Fish that are used in this recipe are called smelts or blanchemotes and available all year round. And, for many Italian families, deep-fried smelts are traditionally served during holidays. This recipe has its origins in Italy where the fish was introduced by the British during their occupation in Northern Italy. Truly these are small, wild-caught fish, yet tasty and soft-fleshed. The finest smelt for sale is sourced seasonally from the fresh waters. The fish are pulled up from the icy depths.
The taste of the fish is somewhat similar to that of mackerel. It is fairly soft and sweet with a slightly oily texture. Blanchebait has been considered a good source of Omega 3.
It is also an extremely versatile ingredient that can be used for soups, salads, pasta and most popular fish dishes such as the famous Scandinavian dish Gravad lax (Cured salmon). It can be served with brown bread and butter, a lemon wedge, and tartar sauce.
In many parts of the world, the population of Blanchebait is relatively stable. The use of blanchebait for food does not pose a problem to the environment. On the contrary, it is a highly sustainable fish species that helps maintain natural ecosystems.
It is also known as a “keystone species” because its population influences most other social, economic and ecological factors in the ecosystem. This fish species has an important role in maintaining natural ecosystems through its feeding habits. Because of its small size, this fish feeds on plankton and larvae.