How might I like sardines?

I don’t come from a Sardine Household. In fact, the only thing I really know about the things comes from cartoons where they’re always opening sardine cans with those key things. Saw a fantastic IMAX movie on the African sardine feeding frenzy and now I’m interested in what those things in the can are like.

I see in the grocery store they come in different flavors and stuff. How are you supposed to eat them? Are they really fishy? Do they have bones in them? What are they for? What’s a good “starter dish” to see if I like them?

When I was a kid I used to eat them straight out of the can. I remember liking them, but now, even though I like fish a lot, I’m not sure I would do it again. They are fishy. I can’t remember if they have bones, but if they do they’re so brittle that you can crunch them up with the meat. I’m pretty sure they cut off the heads and tails so they’re not looking at you, but it has been a very long time since I’ve had one.

There are lots of ways to eat them. One of the most basic is just to put a bit on a saltine and eat it.
They do have a stronger fish flavor than canned tuna, but they are much milder than your typical canned anchovies.
They contain bones, but the canning process makes the bones soft and everybody I know who likes sardines eats the bones too.
For a starter dish, consider buying some that are just canned in oil, no mustard or hot sauce or any of that stuff. Drain off the oil. Mash the sardines and mix them with a little minced onion and celery. Spread the mixture on a slice of nice, fresh crusty italian or french bread and top with a slice of ripe tomato.

There a huge differences between brand names, not to mention different ingredients that go in the can as well.

The standard fare is very fishy and strong in taste. I like to have those on a fresh baked roll. Yumm!

I am more partial to the german label ones I find at my Stop and Shop. They come in different sauces, but they are much milder in taste and the sauce is nice and creamy and sweet. I have those on the side of rice. Delicious.

I think they go well on a slice of slightly sweet whole wheat bread. The sweetness contrasts nicely with the salty fishy flavor. I love them - when I see them on sale at the supermarket, I stock up. And if you eat the nice crumbly bones, you get a healthy dose of calcium.

The sardines we get are the little guys that fit in cans. Sardines in Europe are the size of smelt. During the season in Portugal, there are grills on every street corner, serving grilled sardines.

Well, of course they have bones in them. If they didn’t have bones in them, they wouldn’t be crunchy; would they? :wink:

On crackers.
On toast.
Straight out of the can.
It’s all good.

Add a little salt and pepper too.

Try an open faced grilled cheese with cheddar and sardines.


Saturday morning I popped open a tin of Roland Boneless & Skinless Sardines in water, and Sunday’s breakfast was Sultan Moroccan Sardines in oil. Both brands were firm fish, and both were mild-tasting – a bit like tuna. The Sultan beand had a stronger taste than the Roland, since it still had its skin and was packed in oil. And of course there was the texture of the bones. (You eat them. No worries. And they give you extra calcium.) I preferred the Roland brand this time, but my taste varies.

I also like Riga Gold Smoked Sprats. These little fishies are mighty tasty. (And chockful of vitamins to boot.) I do like smoked fish, so I like them better than sardines. But again: varied tastes. Sometimes ya just gotta have sardines.

Packed kippered (smoked) herring (AKA ‘Kipper Snacks’) is good for breakfast. You can eat them out of the can, but I like to fry them in a little margarine and eat them with scrambled eggs.

I try flavoured sardines from time to time; mustard, tomato, hot sauce. I just can’t get into them. I think they must use lower-quality fish and then try to cover them up with the sauce. I did have some jalapeno tuna last week that was pretty good for a snack.

Getting a good brand of canned sardines is terribly important. My favorite (available at Whole Foods for about $2.40/can) are:

Fresh sardines are much better, but never available here in landlocked America.

Mustard Sardines on a Ritz, been a looong time but in my youth I had this for lunch at least twice a week.

Buying seafood the other day the (what do you call a seafood butcher anyway?) clerk suggested sardines on the grill. Now I haven’t tried them myself but he absolutely swore by them.


Thanks for reminding me! I have to go to Pike Place today.

I tried that once. The can exploded. What a mess.

WRT to bones: while the smaller (esp canned) sardines can basically be eaten whole, large sardines (larger than, say, 15 cm) have bones that are just large and strong enough to be really annoying when swallowed.

I love sardines, especially grilled (NOT CANNED, obviously! :eek: - use fresh ones) with a bit of lemon juice.

One of my friends brought large, fresh sardines to a couple of barbeques this past summer. I felt that the amount of work required to remove the skin and bones isn’t worth it. You have to be very careful with the bones. You get surprisingly little meat from a pretty big fish. But the taste is good.

I’ve never had them out of a can.

Here’s what you do. Since sardines and other canned seafood (smoked oysters, crab, shrimp, “fish steaks”, etc.) are so inexpensive get a grab bag of them and make a smorgasbord. Decant them out on a plate and arrange them nicely with some lettuce to garnish. Eat them on those little rye bread loaves, imported scandinavian crackers, or your favorite crackers along with your favorite pickle- olives, dill pickles, peppers, etc. You can also serve with a bit of strong mustard and sliced onions.

Popping a can and eating them straight outta the can is fine if you love them, but for a beginner, I think that laying them out and presenting them nicely can make half the difference, especially if you aren’t yet aquainted to fishy delicacies. A sour foil to the fishyness such as a pickle is a good idea too.

…Landlocked? Erm. What do you call the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific, and the Atlantic?

Johnny, when you buy fish, do you buy it from the fish-flingers, or are there other mongers you frequent by preference?

I get it from the fish flingers (Pike Place Fish Market). Since it’s a very long way home I just buy the alder-smoked salmon. Theirs is really good. I was getting the smoked salmon bellies from Jack’s since I liked theirs better than PPFM’s, but last time it wasn’t as good. PPFM seems to have better quality control.

I could do without the hoop-la every time I buy a fillet though!

(Oh, and I did go to Pike Place Market at lunchtime. My friend who was shanghai’d by the Army asked me to get him some Landjeagers since he can’t get them in Texas.)

Not that you asked me directly, but I’ll throw my two cents in too. I like City Fish, about halfway down the market. Fewer gawkers for sure, with the added benefit of being the fist place to sell Bacon Salt.

That said, the best seafood is down at Mutual Fish on Rainier. And you can get fresh sardines there.