How to Achieve the Mysterious "Fifth Taste" via... Anchovies

How to use the infamous fish to improve salads, stews, and almost anything else.



Food Alley

Mention anchovies and it’s like you shouted “release the Kraken!”—people run screaming for their lives, faces contorted in disgust. The little oily buggers are feared seemingly as much as dentists, spiders, and the Grady daughters (click at your own risk).

Granted, anchovies have the notorious reputation for being pungent, overly salty, intensely fishy and, perhaps most defaming of all, kinda squirmy. But most know them this way because the common American experience with anchovies is at your local pizza joint where the basest variety possible is used. Plus hot ovens distillate the fish’s saltiness.

How to use anchovies:

But give these herring family members a chance—this irrational food phobia is depriving many palates the pleasure of experiencing a stellar example of the fifth taste beyond salty, sweet, sour, and bitter.

So don’t deny your palate any longer—the next time you make your own red sauce, put in a couple teaspoons of finely chopped anchovies per four servings of sauce (Ortiz and Agostino Recca are good brands, or if you want a milder, less salty version, try Wild Planet’s white anchovies). Tossed in salads, atop bruschetta, added to beef stew, or in a green bean casserole, anchovies add a deep, rich level of flavor to many dishes.    

Don’t cook? Try the wood-roasted escarole with white-anchovy vinaigrette at Fortina (Armonk) or the banh hoi bo la lot (marinated ground beef wrapped in grape leaves served with a fermented anchovy dipping sauce) at Vietnamese restaurant Saigonese (Hartsdale). Or go crazy Spaniard-style and try fresh marinated anchovies (light, plump, briny) aka boquerones at NoMa Social (New Rochelle).  

Just stop squirming and try them already! 

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