One of the most popular and delicious fish dishes usually prepared in most households in Turkey is pan-fried anchovies or hamsi tava in Turkish. It is very easily prepared, cooks in no time and yet it is surprisingly appetizing to every fish-hungry eater!
The (European) anchovies or hamsi are one of the most frequently-caught fishes in Turkey and are most abundant in fall and winter. When they are in season, large quantities of anchovies are caught from the Turkish seawaters such as in the Black Sea, Marmara, Mediterranean or almost in all regions and are sold cheaper by the kilo. Anchovies can be bought directly either from the fishermen or at the flea market areas called pazar or in most fish sections of all grocery stores.
In the Black Sea region of Turkey, anchovies are very popular and plays a big importance to the lives of fisherfolks as well as to their growing economy. The people in this region are also well known for their expertise in cooking a wide variety of fish dishes being their major specialty. So if you visit the place, you won't get surprised how many kinds of recipes these little swimmers can make. And yet, no one can actually imagine how these small, slender, and inexpensive fishes can easily satisfy a person's appetite. So if you're in for some delicious adventure of finger-licking fish meals, why not try to make this one at home?
Here's how to prepare this simple dish just exactly how most of the Turks do:
1 kg fresh anchovies (cleaned and washed)
300 gr corn flour (mÄ±sÄ±r unu in Turkish)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon salt
a pinch of pepper
vegetable oil (sunflower, corn or canola oil)
1 large non-stick frying pan
2 small bowls (for the egg and corn flour mixture)
a whisk or fork
a plate (to use for turning over)
Clean all the anchovies thoroughly by washing them under cold running water. Remove its guts carefully as well as the heads for they absorb too much oil. After cleaning, drain and set aside.
Put in the corn flour, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix.
In a separate bowl, crack the egg in and beat lightly until smooth using a whisk or fork.
Pour some vegetable oil into a large skillet and heat it up slowly over low heat.
Take two anchovies at a time by holding them firmly from the tails. Dip both of them in the lightly beaten egg then roll them over in the cornflour mixture. Shake the fishes off slightly to remove the excess flour and put the anchovies directly in the pan of preheated oil â€“ starting with low heat. Repeat this procedure with the rest of the anchovies (as fast as you can while the oil starts to heat up).
With the help of a fork or spatula, arrange all the corn-flour coated fishes in the pan side by side with tails joined together in the center to form a circle (as seen in the picture).
Fry the anchovies (now in medium heat) for about 4-5 minutes. Once the other side is done, turn them over carefully with a spatula. You may also turn them up side down with a plate, although it takes a little practice to turn over the whole group of fried anchovies with a plate. (In Turkey, this is how it is usually done.)
Continue cooking the other side for another 5 minutes or until golden brown.
Repeat the same procedure to cook the rest of the anchovies.
When done, lay them on a plate and garnish with lemon. The Turks love to eat this dish with a typical Turkish bread called "ekmek", sliced onions, and a bowl of green salad.
Afiyet olsun! (it's the Turkish way of saying "Have a good appetite!")