I will always remember ordering whitebait in a restaurant in England and being shocked at what I was served. English whitebait is in fact small whole herrings, whereas our whitebait are the sprats of galaxiids. Galaxiids are slim, narrow fish with forked tails, which as adults live in freshwater rivers and lakes. This tiny fish creates so much excitement and has a huge following in New Zealand.
Catching whitebait is a pastime for many in New Zealand. The season runs from mid-August till late November, though the season is slightly shorter on the West Coast where there are tighter regulations. Fishing spots are competitive and limited, with many stands having been in the same family for decades.
The best whitebait in New Zealand is found on the West Coast of the South Island – for which it has become famous. We’ve formed strong relationships over the years with a number of whitebait suppliers on the Coast. This enables us to source good volumes for the duration of the season.
Whitebait is also one of the few fish which freezes well, which means Kiwis can enjoy it throughout the year. If you’re using frozen whitebait, ensure you allow plenty of time to thaw it slowly in the fridge before you want to cook it.
As whitebait has a subtle flavour, I believe it’s important to cook it simply and not add too many other flavours. Try my easy whitebait recipe and you’ll be guaranteed to impress your family and friends.
Vic’s whitebait fritters
- Beat 1 egg in a bowl, add 250g whitebait and season. Mix together gently with a fork.
- Heat a non-stick pan and add a little butter.
- Place dessertspoonfuls of the whitebait mixture into the pan and cook for a couple of minutes each side.
- Drain the fritters on paper towels.
- Serve with a squeeze of lemon and enjoy.