Smelts with Dip 1501114a
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Fried Smelts with Dipping Sauce
6 app  
These simple fried smelts with dip are a fine appetizer for people who like fish. The dip given here is a Vietnamese alternative to their more famous Nuoc Cham, which uses fish sauce instead of soy sauce. Either will work fine. How long the recipe takes depends on several factors (see Note-5).


Smelts (1)
Rice Flour
-- Dip (2)
Chilis, Thai (3)  
Lime Juice
Soy Sauce (4)  
Oil, deep fry
Prep   (15 to 45 min - see Note-5)
  1. Prepare SMELTS as desired (see Note-1). Dry them on paper towels if needed.
  2. Mix Rice Flour with Salt. I usually run the salt to powder in a spice grinder so it blends better with the flour.
  3. Crush GARLIC and chop fine. Chop CHILIS fine. Place in a mortar along with Sugar and pound to a paste.
  4. Squeeze LIME JUICE and mix all Dip items.
Run   (about 20 min)
  1. Pour Flour mix onto a plate.
  2. Bring Oil to a frying temperature, about 370°F/190°C. A skillet with about 1/4 inch of oil works best as it has plenty of room so the smelts aren't crowded.
  3. Roll Smelts in Flour mix to coat lightly, shaking off excess flour.
  4. Working in batches so they aren't crowded, fry Smelts until light golden (rice flour doesn't brown very dark). You will notice a sudden decrease in the amount of bubbling. This indicates they are about cooked through, so now you need only be concerned with color and crispness. Drain on paper towels.
  5. Serve fried Smelts immediately with the Dip. They are best served warm.
  1. Smelts:   You'll probably be using frozen smelts as fresh are not available in most regions. Whether you use them head-on and/or guts in depends on personal preference and the size of the smelts. Very small ones are traditionally eaten "heads, guts and feathers", but I gutted those in the photo. Large ones should be gutted, but I've found the heads to be no problem even in 5-1/2 inch fish.
  2. Dipping Sauce   This recipe makes enough dip for at least 2 pounds of smelt, served in one or two bowls, but if you divide it up into more servings, you may need this much.
  3. Chillis:   Use fresh chillis, green or red. Thai chilis would be most authentic, but other fairly hot chilis can be used as well, using your own best judgement. For details see our Chilis Page.
  4. Soy Sauce:   The Vietnamese prefer a lighter, Chinese style Soy Sauce rather than the typical Japanese style like Kikoman. Korean "Soy Sauce for Soup" would probably work well also. For details see our Soy Sauce page.
  5. Timing:   How long this recipe takes depends on the condition of the smelts when you buy them, on their size. For headless smelts (usually also cleaned) it can be as little as 35 minutes. If you have rather small whole smelts, and want them gutted, it can take up to 1-1/2 hours. A pound of very small smelts took me about 25 minutes to clean, leaving the heads on. It would take a bit less if the heads were removed, and larger smelts would take a fair amount less time.
  6. U.S. measure: t=teaspoon, T=Tablespoon, c=cup, qt=quart, oz=ounce, #=pound, cl=clove in=inch, ar=as required tt=to taste
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