Tazukuri is a candied whole baby sardines. To prepare this dish you need gomame (dried baby sardines), which can be found only Japanese food stores. The reason why baby sardines are the part of celebration is that in the past sardines were important fertilizer for rice paddies, so they symbolized good harvest, therefore prosperous year. Cannot find Japanese dried baby sardine? Come up with alternative – which food item represents prosperity in your culture?
Here is the recipe which I inherited from my Mom.
7 ounces gomame
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sake
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce)
Carefully remove the intestine part of each baby sardine. It is quite a task. You need to work on hundred of tiny fish. If you do not remove them, the fish taste bitter. Do this task with your fingers. Do not break the fish. Put a thick bottomed skillet over medium heat. When it is hot add the sardines. Turn the heat to small and cook the sardines until fragrant and crispy to touch. Be careful not to burn the fish. Transfer the fish to a large platter and cool. In a saucepan add the water, sake and sugar and put it over medium heat. On simmering add the soy sauce and cook until the volume of the sauce becomes half of the original. Add the sardines and sprinkle of chile flakes to the saucepan and with forks toss the fish with the sauce. The sauce slightly coagulates as it cools, so do the tossing process quickly. Here you are the Tazukuri.