Life’s a Feast: Whitebait Three Ways


Good-quality whitebait needs little done to it, so to ensure the integrity of this gorgeous product, I have kept the flavours subtle. Old-school whitebait pattie lovers, go a little crazy and try these recipes below. They are delicious deviation from the norm and three absolute crowd-pleasers. They say some real whitebait ‘experts’ can tell the difference between east and west coast catch, with some even being able to tell you which river it came from! The three recipes below will take you to Asia with a Sichuan salt and pepper, to Italy with an Aglio Olio e Peperoncino, and to New Zealand with a good old-fashioned Kiwi pattie! Enjoy.

PREP TIME: 13 mins

COOK TIME: 10 mins

SERVES: 4 people


500g Whitebait

Sichuan Whitebait

1 small dried chilli

1 tablespoon Sichuan pepper

teaspoon ground coriander

1 clove

star anise

1 teaspoon sea salt (or normal if have none)

3 tablespoons cornflour

Enough vege oil to fill a small fry pan about 1 cm high

Italian Aglio Olio

1 tablespoon of butter

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

1 handful thinly-chopped Italian parsley

1 red chilli finely diced

1 lemon

Kiwi Pattie

2 eggs (I do 1 egg per 100-150g of whitebait)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tube of Japanese mayonnaise(Kewpie brand found in international section of most supermarkets)

1 lemon


1.Rinse the whitebait well and pat dry on a paper towel.

2.Divide the whitebait into three even amounts. You need to be totally prepared with all your ingredients to hand as you need to work quickly so you can serve up all three versions piping hot.

3.For the Sichuan whitebait, in a mortar and pestle, grind your dried chilli, salt, Sichuan, coriander, clove and star anise to a salt-like consistency.

4.Next, place one portion of the whitebait in a sieve and sprinkle over the cornflour, shake until the whitebait is all covered.

5.Heat a heavy pan to a high heat and cover the bottom with about 1cm of oil. Flash fry the whitebait ensuring they stay separated by moving, then once golden brown, take out and drain on a paper towel. Immediately sprinkle with

6.For the Kiwi pattie, separate eggs. Mix the yolks in a bowl, then pour the yolks into one portion of the whitebait. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy and fold this through the whitebait.

7.Heat a heavy pan, add a little oil, then spoon in 1-2 tablespoons per pattie and fry for about 1 min each side until golden. Remove on to paper towels.

8.With the next Italian version, take another heavy pan, add the butter and a little oil, heat to a medium-high heat and fry the garlic until softened. Add in the chilli and cook for a further 30 seconds. Add in whitebait and cook for 1-2 mins until cooked through. I like doing mine on quite a high heat so some go a little crispy. Sprinkle with the parsley and add juice of half a lemon and combine.

9.To plate up, place one spoonful of the Sichuan, one spoonful of the Italian and one pattie on a plate. In front of the Sichuan, place a small pile of the Sichuan salt, in front of the Italian place a lemon wedge and in front of the pattie place a dollop of Japanese mayonnaise. Season the latter two subtly with some sea salt before serving.

NB:If you just prefer one of the recipes, simply triple it for 500g.