Whitebait is the name given to tiny immature fish of various species, depending on the country. They’re generally translucent, so small that there are thousands per kilogram, and eaten whole. There’s no commercial Whitebait fishery in Australia, but frozen Whitebait is imported from New Zealand and Asia. Sandy Sprat, a larger, thicker fish, around 5-6cm long, is sometimes incorrectly labelled as Whitebait in Australia, and that’s what we’re using here.
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
1kg Sandy Sprat, gilled and gutted
Tapioca starch, for dusting
Salt flakes, to taste
Lime wedges, for serving
Chilli Lime Mayo
1 cup whole-egg mayonnaise (see notes)
1 teaspoon sambal oelek (see notes)
1 lime, zest finely grated, juiced
Heat oil in a wok or deep-fryer to 180°C.
Make Chilli Lime Mayo: combine all ingredients. Set aside.
Rinse Whitebait, drain and toss in tapioca starch, shaking off excess. Deep-fry fish, in batches, for a minute or 2, until golden.
Drain on paper towel, sprinkle with salt and serve immediately with lime wedges and mayonnaise.
If you don’t want to make your own mayonnaise, use one made from whole eggs, such as S&W or Thomy.
Sambal oelek is an Asian paste of salt and chillies, a quick way to get a chilli kick into any dish, not just Asian ones; substitute 1 small red chilli finely chopped if you prefer.