Fried smelt fish anyone? These tiny fried fishes are your next go-to chips with a side of vinegar hot sauce! Perfectly fried with an easy herb coating and easy to pop in your mouth! Good luck not finishing the batch!
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I know what you may be thinking, why would anyone pick fried smelt fish as their next snack, or even appetizer?
Well, hold on! This fried smelt recipe will have you hooked with its crisp herb coated exterior in combination with a garlic, vinegar sauce perfect for dunking!
Jazz up your next go-to chips with these little babies rich in omega-3 fatty acids and minerals! (Convinced yet?)
This post will go over everything you need to know to create this fried smelt fish.
Recipe difficulty: Beginner level my friends!
So, how to cook smelt fish? This smelt fish recipe is insanely easy, like dump in the pan and you’re done easy! After cleaning and coating the smelts, these fishes will fry until golden brown for only 3-5 minutes! Quick and easy! The most challenging step in this process will be cleaning the fish, which you don’t want to skip!
Sam’s Pro Tips for this Hot and Crispy Fried Smelt Fish
Clean the Fish!
- Clean, clean, clean the smelts! Then clean some more! If you didn’t buy the smelt fish already cleaned and degutted, make sure you plan for this during your prep work! This is a crucial step coming from someone that has skipped this in the past and was grossed out by the end result! (Think bitterness…) Anyway, it is fairly easy to clean and de-gut the smelts, but time-consuming depending on how much you have! My quick trick for successfully cleaning each one is to first use KITCHEN SCISSORS to make a small incision at the top of the head. Next, use the kitchen scissors to cut along the bottom of the fish entering by the back fin and cutting until you reach the head. Pull the head down with your fingers until you rip the insides alongside the belly out. Rinse the fish under running water until the inside is clean! Be careful during this step as I have definitely lost a fish or two down the drain!
Use the Right Kind of Oil
- Make sure the oil is hot before you pan fry the smelts! So, how to deep fry smelt? Use a high-smoke point oil for even frying and to get these babies done in 3-5 minutes! I used canola oil for this fried smelt fish. Also, you don’t want to overstuff your pan otherwise the temperature of the oil will drop. For a ½ pound of smelt fish, I used a 9-inch pan.
How to Achieve the Crispy Exterior
- Add some cornstarch to your flour for a crispier exterior! Cornstarch is the secret sauce you need to produce a crispy coating to your fried foods. The reason being that cornstarch prevents gluten development and absorbs moisture, leading to a crispier coating and a beautiful golden-brown color! Honestly, this little hack saves so much time as there is no need to dip the smelts in egg wash before frying as the flour and cornstarch will already produce all the crunch you need!
- Place the fried smelts on a WIRE RACK to maintain crispiness! After frying the smelts until golden brown, you’re not done yet! Make sure to transport to a wire rack to cool and to remove excess oil. My little trick is to put a baking pan underneath the wire rack in case there is any excess oil! In other words, don’t use a paper towel as this will make the smelt soggy as the paper towel absorbs the oil. Don’t forget!
Key Ingredients – Hot and Crispy Fried Smelt Fish
Below are some key ingredients for this recipe:
- Smelt: Smelt fish may be found in your local grocery store or in an Asian market near you. As discussed in the Tips section above, make sure these little fishes are cleaned before frying! Hopefully, you can buy this already cleaned! If not, see the Tips section for details on how to clean the smelt. This is a crucial step!
- Flour: The flour mixed with the cornstarch will be herb seasoned and crispy. You don’t need a lot of flour, and don’t worry, it will stick to the fish! You may have extra flour at the bottom of the Ziploc bag when it is all tossed, but that’s no cause for concern!
- Cornstarch: Your go-to ingredient for the crispiest smelt fish! Hello beautiful golden-brown and chip-like texture!
- Canola oil: Canola oil is our choice for a high-smoke point oil and is fairly cheap.
- Seasoning: You can variate the seasoning to your preferences, but we use garlic powder, salt, pepper, onion powder, and paprika for the best combination!
Vinegar Hot Sauce
- Vinegar sauce: This sauce was first introduced in our Filipino Style Spam Garlic Fried Rice Anyone Will Love and was a fave! As such, this is the fried smelt dipping sauce you need to dunk these crispy fishes in! The vinegar is combined with minced garlic, hot sauce, and pepper for a zesty and tart sauce perfect with fish!
More Variations to this Fried Smelt Fish
There are a few ways you can variate this fried smelt fish. Here’s how:
- Alternate the seasoning! Try a different seasoning with the flour coating such as cayenne pepper for added spice or even lemon pepper seasoning that pairs perfectly with fish. So many different options!
- Toss the smelts with garlic and parsley! If you want to make this dish even more fancy, mince some garlic and toss in a sauté pan until lightly browned and add the fried smelts. Finish with chopped parsley! Yum!
- What can I pair with this dish? Fried smelt fish is a perfect snack or appetizer! I totally think of chips! Or pair with Filipino Style Spam Garlic Fried Rice or Filipino Garlic Fried Rice for a heavier meal. For other delicious fish recipes, check out our 20-Minute Chili Brown Sugar Salmon or Spicy Filipino Sardines Recipe with Habaneros for some main dish options!
- Filipino-Inspired Easy Mother’s Day Brunch Ideas She Will Love
- Filipino Style Spam Garlic Fried Rice Anyone Will Love
- Filipino Baked Salmon Recipe with Mayonnaise
- Spicy Filipino Sardines Recipe with Habaneros | Ginisang Sardinas
Frequently Asked Questions
Is smelt a good fish to eat?
Smelt is generally considered a healthy fish to eat due to this fish being high in omega-3 fatty acids and minerals.
What can you do with smelt fish?
Smelt fish is great fried and coated for a crispy exterior. Make sure to dip the smelts in a vinegar or lemon-based sauce for extra zest.
Do you have to clean smelt?
Please clean the smelts before cooking as you want to make sure the fish is de-gutted and cleaned prior to eating.