Toasted anchovies and sesame seeds coated in a honey-soy sauce glaze, Tazukuri is a sweet and savory snack commonly served as part of Osechi Ryori (traditional Japanese New Year foods). These Candied Anchovies are also delicious little crispy bites to enjoy with a cold beer anytime of the year!
To kick off my Osechi Ryori Recipe Series (おせち料理), I’d like to start with a classic dish called Tazukuri (田作り) or candied anchovies. These anchovies are crunchy, sweet, and deeply savory, which make them a fantastic snack to enjoy along with the other delicacies served as part of the Japanese New Year’s foods.
If you love munching on little bites with cold beer or sake on New Year’s Day, you will love tazukuri! What more? They are ridiculously easy to make and ready in 10 minutes!
Tazukuri – Well-Meaning & Savory Bites for Osechi Ryori
Tazukuri (田作り) is a very popular dish for osechi ryori and it is made of roasted Japanese anchovies coated in a sweet soy sauce glaze. Cooked in low heat over a frying pan with sesame seeds, these anchovies are then tossed in sake, soy sauce, sugar, and honey until caramelized and crispy.
Japanese anchovies play an important role in Japanese cuisine. We eat tazukuri on New Year’s Day as they symbolize a bountiful harvest. Tazukuri (田作り) literally translates as “making (作り) rice paddy (田)” as anchovies were once used as fertilizers for rice fields.
Because Japanese anchovies are known as a great source of calcium, my mom always made sure I had eaten tazukuri on New Year as they are good for strong bones. Now it’s my turn to make sure my children eat this dish for strong bones.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Dried Japanese anchovies (Tazukuri or Iriko/Niboshi)
- Toasted white sesame seeds
- Seasonings: sake, soy sauce, sugar, and honey
I used only sesame seeds for my tazukuri, but you can also add silver almonds or crushed walnuts to the mix.
Different Types of Dried Anchovies
For this recipe, we use a specific type of dried Japanese anchovies called tazukuri—yes, the same name as the dish. Tazukuri is simply rinsed in water and dried, without boiling in salt water like regular anchovies. Therefore, the “tazukuri” anchovies are not salty compared to the regular ones. They are also flat and straight.
You can find tazukuri at Japanese grocery stores only in December, just around the time when people start preparing for the Japanese New Year celebration. Unfortunately, since this is a very specific ingredient that’s used for the Japanese New Year, you will most likely not find them in Asian grocery stores.
You can definitely use regular dried anchovies. They are called iriko (いりこ) in the Osaka region and niboshi (煮干) in the Tokyo region. Unlike tazukuri, they have been boiled in salt water and then dried, so iriko/niboshi are slightly saltier.
Iriko or niboshi are often used in making dashi soup stock or eaten whole as a snack. The bold, savory taste is unbeatable. They are also very popular in Korean and Southeast Asian cuisine.
👉🏻 You can read more about iriko/niboshi on my pantry page.
Where to buy dried anchovies: You can find iriko/niboshi sold in plastic bags in most Japanese and Asian grocery stores. Both the Japanese and Korean baby anchovies are interchangeable.
Make Ahead Recipes for Osechi Ryori
There are a variety of dishes that go into making the New Year’s feast, so I like to make a list for the ones that I can make ahead. Tazukuri is often one of the first items I prepare early since they store well in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.
For those of you who would like to adopt Japanese New Year traditions, I definitely recommend making these candied anchovies for your osechi ryori!
More traditional osechi dishes you can easily make ahead:
- Instant Pot Kuromame (Sweet Black Soybeans)
- Kuri Kinton (Candied Chestnuts and Sweet Potatoes)
- Datemaki (Sweet Omelet with Fish Cake)
- Kobu Maki (Salmon Kombu Roll)
❤️ Learn more about Japanese New Year’s traditions and browse our complete osechi ryori menu.
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Tazukuri (Candied Anchovies)
- 1 cup tazukuri (dried anchovies) (tazukuri is only available in December at Japanese markets; you could use iriko or niboshi (boiled and dried anchovies), but they will be slightly saltier since they are boiled in salt water before drying)
- 1 Tbsp toasted white sesame seeds
- 2 Tbsp sake
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp honey
- ⅛ tsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc.) (optional, but it helps to separate the anchovies once cooled)
- 1 red chili pepper (optional; leave whole and add it to the simmering sauce for a spicy kick)
- Before You Start: If you will include this dish in your Osechi meal, I recommend cooking it up to 4 days before you plan to serve. For more helpful tips on planning your Japanese New Year feast, please read my A 5-Day Osechi Cooking Timeline blog post.
- Gather all the ingredients. You will also need a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- In a dry frying pan (no oil), toast the dried anchovies on medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes or until crispy.
- Next, add the sesame seeds to the frying pan and toast for 2 minutes. Shake the pan constantly so the sesame seeds don’t burn. When you can break an anchovy into two pieces with your fingers, transfer the anchovies and sesame seeds to the lined baking sheet.
- In the same frying pan, add the sake, soy sauce, and sugar. Give a quick stir.
- Next, add the honey and oil. Add the optional red chili pepper to the pan now, if using.
- Bring it to a simmer on medium-low heat. Then, reduce the sauce until it thickens and you can draw a line through the sauce on the pan's surface with a silicone spatula.
- Add the anchovies and sesame seeds back to the pan and coat well with the sauce. Once the anchovies are nicely coated with the sauce, transfer them back to the lined baking sheet. Spread the anchovies to let cool.
- Once cooled, serve at room temperature to enjoy.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on December 21, 2013. It’s been republished in December 2021.