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What Is a Dried Anchovy?

By Eugene P.
Updated May 16, 2024
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Dried anchovies are the result of a process in which the small fish are caught,‭ ‬salt cured and then dried for preservation.‭ ‬The dried anchovy is a popular ingredient in many types of Southeast Asian dishes.‭ ‬From Southern India to Korea and Japan,‭ ‬dried anchovies are regularly used to add flavor to soups and stews, and they are enjoyed as a fast snack,‭ ‬condiment or side dish.‭ ‬Although the dried anchovy‭ ‬is known by several names,‭ ‬the process of curing and air drying the fish is consistent across the area.‭ ‬Both industrial fishing companies and‭ ‬artisanal fisherman create dried anchovies.

A dried anchovy is available in a variety of sizes,‭ ‬some better suited to certain uses than others.‭ ‬The smallest anchovies,‭ ‬measuring less than 3 inches (7.62 cm) in length,‭ ‬are best used whole in side dishes,‭ ‬used as a garnish or eaten as a snack.‭ ‬Large anchovies are preferred for stocks and other bases in which they will provide more flavor.‭ ‬Even though it is‭ ‬a‭ ‬purely personal preference,‭ ‬small anchovies generally are used whole, with the head and intestines intact.‭ ‬The larger anchovies sometimes have the head and intestines removed,‭ ‬mostly because some people feel that ‬these sections‭ ‬can impart an "off" flavor to the dish.

In Southern India,‭ ‬a dried anchovy is known as a‭ kozhuva‭.‭ ‬It can be used to add flavor to soups ‬or can be made into an anchovy curry called kozhuva meen tilappicathu‭.‭ ‬The robust fishing industry in areas of Southern India,‭ ‬especially regions such as Kerala,‭ ‬means that fish and anchovies are readily available and inexpensive to use in cooking.

In Southeast Asia, a dried anchovy is called‭ ikan bilis‭.‭ ‬It is popularly used as a flavoring in fish stocks.‭ Anchovies also are fried with garlic or peppers to create a crispy snack.‭ ‬Ikan bilis‭ ‬is a primary ingredient in some variations of the spicy chili condiment known as‭ sambal‭‬.‭ ‬The smallest‭ ‬dried anchovies can be coated with sugar and sesame seeds, creating a sweet treat.

A fine powder can be formed by grinding‭ ‬down‭ ‬the dried anchovy.‭ ‬This powder can be used in soups or as a spice and has a much‭ ‬milder flavor than the whole anchovy.‭ ‬The ground anchovy powder‭ ‬contains a high concentration of calcium because of the bones of the fish, and it can be used to create a healthy tea.

In a package at room temperature,‭ ‬dried anchovies can last for up to one year.‭ ‬If they are placed in a freezer, they can last significantly longer.‭ Any dried anchovies that have been in storage for too long will impart very little or no flavor to any dishes to which they are added.

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