Articles / For the Love of Anchovies

For the Love of Anchovies

Published April 26, 2019

I am a lifelong anchovy lover, and could tell you possibly boring stories about enjoying them from one end of the earth to the other. (Plus, as much as any fish can be, they’re sustainable.) Thus days like yesterday (the day before I wrote this, not the actual yesterday), where I eat them twice, are not common but not surprising either.

I know anchovies are not to everyone’s taste, but that’s because non-lovers only know them as salt-bombs on top of bad pizza. Real anchovies, the good stuff, regardless of their culture of origin, whether packed in olive oil or salt or just dried – are unbelievable.

Lunch was Korean style. I have never been able to get enough of the finger-food version of Korean dried, glazed anchovies (called, I’m pretty sure, myulchi bokkeum), usually served as one of the array of banchan – side dishes – that precedes or accompanies the main meal. I’ve never had myulchi as a main course, with rice, but I figured it must exist and, besides, what I do in the privacy of my own home is my business. I could eat coconut cake for supper if I wanted to (and I have).

The thing is, to a reasonably experienced cook and someone with a knowledge of essential Korean flavorings, one who’s eaten Korean food for a long time, the preparation is pretty transparent. What I lacked were dried anchovies. Those (and about fifty other somewhat esoteric ingredients, including the coveted dried persimmons) I got at the H-Mart near the George Washington Bridge (where my partner and I were teased by two cashiers, I think for being wannabes or at least Whyte People Cooking K Food). They’re sizable, cleaned (which saves a little trouble), and not super-dry; quite pliable, in fact, “fresh” enough to refrigerate. Fresh enough to munch on.

Dried anchovies sizzling away with ginger, chile, and garlic