Silverfish salad (Goi Ca Bac Hang)

March 15, 2011  •  Category:


I will never eat insects. (Or so I thought).

I just had a big bowl of insects, fixed by yours truly!

Unwittingly, of course.

Do you know what silverfish is?

I did not. I simply grabbed a package of frozen silverfish at the Asian store (Vietnamese) thinking ” I will figure it out later”.

There was a salad recipe on the box and I made it. Delicious and very quick to make. The silverfish cooks in less than two minutes.

Well, these are delicious little insects.


  • 1 pound of silverfish, defrosted, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 bulb of garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup of red pepper flakes (I substituted Aleppo hot pepper)
  • 5 tablespoons of oil
  • 3 Tablespoons of oil
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 cup of white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons of chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup of roasted (unsalted) peanuts or other nuts
  • 1 tablespoon of roasted sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce (I omitted it)


  1. Mash the garlic cloves, cut up, in a mortar with a teaspoon of salt; add the pepper or chili flakes, mash a little more and add the oil. Set aside.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a non-stick pan and when hot add the silverfish and a couple of tablespoons of the garlic/chili pepper paste. Stir a bit and cook until the silverfish is white and firm, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Drain the silverfish, cool and place in a large bowl.
  4. Shred the carrots and place in a bowl with the chopped onion. Add the vinegar and marinate for 10 minutes, then drain and add to the silverfish. Add to this the chopped cilantro, chopped peanuts or other nuts (I used walnut), sesame seeds, lime juice, sugar and fish sauce if using. Toss to combine well and serve. Serve with toasted sesame rice crackers if desired. (I would add more lime quarters to squeeze on the salad).

P.S: It does look like these are fish, not insects. Thanks to all of you who have informed me that these are baby eels! On the box it said silverfish and it should be silver fish, a type of fish imported frozen from China.


44 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Rosa says:

    A great recipe! I love Vietnamese flavors and dishes. That looks so fresh and tasty.



  2. weirdcombos says:


    I love these little things, what a fantastic take on it!
    I remember ordering it years ago on a trip we took to Spain at a Tapas bar in Barcelona. I think they call it baby eel (anguilas) there. They came deep fried with a tartar sauce, divine!

    P.S. I just released a post on casquinha de siri made with dungeness crab meat. It was a big success at a dinner party we had recently, thanks for reminding me of it.

  3. Eve@CheapEthnicEatz says:

    Ah…I am sure it is good….but EEEWWWWWWWWWW!

  4. Scienter says:

    The picture looks tasty, and not like insects at all. You are very brave! 🙂 I don’t think I could do it.

  5. tigerfish says:

    First time trying silverfish and you have done magic! Another popular way to cook the fish is to fry them with egg.

  6. Mary says:

    I’ll bet you read labels from now on ;-). I’ve never had them but I saw them being served in Laos. It’s good to hear they are not bad. I hope you have a great evening, free of digestive upsets. Blessings…Mary

  7. Suman Singh says:

    That looks beautiful and delicious..great recipe..thanks for sharing!

  8. Tom @ Tall Clover says:

    Wow, Joumana, I thought I was getting pretty fancy making Pad See Ew for the first time this evening. Heck I’m an amateur; this dish looks amazingly exotic.

  9. Joyti says:

    I happen to have found a silverfish – insects – in my house once. My cat ate it 🙂
    The dish sounds very exotic, and they do look like a seafood.

  10. Anita says:

    Joumana. THAT was gutsy. I was just watching Bizarre Food in Hong Kong and after so many scenes of reptiles and insects drenched in sauces, I was saying your first words: “I would never eat insects.”

  11. domi says:

    Bonjour Joumana, chez nous on appelle ces petites bêtes les ” civelles ” ou bébés anguilles, mais je n’ en ai jamais manger ( pas encore )….

  12. Bo says:

    I think I’ve had these before…not sure it they are the same thing…I thought they were just baby anchovies…Don’t think I’ll eat them again.

  13. Banana Wonder says:

    PS. I just gave your link to one of my half Lebanese MBA classmates.. I got all excited telling her about your blog 🙂 It’s so creative!

  14. arthur says:

    I don’t call these delicacies insects. They are angulas,very popular in Spain served in Madrid bars as tapas when I tasted them for the fist time. I did not know that they are actually baby eels. You made a great salad with them, I must say! Cheers!

  15. Khalil says:

    Sorry, don’t want to be a buzz kill but those aren’t insects…they are a type of real fish, as in the living and swimming in the water kind of fish.

    • Joumana says:

      @Khalil: thanks! You reassured me!

      @Arthur: Thanks for setting me straight!

      @Domi: Merci, tu as bien raison, ce sont des bébés anguilles!

      @Diane: Thanks for finding the info (I looked it up and saw :insects all over google search!); now I can eat the rest of the batch!

      @Hegui: Thanks for setting me straight! They do appear to be baby eels and not insects!

  16. Diane says:

    I just looked Asian silverfish up and found Pacific Frozen Silver Fish, don’t think this is quite the same as what we call silverfish in the house! Talking about insects though, I was talked into trying fried flying ants in South Africa and I have to admit they were very nutty and quite delicious, it is just the thought of what they are!!! Take care Diane

  17. Sutapa says:

    I never seen silverfish but the recipe seems quiet interesting delicious and colorful!

  18. Priya says:

    Silver fish,never had or tried anything, salad looks superb..

  19. meredith says:

    I think if I thought of these as baby anguilles, I’d be able to eat them. The salad does look good.

  20. Nuts about food says:

    These look exactly like gianchetti or bianchetti in Italy. Or Japanese shirasu. From what I know they are new born fish. Here they are boiled and dressed with olive oil and lemon or seved with eggs. For obvious reasons they are seasonal and a delicacy. However, looking up silverfish, the insects come up, but they look totally different. Perhaps just the same word or a wrong Vietnamese translation. However I wouldn’t worry, looks like you ate fish not insects.

  21. Green Shushi says:

    Oh my–just can’t do it…

  22. Claudia says:

    Yes, it looks good. Having had them in my early childhood apartment, I do not think I will partake – but had to smile! Protein, right?

  23. gaininja says:

    Wah?! I thought these were some kind of baby fish too. Had them in Japan. Are they really insects?! Where do they come from? They sure taste fishy to me 🙂

  24. TastyTrix says:

    Ohmyohmyohmy. I DO know what silverfish are, and when I saw the title of the post I thought … hmm, surely not? That doesn’t seem like a Joumana dish! But you made it your own. It looks really good, and perhaps I will work up my courage to try it. I wish I didn’t know they were insects. Although from reading some of the commenters maybe you ate fish after all? That I will do, in a heartbeat!

  25. Jamie says:

    Joumana! Seriously? Oh I grew up in Florida where we would occasionally find silverfish in the bathtub and they freaked me out! I saw the title of your recipe and thought “What? Nooooo! Couldn’t be!” Wow are you brave! Sounds like the dish was delicious though…

  26. Magic of Spice says:

    Well it is a beautiful salad insects or not…happy that they are fish instead 🙂 Insects are probably something I could never venture towards, I pretend it is because I am a vegetarian and I consider them meat 😉

  27. Murasaki Shikibu says:

    Yes – those are fish and not those horrible things that live in the cracks of apartments and houses all over Europe!

  28. Maria @ Scandifoodie says:

    I think my heart just stopped when I read the title! Hahah Fortunately you weren’t cooking the silverfish I thought you were! Japan has similar small fish and my other half goes crazy for them! I bet he’d love this salad too 🙂

  29. oum mouncifrayan says:

    Qu’est-ce que ça doit être succulent!!!!! Bravo

  30. Ivy says:

    After watching the bizarre food by Andrew Zimmer, these are a delicacy 🙂

  31. Adelina says:

    ouch Jouman. Your salad looks beautiful and so does everything you dressed the silverfish with, but for some reason I am getting itchy just by thinking they are insects. Love your courageousness!

  32. john@heneedsfood says:

    I guess a few people have contributed their 5 cents before I could. In New Zealand these are called whitebait and are delicious made into fritters or omelettes
    It’s actually a fish, not an eel. When they hatch upstream in rivers, the larvae are swept down to the ocean where they hatch (what you’ve just cooked up) and swim back upstream as whitebait (or silverfish), before growing into a full-sized fish

  33. Louise says:

    Ah, I’m glad that the confusion is clearing. I was so disturbed by the notion of eating silverfish that I wasn’t able to comment yesterday. And they didn’t look like silverfish from the photo either. The whitebait explanation makes sense- although whitebait aren’t my thing either- I know that some people like them. I ate a dish in Singapore last year that was whole baby prawns (shrimp) about that size, with pasta. I really didn’t enjoy it at all, with the crunching bodies and all, even though the taste was ok, the texture and the notion of it all put me off. Yes, I’m a coward at times. Thanks for sharing your bravery with us. I’m astonished that you made and ate it when you thought it was insect silverfish!

  34. Susan says:

    I didn’t know! I thought they only infested dark, damp places here. Perhaps a name that applies to two different things? I’m good with baby eels!

  35. Lentil Breakdown says:

    I’ve seen silverfish crawling like insects before but I never thought to eat them! There were never that many together at one time anyway. But after seeing people eating grasshoppers in Oaxaca, why not? It’s protein! (but don’t make ME eat them!)

  36. Silverfish says:

    Haha. Looking at the title I first thought it was talking about the bug silverfish.

  37. Lael says:

    I used to have these when I was a kid, they were dried and served on rice. Very yummy fish.

  38. Christina says:

    The “silver fish” are also know as white bait. These are the juvenile babies of sardines and anchovies. In Japan hey are called chirimen. These are fish please enjoy a sigh of relief and eat them over rice as a great source of calcium. They’re cute, no? Lol 🙂

  39. L says:

    These are not bugs! They are also called ice fish or noodle fish. Silverfish meaning bugs is only the case in western world. Silverfish in China is noodle fish and in Uganda it’s prolific small edible fish. Enjoy your salad with no buggy worries

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