Grilled Shishamo (Smelt)

Grilled Shishamo (Smelt)

The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg

Prep: 3 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 13 mins
Servings: 2 servings
Yield: 8 pieces
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
8 Calories
0g Fat
1g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2
Amount per serving
Calories 8
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 442mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 1g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 3mg 14%
Calcium 6mg 0%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 87mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Grilled shishamo (smelt) is a popular Japanese dish where the entire fish, from head to tail, tiny bones and all, can be enjoyed as an appetizer, side dish or entree.

Shishamo is a small saltwater fish belonging to the Osmeridae family of small fish. It is a commonly eaten fish in Japanese cuisine that is simply grilled, and often found on the menu of izakaya (tapas) style Japanese restaurants.

While the Japanese terms shishamo and komochi shishamo are used interchangeably on some restaurant menus, komochi shishamo specifically refers to smelt (shishamo) bearing many eggs (komochi). The roe of shishamo is typically whitish - yellow in color and is what makes komochi shishamo unique and delectable. In fact, the fish is so small that it has little meat, and you’ll find that the actual meat of the fish is almost fully comprised of the caviar. Perhaps it is this aspect of shishamo which makes this fish so unique.

Given shishamo is such a small fish (those sold in the market average about seven inches in length), it’s thin soft bones and head is typically consumed together with the caviar and rest of the fish, including the tail! When the fish is grilled well, you’ll find the head and tail become crunchy and crisp, and it’s actually quite enjoyable. Although the entire fish can be consumed, this fish might not be for everyone, but as the saying goes, “don't knock it ’til you try it!” By far, shishamo is one of our favorite fish to cook and enjoy.


  • 8 whole fresh or frozen komochi shishamo (smelt with roe)

  • Cooking spray

  • 1/4 cup grated daikon (Japanese radish)

  • Soy sauce, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Grilled Shishamo (Smelt) ingredients

    The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg

  2. Rinse shishamo gently with water. Pat dry with a paper towel. If frozen, thaw fish first, prior to grilling.

    smelt on a cutting board patted dry with a paper towel

    The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg

  3. Oil grill pan. Over medium-high heat, gently grill fish on each side about 4 to 5 minutes until browned. If you prefer the skin of fish to be more on the crisp side, grill a few minutes longer, to taste. When turning fish over, be very careful as the fish are delicate and can easily break apart. The skin of the fish is also very thin and if it happens to break open slightly when cooking, it’s natural, and there’s no need to worry.

    smelt on a grill pan

    The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg

  4. Divide shishamo between two plates. Serve with the grated daikon and soy sauce.

    Grilled Shishamo (Smelt) on plates

    The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg


  • Serve shishamo with grated Japanese daikon radish, soy sauce, steamed rice, miso soup and an easy spinach ohitashi salad for an elegant (and easy) Japanese meal.
  • Shishamo is readily available for sale in Japanese markets and other Asian grocery stores and can be found in the refrigerated or frozen section of the market.