Niboshi are dried baby sardines, from which dashi broth can be extracted. In the area I grew up, miso soup was often made from the broth made from niboshi. In the United States, kombu and katsuobushi are popular for dashi broth.
Some people remove head and guts before using niboshi for dashi, because they produce bitter taste. But probably because I grew up with this flavor, I usually don’t notice any bitterness.
When you make dashi from niboshi, use about 1/4 cup of niboshi for 1 cup of water. For better result soak niboshi in the water for about one hour or more before start boiling, but if you don’t have time you can start boiling without soaking them at all. Boil the water with niboshi about 10 minutes and remove the fish by scooping out or strain.
I remember that my grandma didn’t remove the fish from the broth after getting dashi. We ate the niboshi as a part of miso soup. It’s perfectly OK for a meal at home, and I think many Japanese family do the same to get extra calcium.
Niboshi can be fried in a pan without using oil, and flavored with soy sauce, mirin and sugar to make gomame, which is calcium rich snack and perfect to nibble while drinking sake.
Niboshi can be found at Asian grocery stores, or online.
How to Choose Good Niboshi
- Look for silvery colored ones with blueish hue. Reddish or brownish ones are oxidization in progress and not fresh.
- Choose the fish bent to stomach side, not to back.