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Fried Sardines with Bacon and Shiso

Lemony-flavored sansho is ground Szechwan peppercorns. Shiso is a Japanese herb with a slightly sweet and peppery flavor.

Plus: More Seafood Recipes and Tips


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  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, plus more for dredging
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon arrowroot or rice flour
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon sansho (Japanese pepper) or freshly ground white pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 6 fresh sardines ( 1/2 pound each), filleted, or four 6-ounce mackerel fillets, cut into 4-by-2-inch strips
  • 6 slices of bacon, halved crosswise
  • 6 shiso leaves, halved lengthwise, or 12 basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil or vegetable oil, plus more for frying
  • 2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 4 Belgian endives, cored and cut into long thin strips


  1. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the all-purpose flour and arrowroot. Mix in the water just until blended; do not overmix. Let stand for 30 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the sansho with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper.
  2. Set the sardine fillets, skin side down, on a work surface and season with salt and white pepper. Top each fillet with a half slice of bacon and a shiso leaf half. Roll up the fillets, starting at the wider end; secure each roll with a toothpick.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the lemon juice and zest with 1/4 cup of the grapeseed oil. Season with salt and white pepper. Add the apples, toss to coat and refrigerate for up to 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 300°. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 inches of grapeseed oil to 350° or until a bread cube turns golden in 1 minute. Dredge each sardine roll in flour and shake off the excess. Dip 4 of the rolls in the batter and fry until golden brown and crisp all over, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a rack set over a large baking sheet to drain. Keep warm in the oven while you dredge and fry the remaining rolls.
  5. Add the endives to the apple salad and toss well. Arrange the salad on 4 plates and set 3 sardine rolls beside each salad. Dust with the sansho mixture and serve.

Suggested Pairing

An Australian or French Rosé has the right balance of flavor and body to complement the bacon-filled sardines.

Contributed By Published September 1998

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