I used to eat a lot of whitebait during my childhood years where my late mum would be clever enough to create recipes using these little fish. Nowadays, I realize two things about whitebait; one is based on the frequency of the fish appearing in our menu when I was young, I suppose it was plentiful then. Secondly, the fish must be dwindling in numbers now because I am lucky if I can buy them even once in three months at the market!
Another thing I realize is that, whitebait appeared quite often in my mum's menu because it was quite cheap (even now it only cost fifty cents per one white bait, so it must have been way cheaper then!) and that was important to keep maintain the monthly household budget then. I realize, not only was my mom clever at creating recipes but she was also a great at managing the household budget.
Every time I buy whitebait I am transported back in time to my days when my favorite whitebait-based recipe was whitebait fritters; simply flour and fish! My late mom would frown at my version of whitebait fritters. She would have said that I should keep to the basics (and not to over-spend unnecessarily! Sorry mom!) This version is dedicated to you, mom.
- 40 whitebait, cleaned
- 1 cup AP flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 turmeric powder
- 20 garlic chives, cut to 3 cm lengths
- 3 cups vegetable oil
Mix the first six ingredients together and leave aside for about five minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok. When the oil is hot, drop spoonfuls of the whitebait batter into the hot oil. Try to make sure that you get equal number of whitebait in each spoonful. I managed 2 whitebait per spoonful so I got twenty fritters. Fry until golden brown. Dish out and place on absorbent kitchen paper.
For the Nuoc Cham
- 10 red birds eye chilies, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 tbs vinegar
- 3 tbs fish sauce
- 3 tbs water
- 4 tbs granulated sugar
Stir all the ingredients together until the sugar has dissolved. The Nuoc Cham is ready to be served with the whitebait fritters.