Anchovy

Anchovy

Billions of these little fishes are continually being caught, dried, salted, made into fish sauce and other fish products. They are also cooked freshly caught, the main disadvantage being that there is considerable cleaning and preparation as each fish is no bigger than 12 cm (5 in) and most of them are much smaller. These small fishes are sometimes loosely labeled sprats, a name applied to any small fish.

Most people prefer the very small ones because when they are dipped in seasoned flour and deep fried, even the bones become meltingly crisp. One variety of tiny fish with a silvery stripe running the length of the body is sold dried in packets labeled ikan bilis or ikan teri. They make a delicious snack, deep fried with peanuts and sprinkled with a touch of chili powder and sugar.

Fresh anchovies have white flesh and it is only after salting and leaving for at least a month that they develop the red color and special taste that one associates with fermented anchovies in jars or cans.

Anchovies are processed by marinating the fish in a mixture of salt and vinegar for 1 to 2 hours, until they are soft and juicy, then mix well with the brown sugar and add the kao koi (uncooked rice which has been toasted in a dry pan and then pounded to a powder while still hot) and galingale (galangal). Let the preparation mature in a sterilized glass container for 3 to 4 months, or until the anchovies turn brown, with a clear liquid formed on top and a good aroma arising from the brew.

When you come to eat these preserved anchovies, season them with finely cut lemon grass, young ginger, spring onion, tamarind juice (made by squeezing fully ripe tamarind fruit with warm water until it turns into a brownish liquid), a little sugar and lime juice to taste.

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