THEY SAY YOU EITHER LOVE THEM OR HATE THEM
… but the truth is that almost everyone loves anchovies, some just don’t know it! If you like Caesar salad or Worcestershire sauce, then you also like anchovies, as they’re a key ingredient in both. Any chef will agree that anchovies have always been one of the kitchen’s favorite secret weapons. Thanks to their highly concentrated amount of glutamic acid and inosinic acid, they give dishes an intense flavor. They became a staple food several thousand years ago in ancient Greece and the Roman world, but also among the Phoenicians, where they played an important role as an ingredient used in garum, a fermented fish sauce that was worth as much as the most expensive perfumes of the time. Garum is believed to be the ancestor of the fermented anchovy sauce Colaturadi Alici, which is still made in Campania, Italy today.
What are anchovies?
Anchovies are a common saltwater fish found around the world. If you trust the gourmets, the best are said to come from the Mediterranean region. There are over 140 species of anchovies belonging to the Engraulidae family. Known as ‘prey fish’, the small, shiny silvery fish are around 8-10 cm long and a prime food source for a wide range of predatory fish, seabirds and marine mammals.
Due to their small size, the bones are edible and when cooked, the whole fish including the bones almost completely dissolves, leaving only the flavor. Fresh out of the water, the anchovy is actually a relatively mild fish—light, plump, and salty. However, since their delicate flavor does not last long after they are caught, they are immediately gutted, filleted, salted and fermented. It is only through this maturation process that the intense, refined and unique salty taste is created that is associated with anchovies.
Are sardines and anchovies the same?
Sardines and anchovies are small fish, which are often confused due to their similar size, but they are completely different. Anchovies are smaller and have dark, red-grey flesh. Sardines, on the other hand, are larger, with milder white flesh and a less salty-spicy note, and are not used to flavor dishes. Both taste great, but cannot be swapped in recipes.
What can you cook with anchovies?
The French swear by their delicious little snack, a thickly buttered toast topped with anchovies, and in Italian cuisine they’re popular on pizzas and also in Puttanesca sauce. In addition, there are countless ways to use anchovies in the kitchen. They can be stirred into salad dressings and, contrary to what many might assume, anchovies cooked in a dish do not taste fishy but add a specific and extraordinary flavor.
Are anchovies healthy?
Anchovies are high in vitamins and minerals that offer great health benefits. As a so-called ‘fatty’ fish, they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote brain and heart health and are hugely beneficial in terms of healthy joints, mental health and good cholesterol levels. In addition, they contain numerous other vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, selenium, calcium and iron.
All in all, anchovies fit perfectly into a modern, balanced and healthy diet.
The article was first published in the Issue 19