Sichuan Style Lake Smelt

sichuan style lake smelt

These Sichuan style lake smelt are an explosion of flavour. 

By cooking them twice, the little fish pick up a unique texture and soak up all of the flavours from the aromatics. 

This can be done with head-on (apply directly to the head) or head-off fish. 

Serve them piping hot!

  • Prep Time15 min
  • Cook Time10 min
  • Total Time25 min
  • YieldLarge snack for 2, appetizer for 4-6


  • 1/2lb (225g) thawed lake smelt (gutted)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) Shaoxing wine 
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon (2.5g) cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) fish stock (or water)
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2g) white sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1g) white pepper
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1″ (2cm) pieces
  • 1 thumb-size piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into thin coins
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • Small handful of dried chilies
  • 1 teaspoon whole or ground Sichuan peppercorn



Toss the smelt in the salt and the Shaoxing wine and let marinate for 10 minutes.


Meanwhile, fill the bottom of a wok with at least 1 inch (2cm) of oil to fry the fish in.

Heat to 350°F (175°C).


Toss the fish in the corn starch, then fry in the oil. I recommend doing it in two or three batches, so as not to cool down the oil. 

Fry for 3-4 minutes, then transfer to a paper towel to drain. 


Dispose of all but 1 tablespoon (15ml) of the oil in the wok. 


In a small bowl, make a sauce by combining the fish stock, soy sauce, sugar, and white pepper. Set aside. 


Heat up the oil in the wok over high and add the scallions, ginger, garlic, and chilies. Stir fry for 1 minute.

Add the fish, the Sichuan peppercorns, and the sauce. Stir fry for 1 more minute, then take off the heat. 


To serve, dump the smelt into a bowl or onto a plate. Feel free to drizzle in chili oil or garnish with cilantro or sliced scallions. Enjoy!

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