Anchovies are a small schooling fish found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. There are over 177 species that are referred to as anchovies and they range in size from two to 40 centimeters. These fish have a wide range of culinary uses and have a rich cultural food history.
Aside from being one of the most loved and most hated pizza toppings, anchovies have a variety of culinary uses. They can be offered alone as an appetizer or as part of a tapas spread, or cooked into a variety of sauces, soups, or stews.
Perhaps one of the best known uses for anchovies is in red gravy based dishes, like pasta puttanesca. When a small amount of anchovies are cooked into the sauce, the overly fishy flavor dissipates and a subtle richness is left behind. Because of this, anchovies are excellent for adding depth and the umami flavor element to dishes.
This same subtle depth is what makes worcestershire sauce so amazing. A small amount of anchovies are part of the classic flavor profile of worcestershire sauce, but it never tastes fishy. Anchovies are also the secret ingredient that add a subtle depth to the classic Caesar dressing. The oil in which anchovies are packed can also be used to add subtle flavor so sauces and dressings.
In Asian cuisine, anchovies are used to make classic fish sauces, which are then used in a variety of soups, sauces, and stews. Anchovies are also eaten as a snack after being deep fried into a crispy treat.
Anchovies can also be dried or ground and then added to food as an inexpensive protein source. Without the salt curing and fermentation process, these dried anchovies have a milder, more palatable flavor.