Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Long-Awaited Post About Anchovy Stock

First, I give you the recipe for anchovy stock, to show you how quick and simple it is to make.

Per cup of water: 1 small dried anchovy and 1 piece of dried dashima (kombu), about 1x2"

Place water, anchovies, and dashima in a pot. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove anchovies and dashima before using.

That's it. Now here's the backstory (there's always a backstory).

When we traveled to Seoul in 2006, I spent a fair amount of time browsing around markets and food halls. I took several pictures of impressive displays of things like this:

and like this:

without knowing what they were, or what they were for. Well, okay, the items in the first picture were obviously small silvery fish sorted into piles according to size, but what they were for was a mystery. Similarly, I surmised that the long black bar-like things in the second picture were seaweed, but had no idea how to cook it - or even get it into your car. (Some pieces were ~6 feet long - maybe the store staff sliced off sections for you?).

Fast forward a couple of years during which I acquired several Korean cookbooks. The piles of fish were probably anchovies, to be used with the seaweed to make anchovy stock (please correct me if I'm wrong, dear readers).

I love anchovy stock now and use it in lots of Asian-style dishes, not just Korean food. It's quicker to make than dashi (no soaking of bonito flakes required). It also works as a substitute for fish stock in Western-style recipes. The flavor is very light and not at all "seaweed-y" which is great for my hubby - something about the iodine in seaweed usually tastes too strong to him. He won't touch nori or the roasted seaweed (kim) that I buy for my son's snacks, but he likes anchovy broth just fine.

There are a lot of little variations on this recipe - some books tell you to pre-soak the seaweed, or to behead and gut the anchovies before cooking them. My palate is not so refined as to notice differences in the finished product, so I skip those steps. I am careful, however, to heed warnings of overcooking the anchovies and I only simmer the brother for 10 minutes. And if I happen to have a daikon radish on hand, I'll throw a slice of that in the broth, too.

Look for dried anchovies at an Asian market. The ones I bought are about 2" long; I store them in the fridge in a zip-top bag. The seaweed to use for this is kelp, known as dashima or kombu (the Japanese name for dashima). They sell it at Whole Foods as well as Asian markets.

And just what can you do with this little marvel? Other than make kimchee stew or brasied tofu, I use it in soup. I can make the stock while I'm prepping other ingredients (Napa cabbage, sliced daikon radish, etc...bit of foreshadowing here for this week's CSA post) and have a tasty meal ready in half an hour.


Jen said...

I think anchovies are underrated here in the US but it's very common is many Asian countries. I grew up eating anchovies(mostly the dried and then fried variety). The idea of anchovy stock is very intriguing to me. It sounds very flavorful and I might just try making it one of these days.
I also like using Italian anchovies packed in oil sauteed in 0live oil with veggies. The anchovies take a delicious, "umami" and muted flavor. Anyway, thanks for another great and unique posting Karen!

Paula said...

This sounds good, Karen! Does it freeze well? And I agree with Jen: anchovies have a bad name in the US. I, too, often add the Italian ones to veggies, especially when I'm using them to top pasta. They dissolve into the oil (more or less) when you press them with a wooden spoon and leave a nice, salty flavor, as Jen describes so well.

Karen said...

I haven't tried freezing the stock, since it's so easy to make and you can make just the amount that you need for a recipe. i don't see why you couldn't freeze it, though.

It will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days, so sometimes I'll make enough for two different recipes and use it on different days.