This is my all time favorite banchan dish at a Korean restaurant! ALL TIME FAVORITE! Why? Because it's just like the Vietnamese dish called cá cơm kho. It might look gross with all the tiny fish eyes staring up at you, but it's so delicious with its savory sweet and chewy taste. Let's get over eating fish eyeballs and proceed with the recipe, yes?
I decided that I want to make a huge batch with two 4-oz packages of dried anchovies. These can be bought at any typical Asian grocery store. They come in different sizes. I like to get the really tiny anchovies but sometimes, they don't have that so I settle for the medium size (what is shown).
Before I forget, I got the recipe from Korean Bapsang and The Squishy Monster.
The first time I ever made this, it turned out very very bitter and it was annoying. You know why? It was because I didn't know any better and left the fish innards and biles in. According to the adorable The Squishy Monster, you were supposed to pull them out prior to cooking. Sounds cool!
Anyway, I tried to do that and I got through about 4 and gave up because there was no way I'd go through all 237 of them! Well, shit, I don't want to eat bitter myulchi bokkeum again! This was when I decided that laziness is the mother of all efficiencies. I boiled them all!!! I boiled them for about 10 minutes on a rolling boil. It got pretty gross since all of the sea gunks were floating to the surface. *Warning* It will also make your kitchen, and in my case, my whole apartment, smell like the stinky fishy sea! Do not do this prior to inviting someone you want to impress over.
Boiled and drained! I let it dry overnight but I think a couple of hours should be good enough. You just don't want it soaking wet like the ocean.
Now for the sauce!
- 3 Tbs red pepper paste
- 3 Tbs mirin
- 2 Tbs fish sauce
- 4 Tbs soy sauce
- 3 Tbs honey
- 1 Tbs sugar
- 1 Tbs garlic/ginger paste. If you do not have this, chop up a couple of garlic cloves and call it a day
- 3 Tbs water
Mix it all up, soldier!
Get a large pan and throw in some oil. Heat it up!
Bring the anchovies into the pan, cook and stir until they're nice and golden. Then you take them out.
Don't wash the pan! Throw in the delicious sauce that you made and cook until it gets all bubbly and boiling gently.
Now, introduce the fish back in with the sauce. Stir well and make sure every single fish is coated. No fish left uncoated!
Keep stirring and cooking on medium heat until you can see the caramelizations; i.e. it gets thick and sticky.
That's it. Remove from heat and eat. You add in sesame seeds if you'd like. I prefer no sesame because the seeds always get stuck in my teeth.
Back in the motherland, we Vietnamese eat this with cucumber and rice as a meal. Here in the new country, I just eat it by itself as a cold salty protein snack. And then I drink a lot of water.
Asian foods make you thirsty not because of the MSG but because of the insane amount of sodium.