Small fish, big reputation, big taste.

They are known as “bocarte” in Cantabria, “seitó” in Catalonia, “aladroc” on the east coast and the Balearic Islands and “anchovy” in the Basque Country. The “boquerón” (white anchovy), called like this in southern Spain, is a classic of the Spanish and in general Mediterranean cuisine. This little fish has a unique flavor, very tender fillets and indisputable health benefits- so go for it and have some anchovy tapas!

spanish anchovies

Spanish anchovies. La Cosmopolita, Malaga.

The ways of preparing it as a culinary tidbit are several. There are the more traditional and common options such as fried or marinated in vinegar, but you can also prepare them Moorish style (with garlic, cumin, parsley, flour, salt and paprika pepper), battered, baked in the oven, with garlic or pil-pil-style, Cordovan style or cooked with onion, parsley, garlic, green pepper and white wine, piled in layers.

Additionally, a very famous and appreciated way of eating them is as canned salted anchovies. You can find them in “ultramarinos” stores and still nowadays they are prepared in an artisanal and laborious way. Usually they are preserved in olive oil and that’s how you create this small dish of heaven: toasted bread, good extra virgin olive oil, grated tomato and one anchovy fillet on top.

One of the best in our opinion are the well-known anchovies from Conservas Ortiz from San Vicente de La Barquera, Cantabria in northen Spain. It seems they sell them through Amazon Uk here and  Amazon US here

malaga fried anchovies

The secret of good fried anchovies, as written in a previous post, is the temperature of the oil and the cooking time: they are just slightly floured, then fried at 180/190°C for about 3 minutes. This way the meat is sealed (almost like steamed from the inside) and on the outside you can enjoy a thin, light and crispy layer. Made with extra virgin olive oil, this way of preparation adds even more nutrients to it.

On the other side “boquerones” are often consumed marinated. For “anchovies in vinegar” they are cleaned thoroughly and then immersed in vinegar (it can also be done with lemon). This causes the meat to get tender and to preserve it.

spanish white anchovies

Spanish white anchovies in vinegar. La Cosmopolita, Malaga.

With garlic, parsley and salt
it will be flavored to perfection.

What is very important to note here is that it is advisable to eat this dish with a “caña” (a small draft beer), since it is a perfect pairing (however white wine in combination with vinegar creates an unpleasant taste in the mouth). Another possibility is to marinate it in lemon or orange juice (usually foods marinated in fruit juice are called “ceviche” in Spanish) and like this, it can also be used as a special delicatessen in a salad.

spanish anchovies

Belonging to the type of “oily fishes”, it provides several positive effects on our health. Although it is indeed quite greasy, this is just what it makes so beneficial- it contains a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B3 and B6, reducing like this cholesterol levels and blood pressure and the high quantity of calcium is ideal, especially for pregnant women.

Another curiosity is that this fish was used as a basis for a sauce called “garum“, which was prepared during the Roman Empire and hence, as well in Malaga. It is a sauce or condiment made from fish and fish guts, herbs, wine, vinegar, oil and salt and is then fermented during days to months before using it to add flavor to cooked dishes (perhaps comparable with oyster sauce today). In Malaga there can still be found vessels in which they were kept, as well as old factory sites: next to the Roman Theatre, in the Rectory of the UMA or the Thyssen Museum. In fact, there are still more remains beneath the city.

And a last detail: did you know that this fish is so famous and representative in Malaga that people from that city are actually called boquerones?!

Sorry to bother you with a little bit of self-promotion here :) but we just wanted to let you know that if you want to learn more about spanish tapas andour local food in Malaga, we invite you to join our Tapas Cooking Class  or one of our food tours which we are very proud of.

malaga anchovies tapa

spanish anchovies

anchovies tapa

white anchovies in vinegar

malaga white anchovies

spanish white anchovies

anchovies in vinegar

About the Author: Spain Food Sherpas