Saturday, October 4, 2014

Adventures in Whitebaiting with a side of Whitebait fritters

About a week ago, we had the "Great Whitebait Hunt" challenge at work. Since I had never gone whitebaiting before, I was very keen to try my hand at it. I tagged along with 4 other co-workers and we called ourselves "Team Awesome". We got up at a ridiculously early hour in the morning and headed down to the river with a whitebait net and a strange contraption of white pvc tube and empty milk can that's supposed to help spot the whitebait.

So what is whitebait?

Whitebait are little baby fish of mainly 5 species. They are usually about an inch or an inch and a half long and swim in large schools. It is considered a delicacy in NZ. It is not an ecologically viable source of food and is therefore monitored and closely regulated by the Department of Conservation. Click here for more information on Whitebaiting.

Back to our merry band of amateur whitebaiters. 

After 3 hours of standing barefoot, knee deep in fairly cold water, I have learnt 3 things about whitebaiting:

  1. Googling about whitebaiting the night before is a fairly futile exercise and doesn't really help 
  2. The term "Whitebait Hunt" is a gross misnomer. There is no hunting, mostly just standing around.
  3. Spotting the whitebait in the net is as important as catching them.

And yet it was so much fun! Mostly because at some point we realized we were no good at it and decided to just have a good laugh at ourselves. Between the five of us, we caught 6 whitebait. Actually, it was 7. But we gave the first one back to the river as an offering, but I don't think the river was too impressed with it.

Any who, back at the office, we had a weigh in to determine the winner. Others had had better luck than us. The whitebait was divvied up and raffled off and we raised $350 to donate to Alzheimer's New Zealand. 

Team Awesome collectively decided that if any of us won the raffle, we'd share the spoils and have a traditional whitebait fritter feast. And guess what? We were a lot luckier in the raffle than we were at the river. Three of us won the raffle and a feast was had!

Whitebait Fritters are a classic NZ favorite and we decided to stick to the traditional recipe. Our instructions from veteran whitebaiters were simple : Eggs, Whitebait, Salt and Pepper and lots of butter with a squeeze of lemon on top.

Yield : 10 - 12 fritters

Prep Time: 5 Minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes (each batch of fritters)

Whitebait Fritters


6-7 Large Eggs
0.5 LB Whitebait
3-4 Tablespoons Butter
Salt and Pepper to Taste
3-4 Lemon wedges


Whip up the eggs in a large mixing bowl.

Season with salt and pepper.

Add the Whitebait.

Mix it all together.

Heat butter in a skillet. (We might have gotten a bit over zealous with the butter here)
Add in the mixture 2-3 Tablespoons at a time. They tend to be like an omelette. 

Squeeze lemon on top once done.



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