Here is another simple banchan (반찬 - side dish). As simple as this is, there seems to be many versions of it. I hope I got the simplest of them all - but, of course, with room for upgrades if you're up for it.
This is one of the most common, basic banchan served with rice. It is very much encouraged and endorsed by all Korean moms since anchovies are an excellent source of calcium. Another common version is to make this banchan with nuts (walnuts, peanuts) to make it a super-powered banchan for kids.
In my recipe, the key to anchovies (멸치 - myeol chi) stir-fry (볶음 - bok geum) is the beginning. Take time to toast them over low heat until the color turns golden brown. This step will help get rid of excessive fishy smell, if any, and gets the anchovies ready to be crispy (but not quite yet). This only takes 10-15 minutes depending on how low the heat is, but regardless, don't leave the kitchen while you're making this.
You may be aware that Koreans use all sizes of dried anchovies - the ones you should make this banchan with should be fairly small, as in 1 inch in length or shorter. Another way to determine if it's good to make banchan is if you can dissect the bones and parts with your fingers without using a microscope or a twizzer. If you can, then it's too big for banchan. If this description grosses you out, let's stick to the 1-inch-length rule of thumb.
For your information, bigger ones, the ones you can remove bones and what not with your fingers, are mostly used to make quick stock, along with dried kelp (다시마 - da shi ma) and often with dried shitake (표고 버섯 - pyo go beo seot). Anchovies add that oceany, refreshing flavor base in many noodle soups and stews without unpleasant fishy-ness. But it should not be left in stock for too long as they start giving off bitter taste.
Oh, and the bigger anchovies make a simple accompaniment for soju. A humble man's crudité, if you will, not in the usual vegetables-and-dips kind, but I happen to agree they're pretty good just dipped in plain gochujang (고추장 - Korean red pepper paste). And with soju.
2 C tiny anchovies (about 1 inch in length or shorter)
1 T toasted sesame oil (you can replace it with canola oil or other neutral-tasting oil)
1 T corn syrup
1 t+ sugar or brown sugar
1/2 t sesame seeds
(Optional) 1t + gochujang to make it spicy
(Optional) finely chopped chives (picture above) or scallions for garnish
Toast anchovies over low heat with no oil. Once you start to hear the anchovies popping, stir with a wooden spoon for even toasting. When anchovies turn opaque-white, golden brown from transluscent and silvery, turn off the heat but keep the pan on the stove.
Add sesame oil and sesame seeds, and stir to mix. !!! Do not skip the oil. Without it, you're essentially making one giant ball of 10,000 anchovies that'll be hard to break apart next time you try to eat a few.!!!
Then mix in corn syrup and sugar. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add more sugar if you want it crispy. Add more corn syrup to make it sticky. Keep in mind that as the anchovies cool, it gets a little more stickier.
Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
Come back later this week to see how anchovies can be presented in a different way, hopefully, a little less scary way for the uninitiated!
물엿 (mul yeot) corn syrup
설탕 (seol tang) sugar