White Bait. Recipe
White bait is a delicate and beloved dish, often enjoyed as a starter or appetizer in many parts of the world. The term "white bait" typically refers to small, immature fish such as sprats or young herring. This recipe has a rich history and is considered a delicacy in many coastal regions.
Fun Fact: The tradition of eating white bait can be traced back to the 18th century in London, where it gained popularity as a fashionable dish among the upper classes. Over time, it became a classic British dish and has since spread to various culinary cultures around the world.
Now, let's dive into the recipe for these delectable fried fish morsels.
- 1 pound of white bait (such as sprats or young herring)
- Flour, for dredging
- Butter, for frying
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- Brown bread and butter, for serving
1. Start by gently rinsing the white bait under cold running water to remove any excess scales or impurities. Pat them dry with a kitchen towel.
2. Prepare a clean cloth and add a handful of flour to it. Place the white bait in the cloth and shake it lightly, ensuring that the fish are coated evenly with the flour. This step helps in giving the fish a light and crispy texture when fried.
3. Transfer the flour-coated white bait to a sieve, specifically designated for bait, to remove any excess flour. This step is crucial in achieving the perfect balance of flour on the fish.
4. In a frying pan or skillet, melt a generous amount of butter over medium-high heat. The butter should be hot and sizzling but not smoking.
5. Carefully add the white bait to the pan, making sure not to overcrowd them. Fry the fish for just a few seconds on each side - they should remain almost translucent and not golden brown. The low cooking time helps to retain their delicate flavor and prevent overcooking.
6. Once fried, transfer the white bait to a serving dish, piling them up high at the center. This presentation adds an elegant touch to the dish.
7. Serve the white bait immediately with brown bread and butter, which provides a lovely contrast to the mild flavors of the fish. Accompany the dish with lemon wedges on the side, allowing diners to add a tangy zing of citrus to their taste.
For a spicier twist, you can also devil the white bait. To do this:
- Sprinkle the fried white bait with cayenne pepper and a pinch of salt.
- Drizzle the fish with fresh lemon juice, adding a burst of acidity to balance the heat.
White bait is often enjoyed as a standalone dish, but it can also be served as a part of a larger seafood platter or with other fried seafood specialties. It pairs well with tartar sauce, aioli, or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Similar to white bait, there are other beloved fish dishes that make use of small, whole fish. One such dish is the Spanish tapa called Boquerones, which consists of marinated whole anchovies. Boquerones are typically served with olive oil, garlic, and parsley, and are enjoyed alongside a glass of refreshing white wine.
Another popular variation is Japanese Shishamo, which are grilled whole smelts. Shishamo is seasoned with salt and often enjoyed with a squeeze of citrus and a side of soy sauce. The slight smoky flavor from grilling gives it a unique touch.
No matter how you enjoy white bait or its counterparts from various cuisines, these small, delicate fish provide a burst of flavor that fish enthusiasts can appreciate.