Getting over our anchovy prejudices: Shirasu-Chirimenjako anchovy-whitbait-sardine fry for Calcium-rich Recipes

Baby sardines shirasu. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Growing up, I didn’t like anchovy much whether in the Japanese loose-fishes style or European oily fillet style (some people’s reaction to anchovy are said to border upon this spoofy reaction), but then they weren’t served with much imagination in my home. Here, in Japan, anchovy appears in such a variety of ways and in delightful combinations with other foods, that my prejudice against the humble anchovy-fry has largely disappeared.

In the local supermarket here, a fish staple that is bought and consumed in practically every Japanese family’s daily menu is either Shirasu or Chirimenjako.  Shirasu/シラス in Japanese means “whitebait”, although it normally applies only to the Japanese Anchovy/Katakuchiiwashi/片口鰯 (Engraulis japonica ). Whitebait, according to Wikipedia, is a collective term for the immature fry of fish (consisting of many important food species (such as herringsprat,sardinesmackerelbass and many others).

Shirasu and Chirimenjako are both rich in calcium and it is said 100g Chirimenjako contains 500mg calcium and you can consume calcium necessary for a day with 100g Chirimenjako.  The difference between whitebait and “Chirimenjako” is its method of processing. Those which are boiled and contain much moisture are called whitebaits and those which are properly dried in the sun are called “Chirimenjako”…although technically, “Chirimenjako”, should refer to young sardine since jako means sardine fry.

In actual fact, anchovy, pilchard and round herring are often used but it depends on a fishing season. (Note: In Kyoto, chirimenjako and sansho are usually paired together over steamed rice, and considered an everyday food of Kyoto).

Today’s recipes (nearly all taken from this morning’s NHK Asaichi TV programme) combine calcium rich ingredients and other vitamins and minerals needed to facilitate the absorption of calcium, for healthy strong bone growth.

The recipe below is perfect for preparing healthy calcium-rich bento-ready patties…

しらすのフリッテッレ(8コ分) Chirasu-patties

・しらす・・・100グラム Chirasu 100 g
・小麦粉・・・75グラム 75 g flour
・粉チーズ・・・30グラム 30g powdered cheese
・卵・・・1個 1 Egg
・塩、こしょう・・・各適量 Salt and pepper (a little of each)
・イタリアンパセリ・・・少々 Italian parsley (small amount of~)


    1. ふるった薄力粉、粉チーズ、卵の順にボウルに入れる。 Add to a bowl, the flour and powdered cheese and egg.
    2. しらすを加え、こねる。Add chirasu and knead.
    3. イタリアンパセリと塩・こしょうを入れてこねたら、手で形を作る。Add Italian parsley, salt and pepper, and form patties.
    4. 多めのオリーブ油を熱して、弱火で片面を5分程度焼き、ひっくり返して3分程度焼く。Add liberal amounts of olive oil to pan, heat and over a weak fire, cook the patties for 5 minutes, turn over and cook for another 3 minutes.

Cooking chirimenjako stir-fried with vegetables いいことずくめのじゃこ菜っぱ

・しらす・・・一握り Chirasu
・ごま油・・・適量 Sesame oil
・にんじん、小松菜・・・適量Garlic, komatsuna greens (small portions)
・酒・・・少々Sake wine – small amount
・いりごま・・・適量 Ground sesame
・しょうゆ・・・小さじ1弱 Soya sauce 1 tsp


  1. フライパンにごま油を熱して、しらすを炒める。 Fry the chirasu in sesame oil in a frying-pan.
  2. 細切りにしたにんじんを加える。Finely chop the garlic.
  3. しらすがきつね色に変わって香ばしくなったら、刻んだ小松菜の葉と5ミリメートルの長さに切った小松菜の軸を加える。When the chirasu turns to a (fox-coloured) brown and has become fragrant, add 5mm-cut-lengths of komatsuna greens to the pan.
  4. 酒少々を加え、水分がほとんどなくなるまで炒める。Add a little sake wine, and water and keeping frying.
  5. いりごまとしょうゆを加える。 Add sesame powder grinds and soya sauce.

Preserved shirasu-garlic condiment dish (served as a topping over rice, tofu, salads, etc.)


しらすとスナップえんどうのトマトクリームパスタ(2人分) Shirasu snappea and tomato cream pasta.(Serves 2)

・しらす・・・30グラム Shirasu
・スパゲッティ・・・100グラム 100g spaghetti
・牛乳・・・90ミリリットル 90ml milk
・生クリーム・・・30ミリリットル 30 ml fresh cream
・トマトソース・・・30ミリリットル Tomato sauce 30 ml
・スナップえんどう・・・2~3本 2-3 snappeas
・イタリアンパセリ・・・適量 Italian parsley


  1. 塩一つまみが入った熱湯でスパゲッティをゆでる。Salt – add a lump of salt into the boiling water and spaghetti.
  2. オリーブオイル適量を熱したフライパンでしらすを炒める。Olive oil – small amount to oil the pan
  3. 牛乳と生クリームを加え、沸騰させる。Milk and fresh cream – Add until boiling frothily
  4. 沸騰したら火を弱め、トマトソースを加える。Once boiling, reduce heat on weak fire, add tomatoes.
  5. ゆであがったスパゲッティとサッとゆでたスナップえんどうをフライパンに加え、ソースとからめる。Add boiled spaghetti and blanched snappeas to the frying pan until the sauce caramelizes.
  6. 盛りつけてイタリアンパセリをまぶす。Remove to dish and scatter Italian parsley on top.


3 great simple chirasu-calcium-rich breakfast recipes follow below:

カルシウムとビタミンKたっぷり!しらす丼(1人分) Calcium and vitamin K-rich chirasu-don dish

・しらす・・・20グラム 20 g Chirasu
・ご飯・・・150グラム 150g rice
・ひきわり納豆・・・30グラム 30g natto
・温泉卵・・・1個 1 Onsen tamago [lit. hotspring egg) but note that onsen tamago or slow-poached egg* (Watch this video on how to make onsen tamago) or soft-boiled egg
・焼きのり・・・2分の1枚Yaki-nori BBQ nori seaweed
・青じそ・・・5枚 Aojiso mint leaves – 5

丼に盛ったご飯の上にしらす、納豆、温泉卵、ちぎった焼きのり、せん切りにした青じそをのせる。 Just lay them all out in “sectors” of your rice bowl on top of piping hot steamed rice and serve for a nutritious Japanese-style breakfast.

* Cheatsheet notes: Chef Rio’s easy technique: Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and add 4 eggs. Leave the eggs in the water for about 30 minutes. Remove the eggs, crack them open and — viola! — you’ll have nicely poached onsen tamago. (For those of you who demand perfection, maintain the water temperature at exactly 145 degrees F (or 65 degrees C), which will yield an impeccably spherical poached egg.)

しらす野菜トースト(2人分) Chirasu and vegetable toast (2 persons)

・「カリカリしらす」・・・40グラム 40 g Savory chirasu
・食パン(6枚切り)・・・2枚 2 slices of loafbread slices [Baker’s Loafbread cut into 6]
・小松菜・・・50グラム 50g komatsuna greens
・パプリカ(赤)・・・10グラム 10g green paprika capsicum
・マヨネーズ・・・大さじ1 1 Tb mayonnaise
・オリーブ油・・・小さじ1  1 tsp olive oil
・溶けるチーズ・・・40グラム 4-g cooking cheese


  1. 5ミリ程度の長さに切った小松菜と薄切りにしたパプリカ、マヨネーズ、オリーブ油を混ぜる。Chop into 5 mm lengths of komatsuna and sliced paprika, mix with olive oil and mayonnaise
  2. 食パンに(1)をのせ、カリカリしらすとチーズをトッピングする。 Over each slice of bread, layer (1) the bowl’s ingredients, and then over it a layer of savory chirasu, and finally top with cheese
  3. オーブントースターで5分間焼く。 Toast in an oventoaster for about 5 minutes.

Another breakfast idea is anchovy pizza. Now the Japanese anchovy pizza is easier on most palettes, especially kids’… than the European-or-French style anchovy fillet pizza, largely because the fish are savory and lighter, and emerge less fishy on pizza than the European version…unless you prefer the more flavorful French anchovy pizza(watch this video).

Last but not least, a breakfast dish I have actually been serving up for years on our breakfast table is either the shirasu-whitebait omelet(see photo above, and Nana Hanah’s recipe or Radio NZ’s recipe) or whitebait fritters. Visit Carol’s Whitebait Fritter’s page for her egg-white recipe or visit the Classic NZ whitebait fritters recipe page posted below.

Classic Whitebait Fritters

Ready In: 15 minutes Serves: 4Ingredients
250g Whitebait (drained & gently washed)
1 Tbsp Flour Salt & Pepper to taste
2 Eggs (Lightly beaten) Butter for frying
Lemon JuiceMethod:
Sieve flour onto beaten eggs and lightly whisk together. Stir in Whitebait and season.

Heat a small amount of butter in a heavy fry pan and using a teaspoon drop fritter mix into pan.

Fry quickly on one side, or until egg mixture sets. Turn fritter and quickly brown other side. Drain fritters on paper towels and serve with squeezed lemon and season with salt & pepper.


しらすガーリックオイル(つくりやすい分量) Chirasu-in-Garlic Oil

・しらす・・・100グラム 100 g chirasu
・にんにく・・・1~2かけ Garlic 1-2 cloves
・オリーブ油、サラダ油・・・各大さじ2  2 Tb each of Olive Oil, Salad Oil
・しょうゆ、みりん・・・各大さじ1  1 Tb each of  soy sauce and mirin

<作り方> Method

  1. しらす、薄切りしたにんにく、オリーブ油、サラダ油、しょうゆ、みりんを清潔な瓶に入れて混ぜる。 Add to a heat-proof glass jar and mix together chirasu, finely chopped garlic, olive oil, salad oil, soy sauce, and mirin
  2. 鍋に沸かした熱湯に瓶を入れ、鍋にふたをして15分間加熱する。 Place glass-jar and added 1. in a pot of boiling water, cover for 15 minutes.


Other notes:

Cooking with olive oil, or cheese, or tomato sauce or spices such as sansho helps get rid of the fishiness of the chirimenjako/chirasu.


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