Here’s a dish that’s packed full of flavour but with a unique twist (at least, for western tastes). The green pepper capsicums are lightly fried in a mix of shoyu, dashi and a homemade blend of garlic soy sauce, with a few small handfuls of chirimen jako thrown in for good measure. Who knew fish and capsicum could work so well together in a recipe?
Chirimen jako are the young sardines you’ll find in a few classic Japanese dishes if you have adventurous tastebuds like us. If you can get past the fact that they are small, whole sardines, eyes and all, they are actually quite tasty and bring a nice saltiness to the dish.
Being only semi-dried, they are quite chewy with a very salty flavour. You can actually eat them on their own, but we prefer them thrown in with a stir fry or fried rice for a salty (if slightly creepy) flavour burst.
These little semi-dried young sardines are available everywhere in Japan and often pop up their little white heads when you least expect it. Often they are added to plain rice or various stir fries to bring a salty zing to the dish, but we even found them in a candy store! Yep, you read that right, caramelised baby sardines. We tried them when we visited a little shop in a local neighbourhood of Osaka, at what we later realised was a seaweed candy store. How could we refuse when the little old lady invited us into her store to try a few sweets? Before we knew it a little pile of sweet sticky caramelised fish was in our palms and there was nothing else we could do but pop them in our mouths and hope for the best. What do you know, they actually weren’t too bad, but probably not something we’d go out of our way to try again. The savoury version is much more to our liking and we’re no longer fussed to find these tasty morsels looking at us with their little beady eyes.
- 5-6 small green peppers
- 2-3 handfuls of chirimen jako aka young sardines
- 1-2 tsp sliced red chilli
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tbsp shiradashi or soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp mirin
- 1-2 tbsp sake
- 1 tsp granulated soup stock dashi, vegetable or chicken
- Remove the seeds from the peppers and slice into long strips.
- Heat the sesame oil in a fry pan and fry the peppers for a few minutes.
- When the peppers are start to soften, add the chirimen jako, chilli, shiradashi or soy sauce, mirin, sake and soup stock.
- Stir fry on a low heat until the liquid is absorbed.