Iriko, also called niboshi in Japanese, are dried baby anchovies/sardines. They are used in making Japanese stock called Iriko Dashi or Niboshi Dashi or can be enjoyed as a snack.
What is Iriko/Niboshi?
Iriko (いりこ), also called niboshi (煮干), are dried baby sardines (“anchovies” in some translations) that have been boiled in salt water once then dried. Their bold, fishy flavor with the strong aroma is one of the key umami contributors to Japanese stocks (dashi). You can also find dried baby anchovies being used in similar manners in Korean, Chinese and South East Asian cooking.
They 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 kombu or katsuobushi, the stock made with iriko/niboshi has a more concentrated briny aroma and flavor. So the Iriko/Niboshi Dashi is often used for miso soup, hot pot, and other noodle dishes that can handle the pronounced flavor.
Iriko vs Niboshi – What’s the Difference?
In short, both iriko and niboshi are the same things! In general, people in Kansai (Osaka area) call it “Iriko” and people in Kanto (Tokyo area) call it “Niboshi”. Some people in Kanto call smaller niboshi “iriko”.
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 sued.
There is another type of dried anchovies called Tazukuri (田作り), which we use specifically to make a Japanese New Year dish called Tazukuri.
It’s quite confusing, isn’t it? Tazukuri is only available at Japanese grocery stores in December.
How to Prepare Dried Baby Anchovies for Cooking
Japanese dried baby anchovies are usually sold in plastic bags (pictured above). You don’t need to wash the anchovies beforehand. Depending on the recipes, they can either be eaten whole as a snack or with heads and guts removed for making dashi.
You can find dried baby anchovies available in most Japanese and Asian grocery stores. Both the Japanese and Korean baby anchovies are interchangeable.
What Do You Make with Iriko/Niboshi?
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published in March 2014. New images and content have been added to the post in April 2019.