I remember my dad picking up fried smelts from a takeout place when I was a child in Indiana. They were interesting to me since you eat the whole fish: bones and all.
(We also ate a lot of northern Wisconsin panfish, so I was used to eating the tails.)
Smelts are something I really enjoy occasionally now: a simple, inexpensive fish – that is available coast-to-coast and you don’t have to be concerned from an environmental perspective (my understanding is that there are plenty of smelt in the wild) and they’re so small, you generally eat them bones and fins intact, like anchovies (unless they’re large… say, more than 4 inches long… then you may want to remove the spine with attached bones as you eat them.)
Most recently I was reminded of smelts when they were served last fall at my favorite brew pub, Cambridge Brewing Company, where the chef does lots of great specials.
Anyway, here is how I prepared them. A pound of smelts (perhaps 35 here?) is likely enough for two as a main course and for four as an appetizer.
While frying the fish, prepare some ligltly sautéed fresh herbs with which to toss them.
After removing some of the oil by resting them on on paper towels or a rack, toss the fried smelts with herbs as desired:
I squeezed some fresh lime over the fish and served them with a dipping sauce of mayonnaise and sriracha sauce, on a beautiful first-day-of-summer in the backyard!
Here are the online recipes I consulted for preparation tips:
- Fried Smelt (Steamy Kitchen)
- Fried Smelt with Thai Basil and Sweet Peppers (Momma Cuisine)
- Smelt: Dip Net to Dish: Recipes (Minnesota Sea Grant)
- Fried Smelts (Bon Appétit)
Hell yeah my friend. I love fried little fish of any description… and then sriracha mayo… another one of my all time faves! Kickass
I had these all to myself, so I have some left-overs; I picked up some napa cabbage today, planning to use the rest for fish tacos on corn tortillas.
I made these on our first day of summer; if I remember correctly, you must just starting wintertime. Happy solstice!
Yep. It’s getting nice and chilly down here at the mo’.
Enjoy those tacos!!
Ha, I see you just did sardines – nice!
I had those puppies deep fried whole last week and chomped through the whole thing head and all. Delicious delicious delicious!!! Smiley face
Ha! I see we’re doing similar things on the opposite sides of the world. Do we know our sh*t, or what? ;)
My father would fry these for us on weekends in California. Love them!
I had a grandmother that would make smelt once in a while (beer batter). Also as a child (Northern Illinois) the family would go out when smelt were in season to various VFW’s for Friday night smelt frys.
I need to try making smelts using my bacon grease !!
Hi Matthew, we were in adjacent states at the same time then.
The bacon grease is just so salty though!
I hope you’re doing well. :)