Anchovies are a family (Engraulidae) of small, common salt-water forage fish. There are 144 species in 17 genera, found in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. Anchovies are usually classified as an oily fish. They are small, green fish with blue reflections due to a silver longitudinal stripe that runs from the base of the caudal fin. They range from 2 centimetres (0.79 in) to 40 centimetres (16 in) in adult length, and the body shape is variable with more slender fish in northern populations.
A traditional method of processing and preserving anchovies is to gut and salt them in brine, allow them to mature, and then pack them in oil or salt. This results in a characteristic strong flavor and the flesh turns deep grey. Pickled in vinegar, as with Spanish boquerones en vinagre, anchovies are milder and the flesh retains a white color. In Roman times, anchovies were the base for the fermented fish sauce garum. Garum had a sufficiently long shelf life for long-distance commerce, and was produced in industrial quantities. Anchovies were also eaten raw as an aphrodisiac. Today they are used in small quantities to flavor many dishes. Because of the strong flavor, they are also an ingredient in several sauces, including Worcestershire sauce, remoulade and many fish sauces, and in some versions of Café de Paris butter. For domestic use, anchovy fillets are packed in oil or salt in small tins or jars, sometimes rolled around capers. Anchovy paste is also available, as is anchovy essence. Fishermen also use anchovies as bait for larger fish, such as tuna and sea bass.
Preparation and marketing
The strong taste people associate with anchovies is due to the curing process. Fresh anchovies, known in Italy as alici, have a much milder flavor. In Sweden and Finland, the name anchovies is related strongly to a traditional seasoning, hence the product "anchovies" is normally made of sprats and also herring can be sold as "anchovy-spiced", leading to confusion when translating recipes.
The European anchovy, Engraulis encrasicolus, is the main commercial anchovy, with Morocco being the largest supplier of canned anchovies. The anchovy industry along the coast of Cantabria, initiated in Cantabria by Sicilian salters in the mid-19th century, now dwarfs the traditional Catalan salters.
Dried Japanese anchovy
Salted and fermented anchovy (jeotgal) Korea
Workers handling anchovies in a canning company in Cantabria, Spain
Workers cleaning dried anchovies at a market in Mae Sot, Thailand
In Southeast Asian countries, dried anchovies are known as ikan bilis, setipinna taty, or in Indonesia ikan teri, (ikan being the Malay word for fish), dilis in the Philippines. In Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, anchovies are used to make fish stock, Javanese sambal, or are deep fried. Ikan bilis is normally used in a similar way to dried shrimp in Malaysian cuisine. Anchovy is also used to produce budu, by a fermentation process. In Vietnam, anchovy is the main ingredient in the fish sauce - nước mắm - the unofficial national sauce of Vietnam. In Thai cuisine, dried anchovies are called pla katak haeng. They are used in a variety of dishes and especially popular deep-fried as a snack. Similarly to Vietnamese fish sauce, Thai fish sauce (nam pla) is also often made from anchovies. In other parts of Asia, such as Korea and Japan, sun-dried anchovies are used to produce a rich soup similar to setipinna taty. In the Philippines, anchovy is very popular in making bagoong, a fermented concoction used for cooking. These anchovy stocks are usually used as a base for noodle soups or traditional Korean soups. There are many other variations on how anchovy is used, especially in Korea.
Fresh and dried anchovies are a popular part of the cuisine in Kerala and other south Indian states, where they are referred to as netholi/chooda (and nethili in Tamil Nadu) and provide a cheap source of protein in the diet. Fresh anchovies are eaten fried or as in a spicy curry. In English-speaking countries, alici are sometimes called "white anchovies", and are often served in a weak vinegar marinade, a preservation method associated with the coastal town of Collioure in southwest France. The white fillets (a little like marinated herrings) are sold in heavy salt, or the more popular garlic or tomato oil and vinegar marinade packs.
In Turkey, anchovies are known as hamsi and are eaten between November and March (their name being derived from hamsin, an Arabic term for the winter period). They are generally consumed fried, grilled, steamed, as a meatball, and as Döner, baklava and pilav.
Scotch woodcock, scrambled eggs on toast spread with anchovy.
Tapenade, finely chopped black olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil, France.
- "What's an oily fish?". Food Standards Agency. 2004-06-24.
- Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2008). "Engraulidae" in FishBase. December 2008 version.
- Tacitus: Germania
- White Anchovy Fillets
- Food: First catch your anchovies
- Homage to the Anchovy Coast
- Pizza combinations
- Domoic Acid Poisoning Northwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
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- Anchovies in Thailand
- Consider the anchovy Guardian, 18 January 2011.
- The height of good paste The Telegraph, 28 December 2000.