In principle, shirasu could be the immature fry of any fish, but in practice this is always from sardines. Very tender, the entire fish is eaten.
Shirasu that have been cooked with salt and then dried, are called chirimenjako 縮緬雑魚。Chirimenjako is drier and somewhat harder than shirasu.
Shirasu is eaten in two ways:
- Shirasu-gohan, shirasu "as is" over white rice;
- Shirasu to daikon no aemono, a dressed dish (aemono) of shirasu and grated daikon (daikon oroshi), flavored with soy sauce.
[Aemono of Shirasu and Grated Daikon, flavored with soy sauce (and decorated with small slices of cucumber)]