Iriko (niboshi) are dried anchovies. They are used to make dashi broth or enjoyed as a calcium-rich snack.
Iriko (いりこ), also called niboshi (煮干), are dried Japanese anchovies, specifically katakuchi iwashi (カタクチイワシ, Engraulis japonicus) and they are boiled in salt water first before being dried. The bold, fishy flavor with a strong aroma is one of the vital umami contributors to dashi, Japanese soup stock. You can also find dried baby anchovies used similarly in Korean, Chinese, and Southeast Asian cooking.
Table of Contents
What Is Iriko (Niboshi)
Iriko (niboshi) are dried anchovies. It’s usually called iriko in western Japan (Osaka area), where it’s extensively used in dashi and other cooking, while niboshi is used in eastern Japan.
The fish vary in size from about 1.5″ to 3″ long, with the smaller ones with a milder taste and the larger ones with more umami. They are also known for their Omega-3 Fatty Acids and other health benefits such as calcium and protein.
Compared to shiitake, katsuobushi, or kombu dashi, iriko dashi has a more concentrated briny aroma and flavor. So iriko dashi is often used for various dishes such as miso soup, hot pot, udon, soba, and ramen noodle soups that can handle the pronounced flavor.
What Do They Taste
It has a fishy concentrated taste with a slight bitterness from the guts and heads. It makes flavorful dashi with a strong umami presence.
Iriko (Niboshi) vs. Tazukuri
In short, both iriko and niboshi are the same things! It’s just a regional difference.
For iriko (niboshi), Engraulis japonica (カタクチイワシ) or Japanese anchovies are used, but occasionally other kinds such as Etrumeus sadina (ウルメイワシ) and Sardinops melanostictus (マイワシ) are also used.
There is another type of dried anchovies called Tazukuri (田作り), specifically for the candied Japanese New Year dish called Tazukuri. Tazukuri is only available at Japanese grocery stores in December. Unlike iriko (niboshi), they are not boiled in salt water and are processed to dry immediately.
How To Use
Japanese dried baby anchovies are usually sold in plastic bags (pictured above). You don’t need to wash the anchovies beforehand. To make dashi stock, remove the heads and guts for a cleaner flavor or skip the step and use them whole.
It’s also eaten as a calcium-rich snack, as bar snacks with almonds and rice crackers.
Recipes Using Niboshi
Where To Buy
You can find dried baby anchovies in most Japanese and Asian grocery stores. Japanese and Korean baby anchovies are interchangeable.
How To Choose The Best
Ensure the belly color hasn’t turned yellowish or brown and that the body is intact and not broken into pieces.
How To Store
Keep in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight. You can store niboshi dashi in the freezer for a month or in the fridge for a few days.
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published in March 2014. New images and content have been added to the post in April 2019.
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