I am from Rancagua, a small town 60 miles south of Santiago, the capital. My town is a copper and agro-business town, surrounded by farmland and copper mountains. While growing up, a popular activity for the weekend was to go fishing at the Rapel River.
When my family went fishing, it was a sure thing we would soon be eating fried smelt or Pejerreyes Fritos. As children, we loved that they let us eat them, holding the fried fish from the tail without utensils. A treat!
In the US, smelt began appearing in my supermarket, Central Market Houston, last year. They are cheap and smaller than the ones we used to catch, and they bring them in winter. You will need to clean them, but you can do it at home with patience, and they taste the same. In the US, they fry them whole.
With our miles and miles of the Pacific Ocean, seafood dishes are abundant in Chile. You can see more seafood recipes here.
I used our family’s traditional frying beer batter from my grandma.Print
- 2 pounds smelt
- 1 cup flour
- 3/4 cup beer or white wine
- salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin
- oil for frying (4-5 cups)
- Open the smelt along the side, locate the backbone, cut at the tail, and carefully lift the spine to remove it with the bones.
- Heat the oil in a skillet or pan with high walls. The walls must be about 2″ deep. Wait until it reaches 180C or 375F.
- In a bowl, place the flour and whisk with a fork while adding beer. Add salt, pepper, and a pinch of paprika and cumin. The batter should be thick and milkshake-like.
- To test the oil, let a little batter fall. It should float and begin to brown immediately. Try and see if the batter tastes good to you. Adjust the seasoning.
- Dip the smelt in the batter. You want a thin layer covering the fish and gently placing it into the hot oil.
- Fry for 1-2 minutes per side until golden.
- Recheck the seasoning. Adjust if necessary.
- Remove the fried smelt to a tray covered with paper towels.
- Serve hot.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Seafood
- Method: Fry
- Cuisine: Chilean
Keywords: Fried smelt, pejerreyes fritos