Toasted baby sardines and sesame seeds coated in a sweet honey soy sauce glaze, Tazukuri is a crispy savory snack commonly served as part of Osechi Ryori. They are also great little bites to enjoy with a cold beer!
I feel a bit odd to post recipes for Japanese New Year foods, Osechi Ryori (おせち料理), before Christmas arrives. But if you’d agree it’s better early than late, I know you wouldn’t mind me sharing the osechi ryori recipes right now since these two holidays are so close to each other.
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 share for 2014 osechi ryori series is Tazukuri.
Watch How to Make Tazukuri (Candied Sardine)
Toasted baby sardine and sesame seeds coated in a sweet honey soy sauce glaze. Typically served as part of Osechi Ryori.
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 baby sardines coated in a sweet soy sauce glaze. Cooked in low heat over a frying pan with sesame seeds, these baby sardines are then tossed in sake, soy sauce, sugar, and honey until caramelized and crispy. They are sweet, deeply savory, and even meaty, which make them such delicious snack to enjoy along with the other delicacies served during the new year.
Baby sardines play an important role in Japanese cuisine. We eat Tazukuri on 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. Besides Tazukuri, other common uses for baby sardines include making dashi (iriko dashi).
As far as health benefits, sardines are a great source of 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 the holiday has changed and now stores are open even on New Year’s Day in Japan.
To keep each meal interesting and appetizing over the three days, Osechi Ryori includes a variety of dishes that can be kept for several days. If you enjoy a nutty, crunchy savory snack, you don’t want to miss out Tazukuri on the menu.
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
Tazukuri (Candied Sardines)
- 1 cup iriko or niboshi (dried baby sardines/anchovies)
- 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, a small dollop of oil is added so that the baby sardine won’t stick to each other when they are cooled; however this is optional.)
- 1 red chili pepper (some people add a red chili pepper while simmering the sauce)
- Gather all the ingredients. You will also need a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Put dried baby sardines in a frying pan (no oil needed) and toast them on medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes or until crispy.
- Add the sesame seeds in the frying pan and toast for 2 minutes. Make sure to shake the pan constantly so the sesame seeds won’t burn. When you can break the sardine in two pieces with your fingers, transfer to the parchment paper.
- In the same frying pan, add sake, soy sauce, and sugar.
- Add honey and oil.
- Bring to a simmer on medium-low 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.
- Add the sardines back to the pan and coat with the sauce. Once the sardines are coated with the sauce nicely, transfer back to the parchment paper. Spread the sardines to let cool.
To Serve and Store
- Once cool, serve at room temperature to enjoy.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.