Thursday, June 23, 2011

Anchovy Stock for Korean Cooking

Anchovy stock is essential in Korean cooking. It is a traditional base for many soups, stews and other dishes. If you've been following this blog, you probably know anchovy stock is used in many of my recipes. And I promise there will be many more. Rather than reproducing an anchovy stock recipe each time, I decided to write a separate post detailing how to make it, so I can simply refer to this post whenever a recipe requires the stock. Unlike meat-based stocks, making anchovy stock takes very little work and time. The resulting stock is light in body, full of savory flavor, and not all that fishy. This is why it's so versatile. Dried kelp, dashima (aka kombu), is the most popular addition, but there are many other variations. To illustrate the basic techniques and tips, I have chosen three classic variations. So here is everything you need to know about anchovy stock for Korean cooking!

Buying anchovies for stock:
Dried anchovies come in a wide range of qualities and sizes. The selection, however, is somewhat limited outside Korea. For the best results, buy the best quality anchovies you can find. Look for the ones that have clean silvery skins with a bluish tone. Typically, medium to large (about 2 -3 inches long) anchovies are used for stock as they impart much more flavor. These anchovies are a staple in my freezer.

Preparing anchovies:

Remove the guts by opening the belly and scraping them out, but leave the heads on. The stock tends to get a little sour with the guts, especially with large size anchovies. If you are sensitive to a fishy taste, you can precook the anchovies for a few minutes in a heated dry pan before using in stock. This process will get rid of some of the fishy taste.

Buying and preparing dashima (kombu):

Dashima is edible kelp - large seaweed. This is NOT the same seaweed that Koreans use for miyeok guk. Dried dashima comes in slightly thick flat sheets with white powder on the surface. Do not wash this white powder off, or you will lose some of the natural flavor enhancers dashima is known for. Gently wipe dashima with a lightly dampened cloth only to remove any sand or grit. Stored in a cool dry place, it will last for months.

Making Anchovy Stock:
Here are three important things you need to know when making any variation of anchovy stock:

1. Soak dried anchovies and dashima in water for at least 20 minutes. It is especially important for dashima to be pre-soaked in order to fully extract the flavor.
2. Always boil, uncovered, so any fishy aroma that develops can escape.

3. Do not boil anchovies and dashima too long. 10 minutes is all you need. Beyond that point, the stock will start losing the delicacy of the flavors or even develop an unpleasant taste. Also, dashima will develop a sticky substance when over boiled, making the stock cloudy.

Anchovy Stock I - Very basic:

It is very common for Korean home cooks to simply throw a few anchovies in the water to make this simplest form of anchovy stock. It's a convenient way to add another layer of flavor to a dish. You can use this stock in any recipe that calls for anchovy stock. Try it for: kongnamul guk, baechu doenjang guk, mu guk, doenjang jjigae, kimchi jjigae, jjambbong, and gyeranjjim.

Prepare 10 - 12 medium to large dried anchovies, and soak in 6 - 8 cups of water for at least 20 minutes. Then, bring it to a gentle boil, uncovered. Reduce the heat to medium high and boil for 10 minutes. Drain the liquid to remove the anchovies.

Anchovy Stock II - Enhanced:

I probably make this one the most. It's as easy as the first one, but dashima, a natural flavor enhancer, elevates the anchovy stock to the next level. This will add great flavors to any dish you use it for. See Anchovy Stock I for the suggested use.

Prepare 10 - 12 medium to large dried anchovies and 2 pieces of dried dashima (about 3-inch squares). Soak them in 6 - 8 cups of water in a medium size pot (3 Qt) for at least 20 minutes. Then, bring it to a gentle boil, uncovered. Reduce the heat to medium high, and boil for 10 minutes. Drain the liquid to remove anchovies and dashima from the stock.

Anchovy Stock III - Fully flavored:

In this version, aromatic vegetables add more depth and complexity to the flavor of the stock. I love this stock for any noodle soup such as janchi guksu. It's also wonderful for manduguk and tteokguk.

Prepare 10 - 12 medium to large dried anchovies and 2 pieces of dried dashima (about 3-inch squares). Also prepare the aromatic vegetables (4 ounces Korean radish cut into big chunks, 1/2 small onion whole, 2 - 3 garlic cloves, the white parts of 2 scallions).

Soak the anchovies and dashima in 4 - 6 cups of water for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a pot large enough to hold 12 - 14 cups of water (5 Qt pot), place the vegetables with 8 cups of water. Bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium high and boil for 20 minutes. (The vegetables are boiled first because they take longer to release flavors than anchovies and dashima.)

Pour in the soaked anchovies and dashima along with the water they were soaked in. Return the liquid to a boil, and boil for an additional 10 minutes. Skim off any foam on the top. Strain out the liquid into another bowl or pot.

Optional ingredients:

Often I add dried shiitake mushrooms and dried shrimp to this third version. They add strong flavors, and the resulting stock is fairly complex. These optional ingredients can be boiled with the vegetables.

Any leftover anchovy stock can be refrigerated for 3 - 4 days or frozen for later use.


  1. LOVE soups made with anchovy stock!! Great post, Hyosun!

  2. Sometimes when I was in Korea, I got left alone in the house. Then, all I had was TV and I just love flicking around to see people cooking. I definitely saw this stock being made.
    Unfortunately, it's impossible to find a decent anchovies in NZ.
    In my mum's Korean restaurant, she seems to use more of beef stock and not much of these, which is a little bit of a shame because I am a little bit less accustomed to this.

  3. Thanks for this recipe. Awesome!

  4. thank you for this. I bought dried anchovies at a Korean market in Dubai with all intention of making stock. But after a year in my fridge and not knowing what to do with it....i had to throw it out. will give your instructions a try.

  5. Kay, Pierre, Tammy and ginger and scotch: Thanks you very much for visiting and for the nice comments. Hope this post helps.

  6. thank you! i just made this last night and then used your recipe for Doenjang Jjigae and my husband said my Doenjang Jjigae tasted a lot better! he's not even Korean. LOL!

  7. Love this post! Dashima sounds like the Japanese word "dashi" which means soup stock. I recently bought "instant" anchovy stock at the market and used it in place of the traditional katsuo (bonito) dashi and konbu (kelp) dashi that I typically use and I loved the flavor. Your technique for anchovy stock is very similar to how I make konbu/katsuo stock but I would have never known that the guts had to be removed from the dried anchovy. I like the idea of your fully flavored stock and would like to give that one a try with noodles as you suggested. Hope you're having a great summer!

  8. Sommer - Thanks!

    Jen - That's great! I am so happy to hear that. Thanks for trying out my recipes.

    Judy - Oh I love all those Japanese dashi too. I know where to look when I want to make them - your blog, of course. Thanks.

  9. I have made these often, all versions, but mostly the fully flavored with optional ingredients. Thank you for teaching me such an excellent basis for my Korean cooking!