I picked up a petite Bella deep-fryer over the weekend. It’s designed for 1-2 people, which frankly is perfect for me. I have a larger deep-fryer, but I simply don’t use it often enough — it’s large, it’s messy, and it’s difficult to clean, and I don’t want to leave that amount of oil stored in the fridge for long periods. This particular one uses just under a liter of oil, and it seems to work well so far for small portions of food. I’ll post a full review when I’ve had the chance to use it a second time.

So to test it out, I made a variant on a recipe from Beyond The Great Wall, by Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford. Their version is a deep-fried whiting. Whiting isn’t typically available in southern California, but my local market had some beautiful sand dabs in the case, so I made it with that.


Spicy Sand Dabs

Serves two. Equipment needed: a small deep-fryer or small heavy pot. Be extremely careful if using a pot.

  • 3/4 lb. sand dabs, boned and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 tsp. sambal oelek or other chili paste
  • generous pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 quart safflower oil for deep-frying

Combine the sambal oelek and the salt in a large bowl. Toss the sand dabs in the chili paste until coated, then sprinkle with the cornstarch and toss again. The fish will be just lightly covered, not heavily seasoned and breaded.

Heat the safflower oil in the deep fryer to 350°F. Fry the sand dabs for approximately two minutes per batch, in two or three batches, drain on a paper towel, and serve immediately.


Spicy fried sand dabs, asparagus with homemade herb mayo, and poppyseed bread … the dinner of champions.