What is Ikan Bilis? Ikan Bilis as they are known in Malaysia, Indonesia and Asia are small tiny dried white anchovy fish that the English-speaking world call dried anchovies. They should not be confused with Ikan Teri which is an Indonesian term for a very tiny white fish – they are so much smaller than Ikan bilis.
They have the smell and flavour of the sea and range in size from 2 to 5 cm in length. Ikan bilis has a unique flavour and texture and can’t be substituted.
Where to Buy Dried Anchovies?
You will find them in most Oriental stores or online, some will have it on the shelf in the aisle others will store them in the fridge.
Do Dry Anchovies Need To Be Refrigerated?
Ikan bilis needs to be stored in a cool dry area. If you are planning on finishing the packet in a short time you can keep them in the cupboard. If you think that you won’t use them all at once store them in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to use them, they will last for months in there.
Can Dried Anchovies Go Bad?
Yes, dried anchovies can go bad if you store them incorrectly. As stated above they need to be stored in a cool dry area, if you allow them to touch moisture or live in a very humid climate there is a high chance of them becoming soft and can turn mouldy.
Can You Eat Dried Anchovies Raw?
Yes, they can be eaten dried and uncooked, they have very salty and fishy in taste. However, I wouldn't recommend eating them like this, due to the high salt content and some people may get an upset stomach by eating these raw. They are so much nicer when cooked.
How To Cook Dried Anchovies
How to clean Ikan Bilis?
First, you will need to clean the dried anchovies by washing them several times in clean, cool tap water, and then drain well. When you wash dried anchovies, you are not only cleaning them, you are making them less salty.
How to dry anchovies?
After washing the anchovies, they need to be dried, place them in a single layer on absorbent paper, and pat them dry with another piece of absorbent paper. Then allow them to air dry for about 30 – 60 minutes. Make sure that they are quite dry, this will help to avoid the oil splattering when they are fried.
How to fry Ikan Bilis until crispy?
When cooking dried anchovies, there needs to be enough oil in the pan to cover the fish. The oil needs to be heated on high until it is hot, and then just before adding the ikan bilis reduce the flame to medium high.
Cook the fish in batches, stirring them from time to time until they become a dark golden-brown color.
If you don’t cook them long enough, they won’t be crispy and crunchy when they cool, instead they will have a rubbery texture. Once cooked allow them to drain on absorbent paper.
How to Use Ikan Bilis
Ikan bilis when cooked are crispy, crunchy and a little salty, you can eat them as they are, or mix them with other ingredients to make tasty snacks like fried ikan bilis with peanuts and chips, or mix them with chilli and make a hot Indonesian chilli sauce called sambal ikan bilis or use it as a side dish for nasi lemak and many more Indonesian and Malaysian recipes.