AskDefine | Define anchovies

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  1. Plural of anchovy

Extensive Definition

The anchovies are a family (Engraulidae) of small, common salt-water fish. The anchovy is a small green fish with blue reflections due to a silver longitudinal stripe that runs from the base of the caudal fin. It is maximum nine inches (~23 cm) in length and body shape is variable with more slender fish in northern populations. The snout is blunt with small, sharp teeth in both jaws. The mouth is larger than those of herrings and silversides, two fish which they closely resemble. It eats plankton and fry (recently-hatched fish).


They are found in scattered areas throughout the world's oceans, but are concentrated in temperate waters, and are rare or absent in very cold or very warm seas. It is generally very accepting of a wide range of temperatures and salinity. Large schools can be found in shallow, brackish areas with muddy bottoms, as in estuaries and bays. Anchovies are abundant in the Mediterranean, and are regularly caught on the coasts of Sicily, Italy, France, and Spain. They are also found on the coast of northern Africa. The range of the species also extends along the Atlantic coast of Europe to the south of Norway. Spawning occurs between October and March, but not in water colder than 12° C (53.6° F). The anchovy appears to spawn at least 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the shore, near the surface of the water.


The anchovy is a significant food source for almost every predatory fish in its environment, including the California halibut, rock fish, yellowtail, sharks, chinook, and coho salmon. It is also extremely important to marine mammals and birds; for example, California brown pelicans and elegant terns, whose breeding success is strongly connected to anchovy abundance. As anchovy populations drop, the population of the predatory species is also expected to decline.
Overfishing of anchovies has been a problem. Since the 1980s, large mechanized anchovy fishing vessels based in France have caught the fish in fine-mesh dragnets.


Anchovies are also eaten by humans. Preserved by being gutted and salted in brine, matured, then packed in oil, they are an important food fish, both popular and infamous for their strong flavor. In Roman times, they were the base for the fermented fish sauce called garum that was a staple of cuisine and an item of long-distance commerce produced in industrial quantities. Today they are a key ingredient in Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, and are often used as a pizza topping. Because of the strong flavor they are also an ingredient in several sauces, including Worcestershire sauce and many fish sauces, and in some versions of Café de Paris butter. They are most commonly marketed in small tins, either as "flat" filets, or as "rolled anchovies" where each fillet is rolled around a caper. While both are quite salty, the flat fillets tend to be more so. They are also marketed in jars and tubes as a paste, mostly for use in making sauces, such as anchovy essence. Fishermen also use anchovies as bait for larger fish such as tuna and sea bass.
The strong taste that people associate with anchovies is due to the curing process. Fresh anchovies, known in Italy as alici, have a much softer and gentler flavor. Fresh and dried anchovies are a popular part of the cuisine in Kerala and other south Indian states where they are referred to as "Kozhuva" and provide a cheap source of protein in the diet. Fresh anchovies are eaten fried or as a part of a spicy curry. In English-speaking countries, alici are sometimes called "white anchovies", and are often served in a weak vinegar marinade. This particular preservation method is associated with the coastal town of Collioure in south east France. The white fillets (a little like marinated herrings) are sold in heavy salt, or the more popular garlic or tomato oil and vinegar marinade packs.
The European anchovy, Engraulis encrasicolus, is the main commercial anchovy. Morocco is the world leader in canned anchovies. The anchovy industry along the coast of Cantabria now dwarfs the traditional Catalan salters, though the industry was only initiated in Cantabria by Sicilian salters in the mid 19th century.
Anchovies can concentrate domoic acid which causes amnesic shellfish poisoning in humans, sea mammals, and birds. If suspected, medical attention should be sought.
In South East Asian countries, it is known as "ikan bilis", "setipinna taty", or in Indonesia "ikan teri", with "ikan" being the Indonesian word for fish, or "dilis" in the Philippines. In Malaysia, Indonesia and to a certain extent, Singapore, anchovies are used to make fish stock, sambal, or deep fried and served with Nasi Lemak. Ikan Bilis is normally put in the same category as dried shrimp in Malaysian cuisine. Anchovy is also used to produce budu, by a fermentation process. In Vietnam, anchovy is the main ingredient to make fish sauce- nước mắm- the unofficial national sauce of Vietnam. In other parts of Asia such as Korea and Japan sun-dried anchovies are used to produce a rich soup similar to "setipinna taty". These anchovy stocks are usually used as a base for noodle soups or traditional Korean soups. There are many other variations on how anchovy is used, especially in Korea.


anchovies in German: Sardellen
anchovies in Spanish: Engraulidae
anchovies in Esperanto: Anĉovo
anchovies in French: Engraulidae
anchovies in Korean: 멸치과
anchovies in Ido: Anchovo
anchovies in Italian: Engraulidae
anchovies in Hebrew: עפיאן אירופאי
anchovies in Lithuanian: Ančiuvinės
anchovies in Hungarian: Szardellafélék
anchovies in Dutch: Ansjovissen
anchovies in Japanese: アンチョビ
anchovies in Polish: Sardelowate
anchovies in Portuguese: Anchoveta
anchovies in Russian: Анчоусы
anchovies in Finnish: Sardellit
anchovies in Swedish: Ansjovisfiskar
anchovies in Vietnamese: Cá cơm
anchovies in Ukrainian: Хамса
anchovies in Chinese: 凤尾鱼
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