Salt and Pepper Smelt at Kent’s Kitchen in Vancouver
I recently posted an introduction to Kent’s Kitchen in Vancouver’s Chinatown when I featured their very delicious Pork Hock with Lotus Root. I am very sorry I couldn’t have made more visits to the place and worked my way through more of their very interesting menu as I really enjoyed their food despite the rather cafeteria like ambience. The fried Smelt you see pictured above were especially pleasing.
A while ago, I reviewed a dish of Deep-fried Freshwater Smelt I tried in Ottawa, and I contrasted them with the salt water type commonly eaten in New Brunswick which are known as ‘Éperlan’, which I described as a ‘small sea fish, typically deep-fried whole with head still attached, and eaten as a snack with beer’. The Freshwater sort I tried in Ottawa were, as I noted, quite different from the ‘homey’ sort of snack I remembered from days gone by, but the Salt and Pepper Smelt at Kent’s had a nostalgic similarity to Éperlan, albeit with a very Chinese twist.
As you can see, the Salt and Pepper Smelt at Kent’s, served in a Styrofoam cup, are all about the size of one’s little finger, and are deep-fried whole, with the head still attached and the innards and bones intact. This may sound like it makes for unpleasant eating, particularly with the bones, but, in fact, deep-frying until the fish are crispy means you can chomp down on them, with the bony parts just adding extra crunch.
In this case, the tiny Smelt were rolled in seasoned flour while still wet, which created a thin ‘batter’ for the outer surfaces. Salt and Pepper seasoning in Chinese cookery can mean Salt and Black Pepper, Salt and White Pepper, or sometimes Salt and Sichuan Pepper. Here, the ‘Pepper’ was flaked, dried Red Chili. Too much of that might have been a bit overpowering, but the amount in this case was just enough to add a little sparkle to each bite.