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Boquerones: Sometimes Fresh but Always Delicious, White Anchovies

Boquerones

Today, it’s not raining. This is something to celebrate, because although we need more rain, we were dying for a little moral boost. It’s been 3 weeks straight of cloudy skies, and while I appreciate what it has done for our rooftop garden and beautiful park across the street, I do miss sitting on the roof watching the sunset. Thus tonight, while the clouds are still creeping around the edges, is an evening to lounge on the roof and enjoy warm summer breezes and twinkling stars. It will be one of our first nights of the season, requiring a bottle of Alvarino paired with figs, fresh bread, smoked salmon, semi cured Manchego cheese and Boquerones, or, white anchovies.

Now many of you will immediately hear anchovy and think “Ewww, those oily, over salted, fishy tasting strips!” Now, while I also love this type of anchovy that you are thinking of, especially when wrapped around green olives on long toothpicks, this is not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to a long, white fillet that is soaked in vinegar and oil, and often eaten as is with your drink of choice. I love them! I can’t get enough. Slightly sweet with just a delicate vinegar edge to them. They are light slivers of candied sea water. At their best, they have a very firm flesh that gently gives way as you savor them on your palate. You will often see them in any local bar sitting in a shallow yellow oil, just waiting to be served. Honestly, they may not look very appetizing when placed behind a glass display, but they’re a local delicacy and worthy of an order. Commonly, they’ll be served to you in a plain white dish, often the saucer to an espresso cup, with 5-10 fillets.

For those foodie geeks out there, the Latin name for this family of fish is Engraulis Encrasicolus. I dare you to say that out loud three times!

You can also find these little white treasures battered and fried, although I find the simple vinegar and oil marinated ones the best. You may also encounter semi-fried versions, head still on, twisted and coated in batter sitting in a heap behind the counter. Upon ordering, the bartender will take a few handfuls and throw them back into the piping hot oil to finish up browning before being served on a little plate. Don’t look around for tartar sauce, or any other garnish, because you don’t need anything, nor would you get anything if you asked. Spaniards don’t do sauces! Well, Brava sauce, but that’s just for one potato dish.

So what to drink with Boquerones you ask? We suggest a Manzanilla, whose salty and crisp flavors perfectly balance the intense vinegar imparted by the Boquerones. Otherwise, try a heavier Alvarino, a Godello, or simply, a beer!

Tonight, we were planning on having an Albariño de Fefiñanes Rias Baixas Blanco Joven 2007 from Rias Baixas, but lamentably, it was corked. Our backup plan was to get a Godello, but life got the best of us, and now we’re scrambling for a beer ;-) Oh well, such is life!

Cheers,

Gabriella

  • Jose

    Hi Gabriella, have you tasted the 'tapa' called 'matrimonio' (marriage)? If not, it's very easy and quite savory. It's made with one of this boquerones, with that traditional anchovies you mention (salty and oily ;) over a fried potato. The fried potato use to be one of those industrial label, but if you have enought time try to do a thin slice and fry at home. Great tapa IMHO. Regards, Jose

  • AllAboutAlavesa

    I love boquerones!! One of my favorite tapas is a Gilda- a flavor packed bite all on the same toothpick consisting of an olive, an anchovy, and a guindilla, those delicious little Basque peppers. While visiting some friends in Vitoria, they told me they are called Gilda's in reference to the character from Casablanca: she was salty and spicey!

  • http://olaf-unomas.blogspot.com Jose

    Hi Gabriella,
    have you tasted the ‘tapa’ called ‘matrimonio’ (marriage)? If not, it’s very easy and quite savory. It’s made with one of this boquerones, with that traditional anchovies you mention (salty and oily ;) over a fried potato. The fried potato use to be one of those industrial label, but if you have enought time try to do a thin slice and fry at home. Great tapa IMHO.
    Regards,
    Jose

  • Matthew Bennett

    Finally a comment on your great blog! I've been searching (very occasionally, of courses) for a great translation of 'boquerones' into English for years without success. 'White anchovy' never quite seems to hit the spot :-). I too am mildly addicted to the little beasts. Here in Murcia they do a great salad with boquerones, raf tomatoes, bonito and green olives. Saludos.

  • http://www.prgrisley.com AllAboutAlavesa

    I love boquerones!! One of my favorite tapas is a Gilda- a flavor packed bite all on the same toothpick consisting of an olive, an anchovy, and a guindilla, those delicious little Basque peppers. While visiting some friends in Vitoria, they told me they are called Gilda’s in reference to the character from Casablanca: she was salty and spicey!

  • Craig Camp

    Man I love these. I crave the fried ones, which are almost impossible to find in the USA.

  • Craig Camp

    Man I love these! I crave the fried ones, which are almost impossible to find in the USA.

  • Gabriella

    I feel a little guilty Jose, as I only did a little editing on Ryan's article, but I put my name at the bottom out of habit. So your question should be directed towards him ;-) But from my experience, I've never tried the matrimonio, but it sounds interesting. Thank you so much for the heads up ;-)

  • http://www.matthewbennett.es Matthew Bennett

    Finally a comment on your great blog!

    I’ve been searching (very occasionally, of courses) for a great translation of ‘boquerones’ into English for years without success. ‘White anchovy’ never quite seems to hit the spot :-). I too am mildly addicted to the little beasts.

    Here in Murcia they do a great salad with boquerones, raf tomatoes, bonito and green olives.

    Saludos.

  • http://www.winecampblog.com Craig Camp

    Man I love these. I crave the fried ones, which are almost impossible to find in the USA.

  • http://www.winecampblog.com Craig Camp

    Man I love these! I crave the fried ones, which are almost impossible to find in the USA.

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella

    I feel a little guilty Jose, as I only did a little editing on Ryan’s article, but I put my name at the bottom out of habit. So your question should be directed towards him ;-)

    But from my experience, I’ve never tried the matrimonio, but it sounds interesting. Thank you so much for the heads up ;-)

  • sandy

    Never heard of a matrimonio tapa before. In what region of Spain is it served? Sounds interesting though. The boquerones in oil and vinegar are so good. Although they don't look very appetizing to my foreign friends at first, after they try them, they want to have them again and again. Unfortunately, it is not commonly available in the bars in the Bilbao region.

  • http://www.excelwines.com sandy

    Never heard of a matrimonio tapa before. In what region of Spain is it served? Sounds interesting though.

    The boquerones in oil and vinegar are so good. Although they don’t look very appetizing to my foreign friends at first, after they try them, they want to have them again and again. Unfortunately, it is not commonly available in the bars in the Bilbao region.

  • Jose

    Hi Sandy et al, first of all let me talk about the guiltiness of Gabriella ;) I think that the proper punishment for her guiltiness is… cook the matrimonio tapa ;)) And well, I've seen this tapa with this name in Madrid and provinces around (Segovia, Toledo, I don't remember if Soria & Burgos as well) and also in Sevilla. I wouldn't bet my hand on the name of this tapa in some other provinces, but I've seen in some other places, like Bilbao and Alicante. Regards, Jose

  • http://olaf-unomas.blogspot.com Jose

    Hi Sandy et al,
    first of all let me talk about the guiltiness of Gabriella ;) I think that the proper punishment for her guiltiness is… cook the matrimonio tapa ;))
    And well, I’ve seen this tapa with this name in Madrid and provinces around (Segovia, Toledo, I don’t remember if Soria & Burgos as well) and also in Sevilla. I wouldn’t bet my hand on the name of this tapa in some other provinces, but I’ve seen in some other places, like Bilbao and Alicante.
    Regards,
    Jose

  • Dave

    These started showing up in the Spanish delis in Melbourne about a year ago and they seem to be everywhere now, even replacing the dark anchovies in many a Ceasar salad. I love them, a half bottle of manzanilla and a plate of these are magic as a snack after work. And they're so cheap, about $5 for 250 grams. Pitty about the Albariño de Fefiñanes, its a very good wine.

  • http://www.tintoyblanco.com.au Dave

    These started showing up in the Spanish delis in Melbourne about a year ago and they seem to be everywhere now, even replacing the dark anchovies in many a Ceasar salad. I love them, a half bottle of manzanilla and a plate of these are magic as a snack after work. And they’re so cheap, about $5 for 250 grams.

    Pitty about the Albariño de Fefiñanes, its a very good wine.

  • Gabriella

    Jose, I will happily accept my punishment and will provide pictures for proof ;-)

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella

    Jose, I will happily accept my punishment and will provide pictures for proof ;-)

  • Andrea

    I loveeee Boquerones, I actually ate them all the time at this tapas restaurant when I lived in South Beach! But I did get to have them once or twice while I was in Barcelona :) I would always drink them with a nice cold Serra Estrella there but the Albarino sounds nice, I like the Portuguese version a lot over here :) Andrea

  • Andrea

    I loveeee Boquerones, I actually ate them all the time at this tapas restaurant when I lived in South Beach! But I did get to have them once or twice while I was in Barcelona :) I would always drink them with a nice cold Serra Estrella there but the Albarino sounds nice, I like the Portuguese version a lot over here :)

    Andrea

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  • DavidBronx

    Me gustan los boquerones in Catalonia (France and Spain) and I'm addicted so much so that my girlfriend in the south of France thought it a joke to serve them to me for breakfast but I surprised her because there's nothing like fish to start off one's day and kick start your brain. They're best with a Catalonian or Provencal rosado wine. The wine is easier to find here in the states than the boquerones are and the few times I've had them in NY the flavor just isn't as subtle and delicious as it is when sitting in an outdoor café or tapas bar somewhere in Catalonia. These are not the salty little nibblets that Americans put on their pizzas or in Cesar salads those are meant as seasoning not eating. I agree with Dylan…I'm in love with ALL food especially Spanish, food is far better than sex and usually lasts longer too.