Tazukuri (Candied Sardines) 田作り

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Tazukuri (Candied Sardine) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

I feel a bit odd to post recipes for Japanese New Year foods, Osechi Ryori (おせち料理), even before Christmas has arrived.  These two holidays are really close to each other so I hope you don’t mind me starting to share the osechi ryori recipes early because I have prepared several dishes this year.

New Year (お正月, oshogatsu) is the most important and biggest holiday in Japan and I hope you enjoy the traditional Japanese new year dishes as we do.  The first recipe I’d like to s hare for 2014 osechi ryori series is Tazukuri.

Tazukuri (Candied Sardine) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Tazukuri (田作り) is a very popular dish for osechi ryori and it is made of roasted baby sardines coated in a sweet soy sauce glaze.

Well, I know what you are thinking.  After living in the U.S. for almost two decades, I know the whole fish (with head) is not so appetizing to many people.  However, the baby sardines play an important role in Japanese cuisine.  Besides tazukuri, other common uses for baby sardines include making dashi (iriko dashi).

We eat tazukuri on the New Year’s day as it symbolizes a bountiful harvest.  Tazukuri (田作り) literally translates as “making (作り) rice paddy (田)” as sardines were once used as fertilizers for rice fields.

Tazukuri (Candied Sardine) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.comAs far as health benefits, sardines are a great source for calcium.  Growing up, my mom always made sure I ate some of this dish as it’s great for strong bones.  Now it’s my turn to make sure my children eat this dish for strong bones and embrace the traditional Japanese cuisine.

Growing up in Japan, we typically make osechi ryori a few days prior to New Years.  The reason for this is in the past, most stores were not open for 3 days during New Years.  However, similar to Thanksgiving in the U.S., the meaning of holiday has changed and now stores are open even on New Years Day in Japan.  To keep each meal interesting and appetizing over the 3 days, osechi ryori include a variety of dishes that can be kept for several days.  In my next post, I will come back with a vegetarian osechi ryori.

I made a video to show you how easy it is to make Tazukuri.  And please follow my YouTube channel if you haven’t.   :)

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Tazukuri (Candied Sardines)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4
  • 1 cup (40 g) dried baby sardines
  • 1 Tbsp. white sesame seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. sake
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • ⅛ tsp. oil (optional)
  1. Put dried baby sardines and sesame seeds in a frying pan.
  2. Toast the sardines and sesame seeds on low heat for 10-15 minutes or until crispy. Make sure to stir constantly so the sesame seeds won’t burn. When you can break the sardine in two pieces with your fingers, transfer to a plate lined with parchment paper.
  3. In the same frying pan, add sake, sugar, soy sauce, honey, and oil. Bring to a boil on medium heat and reduce the sauce until the sauce gets thicken and you can draw a line on the surface of the pan with a silicone spatula.
  4. Add the sardines and coat with the sauce. Transfer to the plate lined with parchment paper. Spread the sardines out to let them cool. You can keep at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.
A drop of oil is added so that the baby sardine won’t stick to each other when they are cooled; however this is optional.

Some people add red chili pepper while simmering the sauce.

Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.



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    • Hi Kathy! Japanese and Korean grocery stores have these… Maybe Chinese supermarkets too, but it might depend on how much they carry Japaense/Korean stuff. Hope this helps! :)

  1. Kathleen DiTommaso

    Are these the very same wee little fish I’d eat as a snack as a child? My Japanese auntie had them & she’d just give them to me as is, from the bag. Yum. Not to mention the dried squid I’d prefer over candy.

    • Hi Kathleen! These are sweetened, so if you ate the sweetened one, this is it. Also there are some snacks we just eat as it is… I used to eat it too. There are small packages for Otsumami (beer snack) etc too. Oh yes, I also prefer squid over niboshi (sardine). 😀

  2. もううちではおせち料理は作らないですよ、主人も私も好きではないので、でもビデオで見た限り、とっても簡単そう。
    甘辛のとこ、ご飯のお供にいいなと今考えてます。 なみちゃん立派な奥さんだね相変わらず。頭が下がる思いです。

  3. ¨★


    o***♥**o***o***♥ *

    Happy Holidays Nami!


  4. I would love to try this… we have something similar in Sri Lanka with deep fried sprats… but it’s more savory, salty and spicy. Wishing you and your family a Happy Japanese New Year.

  5. Sounds really tasty, my mom loves sardines and she will really love this. Thanks for sharing Nami and hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season :)

  6. Oh this is such an interesting recipe! I went every year over the summer on Mediterranean sea and loved eating whole sardines. They were caught and prepared by locals fishermen or people that were living there, and I remember them as crunchy and salty or in good olive oil…taste memory is still here, but I never ate candied ones. Beautiful presentation, Nami, as well as pictures and your post!

  7. I think this is the most appetising of all osechi ryori dishes I have ever seen (to be frank, I haven’t tasted any osechi ryori!). I would also love it as a party snack or simply as a snack. I love sardines and always have several cans of sardines in oil at home. It’s a very healthy snack, as long as bones are still there (they are the biggest source of calcium in sardines apparently). Thank you for this wonderful idea! (Actually I might have dried sardines somewhere too!).

  8. You know honestly I have never seen baby sardines before.. lol… I know.. But this looks such an interesting dish…
    I have to try this one!!!
    B/w I love these bowls of yours. … 😉

  9. 勉強になりました。昔い農家はいりこ肥料を使ってたことは始めで学びました。


  10. I have never heard of this dish nor have I ever tried it. I can certainly understand how good it is for you as an Italian chef told me that sardines are one of the best foods you can eat xx

  11. Happy Almost New Year Nami-san! I know how you feel. Christmas is not really celebrated in HK but everyone is starting to mingle and shuffle in preparation for the Chinese New Year. Both Japanese and Chinese New Year actually comes a lot sooner this year. I use the dried whole sardines to make my homemade dashi but i have never have made a little sauce to eat them as a treat. Interesting idea, Take Care, BAM

  12. this treat seems so new but totally addictive delicious to us…we have been enjoying soy and honey glazed nuts for the holidays lately so why not sardines…love the balance of flavors from sake,sugar,honey and soy….perfect munch time treat,thanks for sharing :-)

  13. No offense but my first reaction to “candied” sardines was to laugh. Not being a fan of sardines, the last thing I thought I would ever see is the word candied associated with sardines. :) Therefore, I find this recipe quite interesting because it’s a recipe I would never have imagined existing and then only to find out it’s a traditional recipe in Japan. Just proves that there is still so much more to learn about the world’s cuisines. What fun!

  14. Some people get really funny about fish with the head on, don’t they?! There’s something very satisfying about handling and preparing a whole fish. I don’t like the idea of eating the head so much but I have no problem preparing it. When the fish is small though, like this, I don’t mind at all… I’ll happily eat it all because it’s so small it’s no problem!

    These look good – even if the title is a bit funny for me :D. I automatically think of fish-flavoured candies or something 😀