The most illusive delicacy of all is a wriggly little sucker. Genuine, New Zealand whitebait. No not those chunky little fish that Aussies call by the same name. Nor the foul tasting variety of little ‘uns that arrive frozen from Thailand.
Even in the homeland whitebait has an expensive and short lived season. At $160 a kilo, this is a prized entrée, eeked out with egg to make the flavour go further. Though the first time I ate the wrigglers, I’d helped catch them myself in a mountain stream. Free, bar the cold I caught from a day spent too close to icy water.
On my last trip home I picked up 200 gms of whitebait as a treat for my parents. You can just beat an egg and toss through the fish if you like but I like a little more “hold” in my batter. It’s light, crunchy and very easy to make.
Kiwi whitebait fritters
(quantities per 100 gm of whitebait)
100 gm of whitebait
1 egg, separated
1 tab cornflour
salt and pepper
(knob of butter optional)
Lemon wedges to server
Place the whitebait in a sieve and strain. Separate the egg(s) and beat the whites to soft peaks. Take the yolk(s) and beat in the cornflour with a wooden spoon. Stir in the salt and pepper. Gently fold in the beaten eggwhites into the yolk mixture.
At this point you can either carefully add the whitebait, or if you want a less eggy fritter (if you’ve caught your own and have plenty, so you don’t need to eek out the precious produce) place the whitebait into another bowl and gently fold in the batter a spoonful at a time until the whitebait it just holds the fish together.
Heat up your frypan, add oil (if you want a more golden fritter the addition of animal fat, such as a knob of butter to the oil). Add about a tablespoon of mixture and fry the fritters til golden. Then turn over and cook the other side, about two minutes each. Traditional whitebait fritters are the size of a pikelet but these days fitters come in all shapes and sizes.
Serve with a wedge of lemon and eat immediately.
Excuse the poor quality picture, the light was fading and the natives were restless. For a clearer image check out this little beauty.