There is nothing more typical of summer in Spain than a piping hot plate of fried anchovies served alongside a cold beer. From north to south, these small fried fish are a common delicacy served in tapas bars throughout the country. Some cities even have entire bars dedicated to only serving fried anchovies!
In Spanish, anchovies can be translated to anchoas or boquerones. But don't let the different words fool you, they are the same fish (despite what some may try to argue). The main difference is that the salt-cured version is called anchoas, and the vinegar cured, and fried versions are called boquerones en vinagre or boquerones fritos.
These boquerones fritos (fried anchovies) are one of the most popular tapas in Spain because they are so tasty. Easy to prepare, you simply dredge them in seasoned flour, fry them in olive oil until crisp and top them with a sprinkle of salt and perhaps a squeeze of lemon. Serve with a cold beer, or for something a little more fruity try a tinto de verano, traditional sangria, or a rebujito sherry spritzer.
- 1 pound anchovies (fresh, whole)
- 1 cup unbleached white flour
- dash salt (to taste)
- Olive oil (for frying)
- Optional: 1 lemon (cut into wedges)
Start by removing the fish heads and innards. Cleaning the anchovies should be done quickly, as the fish can deteriorate otherwise. Your fishmonger may be able to do this for you. It is easy to remove innards by running your thumb along the belly. Rinse the anchovies and pat dry and set aside.
Pour the olive oil into a medium (8-inch) frying pan. It should be approximately 1/2-inch deep. Heat the oil over medium heat.
While the oil is heating, spread the flour onto a large dinner plate and mix in approximately 2 teaspoons of salt.
Roll the anchovies individually in the flour, coating them on all sides and place each into the frying pan of hot oil. Fry just until golden, cooking on both sides. Be careful to regulate the oil temperature and do not to allow the oil to smoke. Depending on the size of the anchovies, it may only take 1 minute on each side to cook.
Remove the anchovies from pan with a slotted spoon or spatula and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Taste for seasoning and add a sprinkle of salt if necessary.
Serve with lemon wedges and slices of crusty bread.
Fried anchovies are also perfect alongside a bit of homemade aioli sauce. Lightly dip each anchovy in the classic alioli, or season your alioli with spices for a modern touch.