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Iriko & Rice on Election Night


Iriko (Japanese dried and salted anchovies) on Gohan (rice), with Beni Shoga (pickled Ginger) and Negi (green onion) garnish

With today’s historic general election taking place across our great 50th state and nation, along with the spirit of freedom celebrated as us Americans cast our vote (I voted this morning), I thought it was a fitting time to introduce a relatively new feature for WordPress users in the form of POLLS! All in the name of your further enjoyment visiting this site through enhanced interactivity.

While Iriko and rice is as American as a Steak and Baked Potato are Japanese, that’s relatively beside the point. Point is, it’s a dish which can inspire a number of personal opinions – just as there are in politics – regardless of whom or where you’re taking about.

Opinions in mind, let’s take a closer look at this dish called Iriko (pronounced ‘ee-dee-koh’), which are Japanese-prepared dried and salted whole anchovies – head and all.

First I’ll say I grew up eating this stuff, which was always prepared (very simply) as shown here, except sans the fancy Tsukemono stuffs (juss’ rice… das’ it).

Obviously one individual fish (by mass) isn’t going to fill you up, therefore you must consume a bunch in bulk, along with rice, to get your fill. Here’s how it looks right out of the package (make that tray in this case)…


Iriko tray from Marukai, $3.01 (total price) @ $5.99/lb.

Here’s a closer look…


Iriko (close-up)

Each Iriko here measures approximately 1-1/8″ in length (just over a quarter coin in diameter) x 1/8″ thick from dorsal to pectoral area. There’s actually Iriko for sale are even smaller than this, but this is the size I’m familiar with.

You simply sautee them as is in a hot pan with oil (in this case I used LARD!) until nice and crispy. Once they reach that point, turn off the heat, then drizzle your favorite shoyu, just enough to coat and soak into all the iriko…


Iriko, fried-up and drizzled with Shoyu

This would certainly be a welcome dish on Andrew Zimmern’s BIZZARE fOODS Travel Channel show.


IRIKO – Dried anchovies and salt; sauteed in oil, then seasoned with soy sauce

Transfer the Iriko directly over a hot bowl of white rice and your choice of garnish. In this case I used Tsukemono that was readily available from the recent Goteborg Musubi Project. If you don’t have all that stuff. Just plain by itself works too, but these other condiments really step it up!…


Iriko (Japanese dried and salted anchovies) on Gohan (rice), with Beni Shoga (pickled Ginger) and Negi (green onion) garnish

Regardless of how it looks or sounds, you know I’m very fond of this dish.

Now let us know what YOU think by voting your opinion on Iriko in the following Poll…

25 thoughts on “Iriko & Rice on Election Night

  • November 5, 2008 at 8:00 am
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    Love the stuff. Get all kinds here. Plus from all over Japan too!

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  • November 5, 2008 at 8:50 am
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    So yummy! I went to college on the mainland and would bring this along with some other goodies with me in my suitcase. I offered it to some of my friends to try and most just wouldn’t touch it. All the hawaii and asian kids loved it though! Got the same reaction w/ Spam musubi. “Spam? ewwww…” Hey, more for me!

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  • November 5, 2008 at 4:20 pm
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    Well Chinese been eating this for a long time. It really part of country style food. Price is lower in Chinese stores.

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  • November 5, 2008 at 4:53 pm
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    I never grew up eating iriko, but Annie introduced them to me. Besides stir-frying in oil, we also use them to flavor soup.

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  • November 5, 2008 at 6:12 pm
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    Made into tsukudani, which is what you basically did – Oishii!

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  • November 5, 2008 at 9:42 pm
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    I shop for it in Chinese stores due to price is really better. Had it growing up. Old Chinese dish also.

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  • November 6, 2008 at 12:18 am
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    Had it with plain jook when I was a kid. Chinese style. Make great side dish.
    I saw price in Chinese stores it cheaper indeed.

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  • November 6, 2008 at 10:03 am
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    I grew up eating this with vinegar, black pepper and dash of tobasco after my mom stir fried it with a little oil and salt. I think she always made this when we ate mongo. I love this with hot rice but sadly I can’t eat seafoods right now. : (

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  • November 6, 2008 at 7:02 pm
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    Wow Susan, that’s sure sounds like an explosion of flavors! You get tart, spicy, salty and sweet. I just can’t imagine Iriko with – of all things – mango. But hey, I ain’t knockin’ it ’til I try it!

    Keith, I can definitely see Iriko wtih Jook. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I’ll take you up on that one!

    As for the price, Marukai’s price isn’t all that bad and worth the convenience, for me at least (one-stop shop).

    Imaginary Reviewer, I take it you don’t like Natto either. lol Actually, because of their small size, I’m guessing a majority of Iriko’s flavor is coming from the heads.

    Amy and Shelly, do you know the Chinese name for Iriko? I asked a few folks I know with Chinese heritage, including elders, and none knew (nor did they eat the stuff). Go figure.

    Nate, glad you brought up Tsukudani, because I was thinking of adding Mirin along with the shoyu, and perhaps a little ginger the next time I fry-up a batch of Iriko. Give it a sort of Teriyaki twist. Yeah, we used to buy huge bags of Iriko from various shops around Tokyo. It’s as common there as beef jerky is here.

    Dee, I bet you would have tripped if someone in your dorm seen your Iriko and said, “Ooh, Iriko! Fry ’em up and let’s grind!”. Then you’d have to worry your “stash” and hide it. lol Nah, no ways… bus’ em out!

    Hey, the poll feature introduced in this entry seems to be working well. 83 votes cast so far and counting!

    My next brand comparison presentation will be none other than POI! With that, I’ll provide another poll to vote which brand of Poi is your favorite. :-)

    Reply
  • November 6, 2008 at 10:13 pm
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    I only know it as small dry fishes. My late great grandma and late grandma cook it many times and were Chinese from China. Vietnamese like it with special seasoning eat it dry.

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  • November 7, 2008 at 10:39 am
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    Pomai, no, not mango, mongo beans…sorry, I didn’t put the beans after mongo so you probably thought I meant mango. Hey but if you already tried the mango with it, how did it taste. LOL!

    Reply
  • November 7, 2008 at 7:23 pm
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    Pomai, People who came from Jungsan a part of Canton, China know of this dry small fishes dish. I am saying very old people like my mom and dad and grandparents who came from there. The younger generation do not know or care for it. It an old country and village dish. Not sure how old the person you ask about it and from what part of China.

    My sister husband is northern Chinese never heard of it too. Not known in northern China. Seen it all over in San Francisco, Chinatown too.

    Reply
  • November 7, 2008 at 8:34 pm
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    Nate, that’s it! According to this site:
    http://www.malaysianfood.net/glossaryI.htm
    it says:
    Ikan Bilis (Malaysian)

    Kong Yee Chye [Chinese], Nethilipudi [Tamil]

    Anchovies. Tiny white fish [often called sprats] of the anchovy family, are dried in the sun or commercially dehydrated.

    Ikan Bilis can may be used in many ways. It is used as a main ingredient in dishes – it can be fried to a golden brown, and cooked with other ingredients such as sambal [chili paste]. Sambal Ikan Bilis [Spicy Dried Anchovies] is one of the accompaniments to Nasi Lemak [Coconut Rice Meal]. Ikan Bilis can also be boiled in water for a clear sweet fish stock, or ground in a mortar & pestle to flavor dishes. Ikan Bilis fried golden brown & crispy makes a delicious snack – dusted with chilli powder, makes a great cocktail or beer snack!

    Usually sold in plastic packages [Wt. 3 to 4oz]. Dried anchovies are also sold loose by the lb or kg.

    Shelly, the aunt I asked is 81 years old, and his half Chinese (mom), half European (dad), and was born in Hawaii, which somewhat explains her not having exposure to what we now know is Kong Yee Chye.

    Susan, that’s too funny. lol I should have known you were referring to Mongo Beans, and not just had a typo.

    Amy, interesting you mention that. I was talking with a worker in Marukai (who looked Japanese) about Iriko, and he said he grew up eating Iriko as is (just dried and salted, not fried with Shoyu) on hot rice. I tried a little like that, straight outta’ the package, and gotta’ say, not for me! It’s much more fishy-tasting that way. The crispy texture after its fried and “meaty” flavor the shoyu imparts really is the best way to eat Iriko (a.k.a. Kong Yee Chye, IMO.

    Reply
  • November 8, 2008 at 3:48 am
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    Well, the Japanese treatment and the Chinese use has been discussed, so I’ll throw in my $0.02 for the Korean version. Similar to what you did, except add some green onions, sesame seed and chili pepper. Not sure how to romanize it (I can write it in Hangul), but in Korean it is “meulchi”. (Sounds like meh-ool-chee.

    If you go to Korean restaurants, it is often part of the panchan or little side dishes.

    Good stuff.

    Reply
  • November 8, 2008 at 7:32 am
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    The dried Iriko is good, but I really miss fried fresh Iriko. We used to scoop net them in Kaneohe Bay when we were kids and my grandpa would fry them crispy in a pan and we would eat it on rice with a bit of shoyu on top. Oama is good that way also but my grandma would always want to pickle it (which i didn’t care for at all). I also like the “seasoned” Iriko in those Japanese kakimochi mixes.

    Reply
  • November 12, 2008 at 10:36 am
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    I do recall my grandmother serving iriko with a bit of sweetness in the shoyu. Haven’t made iriko myself, but I like the slightly larger fish already prepared at Marukai, the sticky sweet ones and the dry salty, more like pupu. I’m told they’re high in calcium, since we’re eating the bones and all.

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  • November 21, 2008 at 4:41 am
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    My Mom (Chinese) used to make this dish for me all the time. Love it over rice. Her version, as she explained it to me, had a bit of Korean spin to it since she added sugar and Korean chili pepper. She did live in Korea for a few years so I’m guessing that’s where she got it from. Oh yeah, she grew up in Beijing and this was not a dish her mother used to make. Where ever she got the recipe from, I love it!

    Reply
  • January 24, 2013 at 3:14 pm
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    Went to Marukai to get some iriko cooked in shoyu/sugar. Lady there said the processed shoyu iriko that was previously sold at the tsukemono counters were recently banned by the FDA. Dried uncooked iriko were ok but I wanted something to put over hot rice. why the ban???

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      • January 24, 2013 at 8:50 pm
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        James (and Pat), there’s this:
        Post-Fukushima, Japan’s irradiated fish worry B.C. experts

        As for sugar in the shoyu (teriyaki style), my grandmother never did that when frying Iriko. Simply pan-fry in supah-hot oil with a few generous drizzles of Shoyu, get ’em crispy, then chrow (throw) da’ crispy shoyu-flavored Iriko on hot rice and whack da’ buggah’. So ono, especially wit’ Poi! (carbo’ overload)

        Reply
  • January 24, 2013 at 8:21 pm
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    No wonder my tongue glowing!

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    • January 24, 2013 at 9:11 pm
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      Diner E,

      I could have sworn I seen a Humpback Whale glowing bright neon green while breaching off Diamond Head yesterday evening just after sunset. It shot a flame like Godzilla out its mouth, too!

      *In the voice of James Earl Jones*… “Coming soon to a theater near you: WHALEZILLA.” LOL!!!

      Reply

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