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Anchovies, known locally here as ikan bilis, are available at all dry food stores. These tiny fishes are full of nutrients in their tiny bodies – iron, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately, dried ones have much  higher sodium than fresh ones so it’s better to go for the latter that are sometimes available in wet markets.

This recipe uses dried anchovies. I prefer dry Japanese anchovies to those from Indonesia as they have a lower sodium content. However, it is still necessary to soak and wash them several times before use.

My family likes to have this as a side dish with steamed rice. My younger daughter especially likes stir-fried in corn syrup. Like kimchi, it’s a must-have in our refrigerator. Both come in very handy on busy days or when I have insufficient time to defrost meat or fish.

Steamed rice, sunshine egg, kimchi and ikan bilis – a healthy comfort bento in a jiffy.


Ingredients :
200gm dried Japanese anchovies
100gm roasted unsalted peanuts with skin removed
several sprigs of curry leaves (wash, remove leaves & discard stalks)
3 chilli padi (sliced)
1 tablespoon fine sugar
Oil for frying

1) Soak and wash the anchovies several times to remove excess salt. Drain, spread them in two trays and leave to dry in a sunny place for a day or dry them in the microwave on high for 8 mins (stir after every 2 mins to ensure even drying).

2) Divide the anchovies in each tray to 3 equal portions. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. Lower heat and toss in 1/3 of the anchovies with some of the curry leaves & chilli padi and stir-fry gently until they are lightly brown and crispy. The trick here is to be patient and stir-fry small portion on low heat. Do not use high heat or fry large amount at one time as this will cause uneven browning or burnt anchovies.

3) Remove anchovies onto a tray lined with oil absorbent paper towels.

4) Add more oil to the pan if necessary and continue to fry the rest of the anchovies in batches until all are done.

5) When the last batch is done, do not remove from the pan. Toss in all the fried anchovies together with the roasted peanuts. Add in sugar and mix well.

6) Turn off the heat and remove them onto a lined tray to cool.

7) Store in an airtight container.