Lots of tiny silver fish are called anchovies, but true anchovies are caught only in the Mediterranean Sea or off the European coastline.
The Romans used anchovies to create the fermented sauce garum, which was produced in great quantity and traded throughout the Empire. They are still an ingredient in Vietnamese fish sauce, as well as Philippine bagoong sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Dried anchovies are a common ingredient in Indian cooking, and in Turkey, hamsi, as they are known, are fried, grilled, or steamed into meatballs.
In the United States anchovies are typically filleted and salt-cured or canned in olive oil, either flat or rolled, sometimes with a caper tucked inside. If you have the salt-cured variety, be sure to rinse them thoroughly, or soak them in cold water for 15 minutes.
Anchovies are not “fish,y” but rather salty and complex, adding richness and depth to many recipes, such as my beloved Caesar dressing. They are also thought to be an aphrodisiac, so consider adding the anchovy to your Valentines menu!