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Fried anchovies with onions, chilies, and peanuts (Ikan bilis goreng bawang)

I really did not know what to expect when I decided to make this dish. I have previously used anchovies from a can or jar, mostly as a condiment in salad dressings, salads or on pizza. This dish turned out fantastic, it was the highlight of the casual dinner I had with friends.

The flavors are simple, sweet from the caramelized onions, spicy from the chilies and beautifully fishy from the anchovies. Although this dish is served as a side usually, I chose to serve it as an appetizer with toast points. I was also sceptical about whether my friends would want to try this dish, to my surprise, they relished it. The dish is simple, but the flavors come together so well. I will definitely make this again and often.

I have had this book for ages but never cooked from it till now. It was my go-to book for research on herbs, spices and ingredients in Asian cooking. After making this dish I wonder why I have not cooked from it. Packed full of information and interspersed with recipes, I am definitely cooking from here again.

For more recipes from this amazing cookbook, click here.

Photo credit Nisha Bilgrami


2 + 2 tablespoons oil

20-25 fresh anchovies

2 onions, thinly sliced

3-4 fresh red chilies, spicy variety preferred, cut along the diagonal

Salt, to taste

1/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts

White toast points

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large frying pan, one that will hold all the anchovies in a single layer, and add the anchovies and fry on medium heat. Leave for 5 minutes till the anchovy is well browned. Flip and brown the other side, about 4 minutes. Remove and set aside.

In the same pan, heat the other 2 tablespoons of oil and fry the onions on medium heat till they begin to take on some color and are a light golden. You want the outside golden, but the insides to remain a bit crunchy.

When the onions have turned golden add the chilies and salt and toss for 2-3 minutes. Add the anchovies back and heat up.

This dish is best if served fresh, or it can be reheated in the pan till the anchovies are crisped again and served sprinkled with the peanuts and toast points on the side.

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