Blame my propensity for low blood sugar levels, but I am one of those folks that sit down at a Japanese restaurant and instantly reach for the sweet spicy fried “dilis” (or dried anchovies) given as a freebie appetizer. I love them. I also eat whatever Mrs. MM doesn’t eat, and all of the Teen’s as well. :) I particularly like them kinda chewy, with just the right balance of sweetness, saltiness, spice and flavor. I never, ever thought to try and make them at home.
My first attempt (third photo, below) was actually a battered version, as that was the easiest recipe I could locate. I didn’t realize how doughy it would be, and I didn’t like that version at all. It was coated with a mixture of egg, cornstarch, chili, pepper, sugar, etc. and was deep fried in oil that was probably a bit too hot. It was not a hit.
Instead, I fried up some dried dilis and set it aside to drain on paper towels. I made a quick sauce of brown sugar, a touch of water, some chili, a touch of soy (too little perhaps) and a bit of salt. Melted this over low heat and when it looked ready, coated the fried dilis with it. This was much better, but still not quite the restaurant versions I was so enamored with. I read on another site that one had to add lots of sesame seeds, which makes sense to me. And I think I should “underfry” the dilis, so they aren’t quite so crisp. But overall, this was actually a really easy thing to make, so the next time you find yourself with an abundant supply of dried dilis, you may want to try cooking them this way. These dilis were part of a huge bounty we brought back from Palawan the other week and rather than just adding them to mongo or frying and eating them with tomatoes and vinegar, this was a nice way to enjoy them…