• seaforagerfish

Night smelt fish fry (or, fries with eyes!)

Fresh, sparkling night smelt - what a treat! If you've ever dipped for these yourself you know how magical these little creatures are and how they smell a little bit like cucumber fresh from the sea. (Photo courtesy of Viola Toniolo)

I've tried a few methods, but a good old fashioned FRY yields the happiest results. Paired with this zesty dipping sauce, you have the makings of a delicious appetizer or fun dinner. Their bones are so fine you do not need to debone or clean them. You are welcome to cut their heads off, or eave them on for fun effect, just grab them by the head when it's time to eat them and eat up to their neck. Dig in!


  • a passel of night smelt (1.5-2lbs)

  • 1 cup flour (I like stone ground)

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp pepper

  • 1 tsp cayenne

  • 1 tsp mustard powder

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (canola works well or use cocounut like Viola did in this photo!)

  • more salt to taste

  • lemon wedges


Get your pan nice and hot, add your oil, let it get nice and hot too (give it a couple minutes), meanwhile toss 12 or so smelt in your mix of seasoned flour, shake off excess flour, and toss 'em in. Let them get nice and golden on one side, 3-5 minutes, flip, cook briefly on the other side so it colors but does not overcook, then drain them on paper towels. Salt a little more, give a squeeze of lemon, and enjoy with your dipping sauce!

For the dipping sauce - stir together in a small bowl:

  • 1/4 cup yogurt

  • 1/4 cup mayonaise

  • juice of 1/2 lemon or lime

  • splurt of sriracha (Vietnamese hot sauce, but you knew that)

  • 1/4 tsp cumin