30 Mar2010


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…



  1. joan says:

    MM, you might try this:
    fry the dilis, or the smaller versions we have in Taboan or any major grocery here in Cebu. When nearly crispy, sprinkle brown sugar all over and add a few chopped chilies. Toss and fry a few seconds more until crispy (or underfry it if you want that chewy texture).

    The amount of sugar depends on the sweetness you want. It’s that simple, but super addiciting! This recipe has not failed me yet, I hope you get to like it too.

    You can also add sauteed garlic and onions (sauteed separately) after adding the sugar to give it more flavor.

    Mar 30, 2010 | 1:15 pm


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  3. Marketman says:

    joan, sounds good and simpler to make than what I have been futzing with. Sort of like a dilis equivalent of banana cue… Thanks! :)

    Mar 30, 2010 | 1:22 pm

  4. Jack Hammer says:

    I have always enjoyed small fish fry fried to a crisp. Anchovies or dilis being high in uric acid and sodium have always been avoided. But I would surely like to try them with a light batter.
    MM….Thanks for the Idea.

    Mar 30, 2010 | 1:28 pm

  5. tamale8888 says:


    Mar 30, 2010 | 1:43 pm

  6. foodiefood says:

    I think adding a little cornstarch to your toyo sugar chili mixture will help …then just add your deep fried dilis.

    Mar 30, 2010 | 1:59 pm

  7. Mikey says:

    When making “myulchi bokkeum”, similar to your second method but with a sprinkling of “linga”, I normally decapitate the dilis first since the heads have a slightly bitter taste when fried.

    Mar 30, 2010 | 2:21 pm

  8. bolinao says:

    I wonder if substituting rice flour/galapong for the cornstarch might make the batter more crisp (your first recipe). My mom was saying that shrimp ukoy is crunchier when using galapong instead of flour.

    Mar 30, 2010 | 3:47 pm

  9. bolinao says:

    The dried dilis dish in Japanese restaurants is “gomame” or “tazukuri”. Several recipes are online, but haven’t kitchen tested any.

    Mar 30, 2010 | 4:12 pm

  10. Betchay says:

    I do my sweet spicy dilis like Joan does and I want mine crispy!

    Mar 30, 2010 | 5:48 pm

  11. Footloose says:

    Just decompressing for my flight back to reality and lunching at all the Korean restaurants I can find close by, in Bom Retiro where a lot of the Koreans in Sao Paulo have settled. I´m lukewarm on Thomas Keller (he lost me when he tried reverse engineering saltcod) but a big yes to this, it consistently is the first panchan I attack too. Maybe because it is the easiest target to warm up my shaky chopsticks skill on?

    Mar 30, 2010 | 6:27 pm

  12. millet says:

    MM, try boiling your soysauce-sugar mixture for a long time until it becomes thick and syrupy, then add the fried dilis and give them a long soak.

    Mar 30, 2010 | 8:19 pm

  13. lui says:

    just my 2 cents. i brine my fish ( banak,mackarel, salmon) in a mixture of sugar, salt, bawang and maple syrup before i smoke or grill ’em. Results: savory sweet/salty taste and good texture ( firm and juicy, not dry and flaky)

    Mar 30, 2010 | 9:05 pm

  14. joy says:

    I’m surprised there isn’t any garlic. I like the idea of adding brown sugar. My husbamd would probably love me I made some for him. Thanks for the share.

    Mar 30, 2010 | 9:34 pm

  15. Mom-Friday says:

    I also attack those dilis at Japanese restos! I only tried cooking this once, similar to what Joan did with the brown sugar, but mine turned out a bit bitter. And I just raved about the crispy dilis appetizer we had last weekend at Acuatico resort on my post today :)

    Mar 30, 2010 | 11:58 pm

  16. denise says:

    when i’m being stubborn (read: sutil) i would fry ’em up 4-5 pieces at a time…so they would come out perfect (if the dilis is fresh), much to my mom’s annoyance…hehe

    how about mixing your own chili sugar first and then sprinkling it on hot dilis off the flame? much like the thai sampaloc

    Mar 31, 2010 | 1:46 am

  17. Ronald says:

    Hi Marketman,

    You might want to start with a fresh dilis and not with the already dried ones. Here is what you do. clean the dilis then marinate it in vinegar, salt and sugar mixture. If you like it a bit spicy add chopped up siling labuyo in your marinade. After a few hours (I like to be atleast a day) dry your dilis under the sun(perfect in hot summer day). 2 to three days of drying will be good enough. Now your ready to fry your dilis!=)

    Mar 31, 2010 | 2:45 am

  18. Maricel says:

    2 c dried dilis 3 T soy sauce
    1/4 c sake siling labuyo
    3 T brown sugar

    Clean dilis. If desired, remove heads. Heat oil. Fry dilis until crisp. Remove and set aside. Mix together the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Add dilis. Cook until sauce is moderately syrupy. Put off fire. Transfer to a bowl. Serve chilled.

    Mar 31, 2010 | 7:19 am

  19. Jenny says:

    Oh wow! This reminds me of the days when our whole family would go to Kamameshi where they always served you spicy sweet dilis while you order. I haven’t been to another Japanese restaurant that does that ever since.

    Mar 31, 2010 | 10:01 am

  20. mamainthekitchen says:

    Deep fry dilis, remove and drain on paper towel. Saute garlic and onion with chilli tomato sauce – normally use del monte brand, then add the dilis, mix well. This was the version we used to do years ago at our resto.

    Mar 31, 2010 | 10:33 am

  21. Toni B. says:

    Sigh… this is so delicious… Wish I could have one right now… Try googling Yummy Cebu, they might have some dilis in their recipe section…. I haven’t checked though…

    Mar 31, 2010 | 1:44 pm

  22. www.triportreats.com says:

    hahah your breaded ones look like worms! But i’ll take your word that they taste good… Can you make crispy sweet/spicy pusit like the Thai ones in cans? those are the best.

    Mar 31, 2010 | 1:52 pm

  23. Footloose says:

    Being a Korean recipe, I bet you it contains malt syrup. They put it on everything, just like anopther group that shall remain nameless with ketchup, including their shirt-fronts.

    Apr 1, 2010 | 2:55 am

  24. Marketman says:

    Footloose, hmmm… have to see if I have any Korean cookbooks written in English on the shelves…

    Apr 1, 2010 | 7:49 am

  25. Mary Kim says:

    In Korea, they have different versions but the easiest version would be this. 250~300 grams of medium sized anchovies the white colored ones(there are over a thousand varieties as i’ve heard from a vendor), 3 tbsps soy sauce(kikoman or korean soy sauce), 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch syrup, 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds, 1/2 tbsp red chili powder

    in a fry pan put the anchovies first and sprinkle them with a little water, mix with sesame oil let stay for 5 minutes before cooking, then over medium heat fry the anchovies slowly mixing them once in a while, when a hint of roasted smell is there put the other ingredients together mix and cook over low heat for a few more minutes, dont over cook tends to be too hard to eat.the frying should be done in 10 minutes or less. enjoy^ ^

    Apr 1, 2010 | 12:36 pm

  26. renee says:

    Hi MM!

    My roommates in college and I have a slightly different version (I’m calling it, when-you-don’t-have-money-left-and-your-allowance-will-arrive-next-week dilis)
    We fry the dilis as is, then we add chopped ripe tomatoes (yep tomatoes) and fry those in as well. Then we add brown sugar to taste, mushing it all together until the entire mixture dries up a little.

    Heavenly on freshly cooked rice :-)


    Apr 1, 2010 | 8:01 pm

  27. kulasa says:

    What we do is fry the dilis, while hot pour some honey and sprinkle with chili and toasted sesame seeds. I use the big dilis for this. Other times I use those small dilis (I don’t know what it’s called but they’re really small) and use roasted peanuts instead to sesame seeds. Good as appetizers and pulutan.

    Apr 2, 2010 | 1:17 pm

  28. mei kwei says:

    Hi MM, I have my own version : I fry the small dilis until a little bit crispy. Add in some mirin, rice wine vinger and sake. add in some pepper flakes – if you want it hot.I buy the very very thin dilis – white in color which you can buy in some japanese / korean store. I think it comes in the white and blue plastic bag- they are so delicate and so white. when done – its very crunchy and you can keep in a plastic container. as a side dish you can have some kimchi or seaweed – yummy.

    Apr 6, 2010 | 11:58 pm

  29. trader says:

    I am looking to export dried salted dilis from malaysia to Manila/Pinas..Any leads?
    maraming salamat

    Dec 30, 2011 | 4:38 am


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