Prep 15 mins
Cook 10 mins
Based on a recipe from Yukari Hosokawa in "What's Cookin'in Wrangell," here's a different way to prepare those little fish. The native Alaskans used smelt a lot in the early days, and still do. Hooligan/smelt is an oily fish, and they developed interesting methods of preparing hooligan oil. Although not many natives still prepare the oil, they still enjoy the fish themselves. Cooking smelt for meals is also a good way to save money, since they're usually inexpensive and easily found in Asian markets. (Cooking time does not include marinating time.)
- 8 hooligan fish (smelt)
- 9 tablespoons white vinegar
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- cornstarch (about 1/4 cup)
- oil (for frying)
- 1 cup thinly sliced onion
- 1 teaspoon salt (approximate)
- 1 whole red bell pepper, thinly sliced in rounds and seeds removed
- Clean the fish: cut off the heads and tails, remove fins (either cut or pull them away). Slit the fish down the full length, cutting just as far as the backbone. Remove the entrails and rinse under running water and pat dry. Using the back of a spoon or your thumb, on the inside of the fish press hard all along the backbone. Pulling from the head-end of the fish, the spine and bones should lift free of the body.
- In a shallow container, combine the vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce and set aside.
- Dry the cleaned fish well. Thinly coat the dried fish in the cornstarch.
- In a heavy pot heat the oil to about 350 degrees F and fry the fish for 7 to 9 minutes until they are crisp and golden. Remove and drain on paper towels. Place cooked fish in the vinegar mixture to marinate.
- After slicing the onion thinly, sprinkle slices with salt. When the onion has become moist from the salt, rinse the slices well and drain thoroughly.
- Thinly slice the bell pepper into rounds and remove the seeds.
- Cover the fish with the onion and pepper slices and spoon the marinade over all. Allow fish to marinate for at least one hour before serving, occasionally spooning the marinade over. Serve hot or cold, whichever way is your favorite.