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Lovely fresh whitebait at Draeger's San Mateo

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I had more than my share of tempura-fried shallot scapes last night, but when I saw the gleaming eyes and glistening scales on those lovely little whitebait, I knew that this was going to be the day I'd smell up the house with deep-frying yet again. At $3.99/lb I couldn't pass up such a rare treat! (Oh, I'm sure whitebait is available for less at the Asian fishmongers, but Draeger's does such a good job with cleaning the fish, and they're always so nice--well worth the dollar or so difference.)

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  1. That sound great, have not seen fresh whitebait in years. Most whitebait at Asian market have not been fresh. Too bad I will not be cooking until Thursday otherwise I would be there now. Salt and pepper white bait is something I would dream about.

    1. can either of you share how you cook them? i have never seen anyone cook whitebait or have any idea how to do it, but would like to try!

      1. Yimster, Artemis, the fish were WONDERFUL! Even after having been beheaded and cleaned and spending several hours in the fridge, the whitebait were still pearly and pink, and practically odor-free. This was some of the freshest fish I have ever had in California.

        I've cooked smelts before, but not whitebait. But they looked sufficiently similar so I decided to soak them in milk, dredge them in seasoned flour and deep fry until golden and lightly crisp on the outside. We ate everything. It was worth every bit of effort and mess to fry those babies, and I can hardly wait until the next time I can get them. ( Yimster, I shall phone you immediately if and when I find them again!)

        3 Replies
        1. re: pilinut

          Please do. Would love to have fresh white bait.

          As for my cooking method really depends on the size. If large enough after cleaning and removing the heads I would steam them with soy, black bean, green onion and ginger.

          I would remove the backbone if to making eating easier.

          1. re: yimster

            That sounds just as delicious as fried--and a lot healthier! i will certainly try that next time. But I'm not as dexterous at deboning fish or fowl as you are, so I shall serve the fish whole. Otherwise, I'm looking at over an hour just removing those backbones from around 40 fish.

            So let's hope that we get more whitebait soon!

            1. re: pilinut

              I only removed the backbone only if the fish was large enough to have it done. If small enough they can be eaten. The other bones are small enough to be eaten.

              Petty easy.