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Classic Fried Whitebait with Aioli


Deep-fried whitebait
Gareth Morgans/StockFood Creative/Getty Images
Whitebait. It is an old English term for little teeny fishies, dusted in flour and fried crispy. Yep, you eat the whole fish -- but because whitebait is 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" found in Asian markets. Count on between 1/4 and 1/3 of a pound per person, depending on their appetite. You need a dipping sauce for this; I like aioli, a garlicky sauce that goes well with fried fish. That recipe is linked below.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes


  • 1 lb tiny whole fish, such as blue anchovies
  • 1 T. fine ground salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4-8 Lemon wedges
  • 1-2 cups oil for frying


Pick through your fish to look for any that are not pristine: you are looking for ones where the bellies are torn open. This is from enzymes within the fish breaking it down. Toss these and use only those that look nice, smell a bit like cucumbers (not like nasty fish!) and that have clear eyes.

Mix the salt and flour well.

Pour the oil into a cast-iron frying pan or other suitable pan and heat it to 350 degrees over medium heat.

Dust the fish in the seasoned flour and then shake off the excess. Fry in batches, stirring them so they don't stick together, for 2-3 minutes.

Drain on a fine-meshed rack or on paper towels. If you are making a lot of them, heat the oven toe "warm" and keep the fish in there. It is very important that you serve whitebait hot.

When all the fish are cooked, serve with a sauce such as aioli (linked below) with some lemon wedges and a cold beer.

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