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Suffolk Smoked Sprats, Suffolk

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Some cynics may wonder if it is worthwhile smoking a fish as small as the sprat. Which would be a sign of ignorance. These bait-fish have a tough old life, harried by mackerel among other predators, often so spooked by attacks that you can find them at the right time of year (the back end) in numbers on the sands or pebbles where they have rushed to escape, swapping one death for another.
But they certainly develop flavour, and like herring and mackerel they have plenty of nutrient-rich oil in their flesh that makes it worth the effort of picking it off the bones. And like herring and mackerel they are taken to another level by smoking, as they have been for centuries in little ports like Orford and Aldeburgh . Once they were exported in big quantities, but now they are more of a local delicacy, to be enjoyed in the restaurants and better pubs along Suffolk ís coast (with surely a glass of Adnams as the perfect accompaniment) as a finger food (who the hell would try to eat sprats with a knife and fork?), with the smell of the sea to further stimulate the appetite.
Smoked traditionally over oak (generally with a cold smoking followed by a hotter to finish them) they are definitely for those who enjoy the taste of properly smoked food, not the vague hint thereof.

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