Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

bleak Alburnus alburnus, a small European freshwater fish which is not widely eaten but is used in one famous speciality of Burgundy, friture de Saône. Its French name is ablette.

Fritures, mixed fried dishes, date back to the Middle Ages, and the emphasis was always on fish. Medieval household accounts in Burgundy contain mentions of petits poissons, a term which evidently included not only bleak but also small loach and barbs.

Eating a dish of these fish, fried, was formerly associated with the end of the harvest. In modern times the tradition is maintained in small restaurants on the banks of the Saône. The small bleak (about 9 cm/3.5" long and weighing 5–10 g/about 0.25 oz) are preferred because when fried their skins are agreeably crisp and crunchy, while the inside remains succulent.