Fried Whitebait

Antoine Bootz

A standard menu item in the ouzo bars of Athens, these tiny, deep-fried fish—about 3" long and eaten whole, heads and all—cook up as crisp as french fries.

Fried Whitebait
Americans have their french fries; Greeks have their fried whitebait—a favorite at the ouzo bars of Athens.
Yield: serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. whitebait
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable oil
  • Lemon wedges

Instructions

  1. Wash and drain fish (since they're so small, it is not necessary to clean or bone them). On a large plate, combine flour with salt and several grinds of pepper. Dredge fish through the flour, shaking off any excess.
  2. In a large heavy saucepan, heat oil over high heat until very hot but not smoking. (Test the oil by dropping in a fish; it should sizzle vigorously and, after sinking to the bottom, quickly rise to the top.) Gently place half the fish in the oil and fry until crisp and golden, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining fish.
  3. Mound hot fried fish on a plate and sprinkle with coarse salt, if desired. Serve immediately, with lemon wedges.