I was initially going to call this crispy dilis but on researching online, I found out dilis is actually anchovy and not smelt fish. If you’re familiar with smelt fish and know what they’re called in Tagalog, please feel free to chime in on the comments below.
Anyway, I fried up a good two pounds for lunch today and they were awesome! I enjoyed these crispy fried smelt fish with pico de gallo as sawsawan (I would have had this eggplant salad if I had all the ingredients) but they also make a fabulous pair to ginisang munggo or any of your favorite vegetable dish.
Due to their minute size, it is painstaking work to remove their entrails without breaking the fish apart. But please, please, please, do not skip this step! The insides can be a bit bitter and off-putting, says the now-full time food blogger who was too lazy to do so the first time and ended up with a huge batch she couldn’t eat.
For super crunch, I recommend a mixture of flour and cornstarch to dredge these babies up. Seasonings to add, however, are fair game. I used garlic powder, salt, and pepper but other flavorings such as cayenne pepper, dried Italian herbs, and curry powder are equally wonderful options.
- 2 pounds small smelt fish
- 1 cup flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon garlic
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- With your hands, gently pry open the head of the fish and gently pull the gills along with the entrails. Rinse under cold running water and drain well.
- In a bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, salt, garlic powder and pepper. Dredge smelt fish in flour mixture to completely coat.
- In a pot over medium heat, heat about 2-inch deep of oil. Add fish, shaking off excess flour, and deep-fry for about 3 to 5 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove from heat and drain in a colander set over a bowl. Serve hot.