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How to Make Hamsi Tava - Turkish Pan-Fried Anchovies Recipe

In Turkey’s Black Sea region where the tiny anchovies known as hamsi are most abundant, the arrival of autumn, winter and early spring means a festive time for anchovy eaters.

The Black Sea anchovies are small, slender, silvery and inexpensive fishes that are very well loved among the Turks. They may be just tiny fishes but when a hamsi tava is prepared in a Turkish kitchen, its irrisistible aroma lingers quite long enough for someone to realize that someone is pan-frying anchovies nearby.

Hamsi tava is just one of the many delicious ways that anchovies are prepared and cooked in Turkey. And yet, it's also the most popular and best enjoyed among the Turkish locals especially in Istanbul as it is very simply prepared by lightly coating or dusting the fishes with corn flour and pan-fried.

Anchovies from the Black Sea region of Turkey.

Anchovies from the Black Sea region of Turkey.

Below is a hamsi tava recipe right from a Turkish kitchen:


  • 1 kg fresh anchovies
  • 300 gr corn flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (canola, corn or sunflower oil)
  • a pinch of pepper
Anchovies coated with corn flour mixture.

Anchovies coated with corn flour mixture.


  • Wash all the anchovies under cold running water. Remove its guts and heads carefully so to prevent the fishes from absorbing too much oil. Once thoroughly cleaned, drain and set aside.
  • Mix corn flour, salt and pepper in a small bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, crack the egg in and beat lightly using a whisk or fork.
  • In a large non-stick frying pan, pour some vegetable oil – about 2-3 tablespoons and heat it up slowly over medium low heat.
  • Take two anchovies at a time by holding them firmly from the tails. Dip in the lightly beaten egg and roll them over in the cornflour mixture. Shake the small fishes off slightly to remove excess flour. Place the anchovies directly in the pan of preheated oil over low heat.
  • Repeat the same procedure with the rest of the anchovies as quick as you can as the oil is heating up while at the same time arranging all the fishes in the pan side by side with tails joined together in the center to form a circle. This can be done with the help of a fork or spatula.
  • After all the fishes are in, adjust the temperature to medium heat and start frying the anchovies for about 4-5 minutes.
  • Once the other side is done, flip all of them over carefully with a spatula. You may also do this with the help of a round plate and turning them all up side down quite as quick as you can. In Turkey, this is how it’s usually done, though it takes a little practice to turn over the whole group of fried anchovies with a plate.
  • Cook the other side for another 5 minutes or until golden brown.
Hamsi Tava (Photo by Loren Akten)

Hamsi Tava (Photo by Loren Akten)

Repeat all of the above procedure to cook the rest of the anchovies.

After all of the fishes are cooked, place them on a plate garnished with lemon wedges. This side dish is typically eaten with ekmek, a kind of Turkish bread served with freshly sliced onions and a bowl of green salads.

Afiyet olsun! (Have a good appetite!)


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Loren's Gem (author) from Istanbul, Turkey on December 05, 2010:

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@ samiaali - I'm so glad you liked the recipe. Thanks! Since you love anchovies, too like I do, then no doubt you would probably love hamsi tava. They're not only delicious but easy to prepare, too! :-)

@ makyol - Merhaba! Ilginiz icin tesekkur ederim. I've been making hamsi tava for my family for years as this is not only one of their favorite fish dishes but mine as well (especially in winter when they are most abundant and sold very inexpensively). So I don't have difficulty providing first-hand information about the recipes that I most oftenly prepare in my own kitchen... as well as sharing the photos which I personally took myself, too. :-)

Loren's Gem (author) from Istanbul, Turkey on December 05, 2010:

@ oceansunsets - hi and thanks for your comments! I don't know exactly what you and your son had in Greece but since you say it might be something similar to hamsi tava, then you may probably be referring to "gavros sto fourno" or ?????? ??? ?????? (in Greek). This is the most similar Greek dish to Turkish hamsi tava, with anchovies as its main ingredient, though some Greeks usually bake it with tomatoes, onions, garlic, etc. In Turkey, some people here also bake anchovies and I should probably be writing another recipe for that.

Also, its not surprising that today there are a lot of Greek and Turkish foods that are quite similar (except how we name them) as most of these dishes may be food heritage from Ottoman cuisine.


Makyol on December 01, 2010:

Loren, I wonder how you can write articles with full of info. Yet another recipe with lots of information.

samiaali on November 30, 2010:

What an interesting recipe. I love anchovies! I will try this. Thank you so much.

Paula from The Midwest, USA on November 28, 2010:

I am so glad to find this hub! My son and I had something similar to this when in Greece, but had no idea how to make it, and now we do! If it is something different from what we had while in Greece I would be surprised, but regardless it looks very interesting. It would be fun to try this recipe, so thank you very much for sharing it!

Loren's Gem (author) from Istanbul, Turkey on November 28, 2010:

@ OnlineHub & wilsontom: thanks for reading and leaving your comments. im sure you'll love this recipe, its simply delicious! just don't forget the lemons. :-)

@ Gypsy Writer: indeed they are! and anchovies are healthy, too! thanks for dropping by! :-)

wilsontom from new delhi on November 28, 2010:

i will be really going to try this.

Gyspy Writer from Midwest on November 28, 2010:

Anchovies are delicious.

OnlineHub from Fresno, CA, USA on November 28, 2010:

This is a new recipe for me, thanks so much for sharing. I really hope to make one soon :-)

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