.
  • #17
  • Comment by Dave
  • on: 22/07/2008
French fries!
  • #18
  • Comment by Helena
  • on: 22/07/2008
Great post! Small fishes really brings back memories.

I remember a fishing trip where we fried up what we caught with a flour batter and dashed on some lemon and there was a pepper / allspice / five-spice dip. Yum. Nothing like the fresh caught stuff.

And reflecting on the comments on the blog so far, it seems almost every culture has some way of cooking up small fishes.

Personally some things that come to mind are ikan bilis (anchovies) from South East Asia that is amazing with chili and peanuts. And a similar Korean version that involves sesame seeds as a topping.

Then I thought of Swedish pub food like Surströmming or starters like the SOS. (Smör Ost Och Sill / Butter, Cheese and Herring)

To go on a tangent, I looked up pickled herring and it turns out to be more popular than I first imagined. There are other Scandinavian, Icelandic, Jewish, Dutch (in the Middle Ages) and Japanese ways of preparing them apparently.

Coastal dwellers had to figure out something to do with the little fishes that get caught in a net I guess.
  • #19
  • Comment by phatwunuk
  • on: 22/07/2008
love 'em.  Try them with some hot sauce, cold beer or raki. They're called hamsi in Turkey where I live.  My wife, the better cook in the house, uses corn flour.  Mmmmaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmaa!  
Maybe better are something here called istavrit.  Don't know the english equivilant but they're slightly bigger and we don't eat the bones.  Even the six year old son eats them.
Know what I'm going to be having for dinner.
 
  • #20
  • Comment by Munawar
  • on: 22/07/2008
Do you clean the fish before frying?  I mean there must be something in the stomach and intestine and stuff.  Usually the larger fish is cleaned before cooked and i wonder why not this one?  Even the shrimps are cleaned as well.  I am just curious! Other than that, it looks marvelous and tasty! YUMMMMM!
  • #21
  • Comment by Theodore
  • on: 22/07/2008
Bravo Francois!!! This is definitely the favorite meze for any Greek especially during the hot summery days propably with some ouzo...
You may not agree with this, but try frying in it in some olive oil just the way my mum does it in a frying pan but in smaller batches. There is something about frying in Olive Oil that makes everything from small fishes to potato fries so delicious....
  • #22
  • Comment by Jimmy
  • on: 22/07/2008
I've had something similar to this one time in Nice. They were served as aperitifs to the welcome drink at some fancy reception. Although I have to say those tasted quite rancid, these on the other hand look absolutely divine. I will definitely try this out next time i can get hold of some fresh fry. Excellent post!
  • #23
  • Comment by AlexFalk
  • on: 22/07/2008
I love this!
My girlfriend is not the biggest fan of fish, but she loves my french fries.
Perhaps this will be a way to introduce her to the greater world of fish.
My deep fryer is ready willing and able to tackle this dish, however, I plan on adding some crushed red pepper flakes, or other spicy seasonings to the flour, as She and I both adore food that bites back.
  • #24
  • Comment by Emine
  • on: 23/07/2008
Yes ı like your article.Frankly ı like your articles François.Thank you
  • #25
  • Comment by Alec
  • on: 23/07/2008
In Japan, one of my favourite dishes is little pregnant fish, maybe double/triple the size of your fish, full of eggs. It's called "shishamo" and we serve it grilled with just a wedge of lemon.
  • #26
  • Comment by CKfusionist
  • on: 23/07/2008
hmm , looks like deep-fried silverfish to me. Usually we call that as ikan bilis and it's served as one of the side dishes accompanying the fragrant boiled rice with coconut milk and pandan leaves....along with some chilli sambal cooked with squid and hard boiled eggs....
  • #27
  • Comment by Jordan Chandler
  • on: 23/07/2008
So what kind of fishes are those exactly?
  • #28
  • Comment by Shu
  • on: 23/07/2008
In Malaysia and Singapore we call this version of small fry whitebait or baitfish. Ikan bilis with sambal or chilli and peanuts is made with the dried version of the fish.
  • #29
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Shu, thanks for visiting and I'd love to try your Malaysian version!
  • #30
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Alex, would you know of a good location in Tokyo or Kyoto to have those shishamo fishes?
  • #31
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Alex, I'm sure your girlfriend will like this very much. With the fish bones it already bites back quite a bit!
  • #32
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Jimmy when it comes to fish and deep-frying, only the freshest ingredients will do. If a restaurant works with rancid oil or lets it become too hot, the fish will be ruined. Thanks for your visit!
  • #33
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Theodore, I'd love to visit Greece and try this in situ. Olive oil tastes so good, but you have to watch your temperature, it can be burnt easily. Grapeseed oil doesn't taste like anything but withstands higher temperatures.
  • #34
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Munawar, you eat the fish like its mother made it, with head, tail and everything in between. Of course you wash it, but you couldn't open each fish.
  • #35
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
CKfusionist, these were éperlans or whitebait.
  • #36
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Phatwunuk thanks for your visit and enjoy your istavrit!
  • #37
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Helena, I'd love to eat such tiny fishes freshly caught right next to the sea, alas here our Swiss Lake fishes are very hard to come by in this size, the fishermen keep them for themselves and we have to import the fish from the sea and we get it 1 day old.
  • #38
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Ouroboros, do you mean that people eat the raw fish from head to toe without cooking it? Or do they throw it live in the boiling oil, like Saint Crispin and Crispinian?
  • #39
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Chen Zhi, that would be a mighty fine idea for a movie snack!
  • #40
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Aly, thanks for visiting!
  • #41
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Paulina, thanks for your visit and I hope to find good pictures of Brazilian street food to include here one day - let me know if you know anybody!
  • #42
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Jensenly, the bones are so tiny that they break before entering your tongue - normally. Of course a novice eater could get a small bit of babyfish bone between gum and tooth, but these are really small bones. The head just cracks as you chew.
  • #43
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Gamelle, merci pour la visite, en effet la friture d'éperlans n'était pas grasse du tout!
  • #44
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Su-Lin, the yogurt was not all that creamy but really tangy and nicely contrasted with the fishes for a balanced dish.
  • #45
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Ricardo, charales with lime and tabasco sounds like heaven!
  • #46
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Cynthia, thanks for your visit, I didn't know Guyana cookery was so fond of Indian cuisine! Of course your fish can only be infinitely better than the fish I had, imported from France. Next time I'll try to get some local fish.
  • #47
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Laura, where there is fish, there are baby fishes. We even get baby trouts here on the lake, you might ask any local fisherman that operates with nets (you must have some in Vermont!).
  • #48
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 25/07/2008
Mihai, thanks for visiting, sounds like a delicious idea to eat these tiny fishes with garlic and polenta!
I used to eat these for breakfast everyday when skiing in Andora many, many years ago.. Seeing this brought back some great memories.
  • #50
  • Comment by alice
  • on: 25/07/2008
OH DEAR GOD.  i am craving fried anchovies now, so bad.  
  • #51
  • Comment by Nate
  • on: 25/07/2008
Beautiful pictures again!  Fried fry are fantastic with beer.
  • #52
  • Comment by Cindy
  • on: 25/07/2008
Good with beer too!
  • #53
  • Comment by Angela
  • on: 26/07/2008
I love this posting, François-Xavier! The photographs are stunning and the recipe looks delicious. Great idea to serve in a newspaper cone too. I'm sure eating this with aioli is decadently good but I like your healthier, yogurt-lemon-garlic dip. Thanks!
  • #54
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 26/07/2008
Thanks Angela, I'm sure you must be able to get some of these tiny fishes in Washington. The mayonnaise is too fattening. If you use the yogurt sauce, it has two times less calories, so you can eat twice as much!
  • #55
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 26/07/2008
Nate I'll have a cold one on you next time I try this!
  • #56
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 26/07/2008
Matt, your Andorra breakfast sounds James-Bond-like, these fried fishes must beat fried churros any day!
  • #57
  • Comment by donsiranni
  • on: 26/07/2008
Francois,another fun show!we have smelts here in Maine mostly year round.I've never heard of the twice fried until now.I'll try in a few days from the freezer.I always scaled our smelt,have these "whitebait " been scaled & gutted? Don  P.S.,please try to follow-up on any recollections you may have on bundnerfliesch,outside of Grisom.
  • #58
  • Comment by dina
  • on: 27/07/2008
hi there! here in portugal small fry is a popular pick! instead of mayonaise or aioli sauce we make a sauce by  frying onion rings with slicies of green pepper, and then add 1 crushed tomatoe, simmer for about 5 or 10 min. Finally, add about 1 or 2 tbsp. vinegar or white wine. Simmer about 3 min. and cover the fish. Serve with cornbread. Absolutely delicious!
  • #59
  • Comment by Kelly
  • on: 28/07/2008
But... but.... the intestines! And the eyes! And the brains!! Their little skulls crunching between your teeth! OH GOD NO! I'll stick to my filets of fish, where I can't see (or eat) its face.
  • #60
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 29/07/2008
Kelly, at the end of the day it's all about what is the largest animal you are ready to eat whole with blissful oblivion. If you eat mimolette or Stilton cheeses, you'll find a huge quantity of cheese mites that look like giant hair lobsters. If you saw them you'll go born-again-vegan in under a second. So yes, the fishes have all sorts of unenticing organs in them, but if you think about them like fish-shaped crackers, you'll be just fine.
  • #61
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 29/07/2008
Dina, thanks for visiting my site! Would you know where in Portugal are the best places to try this? Is there a cult place like a shack on the beach that is famous for such fried fishes?
  • #62
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 29/07/2008
Don, I will try to post an article about Italian Speck, that's pork, not beef, but otherwise really interesting. No you don't scale those tiny fishes, nor do you gut them, you'd need a toothpick to do that. They are eaten whole, exactly like their mothers made them!
Reminds me of when I was young -- my dad would catch smelt fish, which were not this small, but still small; they'd flour and pan fry them. You ate them whole also, and I just remember they were SO GOOD. And when kid likes fried fish, you know it's good!
  • #64
  • Comment by chefSalty
  • on: 05/08/2008
Great post. I just came back from Bulgaria and we have something similar that is called "Tsatsa". Depending on where you go they might clean/gut the fish or just fry them whole. They're definitely delicious with a little lemon juice and a nice cold lager.
  • #65
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/08/2008
Chef Salty, thanks for your visit and hope to see you back!
  • #66
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/08/2008
Traci, I'm glad my pictures recalled a cherished memory of your dad frying fishes!
  • #67
  • Comment by kim
  • on: 15/08/2008
I had a boyfriend who loved smelt. I live in Seattle, and can find them in Chinatown... I think I'll give them a try.
  • #68
  • Comment by syrka
  • on: 21/02/2011
These are our typical Spanish 'chanquetes'! We use very small anchovies in Spain, though the fishing of small species is very restricted when not prohibited (fortunately). When I was a little child, I remember eating those small fishes that were not longer than 2 or 3 cm.

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