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Pan Fried Smelts

Serves 4 (or more if part of a buffet)


1 pound fresh smelts, patted dry with paper towels

Flour for dredging

Salt and pepper

Canola oil

Coarse sea salt

Lemon wedges


If the bones are still in the fish, you may wish to remove them.  Grasping the head-end of the backbone should allow you to remove the bones in a single pull.

Put the flour in a large bowl or paper bag and season it with salt and pepper.  Gently toss the smelts in the flour to coat them evenly.

Heat a large frying pan with about an inch of canola oil in it.  When a bit of flour sizzles when dropped in, it is hot enough for adding the smelts.  Cook them quickly in a single layer in the pan, turning them once; this may need to be done in batches.  

Drain them on paper towels and keep warm until all are done.

Arrange the smelts on a platter and sprinkle with coarse sea salt; serve immediately with lemon wedges.

This recipe is featured on show 2205 – Festival of the Seven Fishes – La Festa dei Sette Pesci.


  1. Maria's avatar


    Smelts was a big part of Christmas eve each year as well in our family.
    Since having moved from the NYC to San Diego I was unable to obtain smelts for 8 years, until.

    I happened to walk into an Asian super market and long and behold they had fresh and frozen smelts.

    Needless to say it's July and we just fried them up on our outdoor grill.

  2. Carol's avatar


    Hi, Maria~ WHICH "Asian super market" did you find the dressed (headless) frozen Smelt at???

    Was it 99 Ranch, maybe?

    Thanx in advance, ch

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