The nanbanzuke or “southern barbarian-style” of marinating, actually originated with the Portuguese sailors that came to the south of Japan back in the 15th century. These sailors brought dishes like tempura and castella (Japanese sponge cake), and this nanbanzuke-style of cooking is reminiscent of the Portuguese escabeche that the sailors would have had on their long sea voyages to Japan. This recipe is meant to be served as part of a shared meal.






Skill level

Average: 3.7 (17 votes)


  • 12 Japanese smelts (wakasagi) (see note)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • ½ onion, finely sliced
  • ½ small carrot, julienned
  • sliced green negi, sliced kaiware daikon, for garnish

Seasoned vinegar

  • 125 ml (½ cup) dashi stock or water
  • 125 ml (½ cup) rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 dried red chilli, finely sliced

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Soaking time 30 minutes

Standing time 1 hour

To make the seasoned vinegar, mix together all the ingredients and transfer to a non-reactive (stainless steel, glass or ceramic) tray.

Soak the smelts in milk for 30 minutes before cooking, to remove some of the fishy pungency.

Pat smelts dry and season with salt and pepper. Dust the smelts with flour. Heat oil to 170˚C and deep-fry smelts, in batches, for 5-6 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.

Transfer the smelts straight from the oil to the tray of vinegar mixture. Scatter the onion and carrot over the top. Stand for 1 hour, then serve with negi and daikon as garnish.



• Smelts are a Japanese variety of small fish. You can substitute with sardine fillets for this recipe.