A popular Osechi Ryori dish, tazukuri (dried sardines) is a traditional New Year’s day food in Japan. Osechi Ryori, or New Year’s cooking, involves serving many artfully arranged, small dishes in layered lacquer boxes called “jubako”. Each dish has a special meaning and expresses a different wish for the new year.
As sardines have historically been used as fertilizer for rice fields, tazukuri symbolizes a bountiful harvest. In fact, the kanji for tazukuri (作り田) literally translates into “making rice paddy”.
To make tazukuri, start by toasting dried fish in a pan over medium heat. Though tazukuri is typically made with sardines, anchovies can also be used as a substitute. Try looking for dried baby fish at your local Japanese or Korean specialty store. Once the fish are crispy, toast the sesame seeds for two minutes, then remove both ingredients from the pan and place them on parchment paper while the sauce is prepared.
Next, simmer together sake, sugar, soy sauce, and honey until it forms a sticky, sweet glaze. Once it begins to thicken, add the fish and sesame seeds back into the pan and stir to combine. Be careful not to overcook the mixture, otherwise, the sugar will form into a hardened candy. Spoon the mixture onto parchment paper and cool to room temperature before serving.
Tazukuri can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for 7-10 days. Bursting with flavor, these crispy fish are typically served in small portions and pair excellently with beer.
- 1 cup dried baby sardines or anchovies
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp sake
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce*
- 1 tbsp honey
- Toast the dried baby sardines in a pan on medium for 5-10 mins or until crispy. Add the sesame seeds and toast from another 2 mins. Remove and place on parchment paper.
- In the same frying pan, mix sake, soy sauce, sugar and honey. Bring to a simmer and once thick, add back the sardines and sesame seeds. Mix until coated then transfer back to the parchment paper to cool before serving as a side dish.
*Available in our Creative Beginnings: Redefining “Wa” Care Package
Introduction courtesy of Britney Budiman
Britney Budiman (@booritney) is a writer, minimalist, aspiring effective altruist, and runner-in-progress with a penchant for saying “yes.” Previously, she has worked in Cambodia at a traditional arts NGO, in Brazil as a social sciences researcher, and in San Francisco at a housing start-up. She currently lives in the countryside of Kagoshima, Japan, where she teaches English. Her favorite thing in the world is good conversation.