Here’s a classic fried fish recipe, just about everyone in my village of Guaracara (Trinidad) would make when the fishermen would have freshly caught sardines or herrings. Back then the vendors would drive from village to village in a station wagon or pick-up truck selling whatever fish and shrimp which were caught by the fishermen. Mom would have us wait outside until we heard the horn they’d blow, signifying they were on our street.
2 lbs smelt
1/2 lemon (juice)
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 tablespoon curry powder
3 leaves shado beni (culantro)
2 scallions (fine chopped)
4 sprigs thyme (leaves)
4 cloves garlic (crushed)
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 small Scotch Bonnet pepper (not mature – fine chopped)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
Clean the smelts (or any small fish you decide on using) and wash with the juice of the lemon (lime or vinegar will also work). Drain and season with everything, except the flour and veg oil. Try to get some of this seasoning into the belly cavity of the fish as well. Allow it to marinate for about 30 minutes.
Heat the vegetable oil (or any fat you like frying fish with) in a pan on a medium heat. Then dust the fish in the flour to coat and fry.
My station had the seasoned fish, flour on a plate, the cast iron pan and a plate lined with paper towels to place the fish once fried. Normally I like using a wire rack to drain off the extra oil, but I was too lazy to go downstairs to get it (smile).
It will take between 8-10 minutes to fry these ‘dry”, meaning crisp! During that time I did flip them a couple times.
As you remove the fried smelts from the hot oil, you can hit them with a sprinkle of sea salt or any finishing salt, should you want.
Be sure to fry them in batches so you don’t crowd the pan and drop the temperature of the oil. Yes there will be tiny bones, however by frying until crispy, those bones become brittle and we’d normally eat the entire fish. I guess I need you to be mindful of said bones.