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Whitebait fritters

Whitebait fritters

The most popular way of cooking whitebait in New Zealand is the whitebait fritter, which is essentially an omelette containing whitebait. Purists use only the egg white in order to minimise interfering with the taste of the bait. Fried whitebait fish as an omelette  is  one of  the traditional New Zealand dishes.

Whitebait is a collective term for the immature fry of fish, typically between 1 and 2 inches (25 and 50 mm) long. Such young fish often travel together in schools along the coast, and move into estuaries and sometimes up rivers where they can be easily caught with fine meshed fishing nets. Whitebait fishing is seasonal and subject to strict regulations therefore whitebait fish command a high market price.

As whitebait consists of immature fry of many important food species (such as herring, sprat, sardines, mackerel, bass and many others) it is not an ecologically viable foodstuff and in several countries strict controls on harvesting exist.