Pescaíto frito, fritura de pescado or fried fish is a tapa typical in all Andalusia (though not only) consisting of small-size fish coated in flour and fried in olive oil to crispy perfection.
Fish has been widely consumed in Andalusia and other coastal regions of the Iberian peninsula since the Roman rule. Frying the fish in olive oil is just a consequence of the availability of this oil in the south and Mediterranean regions of Spain.
These tapa of fried fish seems as simple as tapas can get: fish, coating, frying. But… of course, achieving a superb tapa takes some skill.
Best ingredients are needed, as well as the proper flour and the best technique. We favor chickpea flour for coating, a very common ingredient in the province of Cádiz, because you can always say you’re eating legumes…
- 2 pounds (1kg) assorted fish like fresh anchovies, sardines, red mullet, young whiting, etc. to your taste
- Hard wheat flour or chickpea flour for coating
- 2 cups (500ml) Spanish extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Lemon wedges and parsley for garnish
- Descale and clean the fish if needed. Gut the fish and get rid of the head too if you like, only if the fish haven't been gutted previously.
- Rinse them thoroughly to eliminate as much blood as possible and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Set aside.
- Put a generous amount of flour on a shallow container with wall (like a plastic container) so that you can shake it for the fish to coat evenly in flour.
- Place a handful of fish on the flour. Sprinkle with salt and shake the container till the fish are coated through.
- Transfer the floured fish to a colander to get rid of the flour excess.
- Pour the olive oil in a large pan and heat it to medium-high (180ºC-355ºF). When hot, dip the fish and fry until golden, turning halfway for both sides to brown homogeneously.
- Fry in small batches to keep the oil at a high temperature at all times. When golden on both sides, transfer the fish to a large platter lined with kitchen paper to absorb some of the oil.
- Serve while warm with a sprinkle of lemon juice and some parsley.
Tips for perfect pescaíto frito or fried fish Andalusian style:
- Quality is key to a great pescaíto frito tapa: pick great fish, the freshest and plumpiest you can find.
- In Spain people used to be used to gut their fish at home themselves; nowadays not everybody likes to do it, especially in the big cities and their neighbourhoods. Therefore a lot of fishmongers gut the fish for you.
- In spite of that, the fish spine is normally left in to keep the integrity of the fish and they are eaten along the spine, which is a lot less annoying regarding the fish preparation and, if the fish are really small, it won’t bother you at all.
- The larger fish you see in the photos, like the whiting, are eaten without the spine.
- But of course, if you don’t fill like dealing with fish bones the fritura de pescado can also be prepared with fish fillets cut into large cubes.
- If you like, some squid rings can be added to the mix as well.
- Use a fine Spanish extra virgin olive oil of the milder varieties in this recipe.
- Pescaíto frito are traditionally eaten plain, without any sauce.
- Some say the lemon garnish traditionally served the purpose of concealing the lack of freshness of the fish, that if the fish is top quality you shouldn’t need the lemon at all. Just try it and decide for yourself.
Pescaíto frito or fried fish are found at the Andalusian coast at street stalls and bars to be eaten out of paper cones. Pair the crispy fish with a chilled dry Sherry on a Spring morning…