Peixe Rei- crispy fried whitebait

"You shall have afishy on a little dishy"
"Whitebait". It is an old English term for little teeny fishies, dusted in flour and fried very quickly until crispy. Yep, you eat the whole fish,but because whitebait are always smaller than your pinky finger, it's no biggie. Lots of cultures eat deep-fried whole little fish, and the best quality fish are often "blue anchovies". Count on between 1/4 and 1/3 of a pound (125-175g) per person, depending on appetites. You will also need a dipping sauce for this. I like an aioli,a piri cocktail sauce or lashings of tabasco.
Whitebait are fine frozen, but if you are lucky enough to find yourself with fresh ones, you have the makings of a fantastic fried feast!
Whitebait basically are smelt and what are smelt?.Smelt are little anadromous schooling fish that spawn in rivers and live their lives at sea,much the same way, striped bass and salmon do.
Smelt are vastly underfished, according to many seafood watchdog groups.So good news, this means you can eat lots of them in good conscience, and various species are available all over the world.
Frozen whitebait are widely available in supermarkets, and I just love them. They are always flash-frozen and come in big bags, so you just grab as much as you need  per person, thaw in the fridge and fry away.
Yes, I said fry. No other fish fits the frying pan so well. I have eaten whitebait in other ways, but there is nothing quite like a good ole' smelt fry. Batters differ from place to place, but I highly recommend my tempura Sagres beer batter. The key here is using a light batter otherwise you overwhelm this delicate, soft fish.
Not a fan of batter? Do what I do most often then: Season flour and fry them that way. With just a hint of spice and crust, these little delicacies fly off the plate. I could eat 50 at a sitting. And yes, I am proud of that, and did just that in our favourite beach restaurant Cha com agua salgada at Manta Rota recently.
Did I say "eat them whole?" Yep. I did. Here's the deal: Whtebait are small, and any fish smaller than 6 inches really should be eaten head, guts, tail and all. All you taste is the rich flavor of the meat, plus a pleasing soft crunch from the bones, which will not stick in your throat.
If, however, eating a whole fish disturbs you, you can cut the heads off with a quick diagonal slice from the top of the head toward the fins on the bottom of the fish and you will be free of both the head and guts.
Give smelt a try. They are easy to love, easy to cook and let's face it  they're delicious fried, eaten with your fingers and dipped in any of the above sauces I mentioned.

Peixe Rei estaladiço com amendoa em aroma de poejo fresco   
Crispy fried whitebait with toasted almonds and olive oil infused with pennyroyal

Peixe Rei      (Whitebait)
Farinha     Flour
Breadcrumbs    Pao ralado
ovos    Eggs
Azeite virgem extra    Extra Virgin olive oil
Flor de sal
Cenouras Carrots
Hortela    mint
Poejo fresco   fresh penny royal
Amendoas laminados

Chop some poejo (penny royal)finely and add to some extra virgin olive oil in a jar
This can be done well in advance and kept for a couple of days
Clean the fish in water. season with flor de sal and leave for 15 minutes.
Coat the fish in flour,then beaten egg and finally breadcrumbs.
Fry the fish in a pan of olive oil.(180º-190º)
Steam the carrots without salt.Once tender douse them in cold water and purée.Season with extra virgin olive oil and and flor de sal aromatico.On the side of each serving plate place the carrot purée in a mould.Sprinkle some toasted flaked almonds on the top, and finish with some fresh mint leaves.Drizzle the plate with some of the infused oil.

Watch this space for more Peixe rei recipes


  1. Love whitebait and your carrot puree looks divine..I must try that.


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