The Luxurious Canned Sardine


I curled under the comfort of the blanket, trying to catch the last fragments of my dream, but the clatter and sizzle did not leave me alone. My mom was already in the kitchen to prepare her weekend breakfast, sending the sautéed onion fragrance into my room to wake me up. On Sunday, 6 AM.

At 6:15, I was up and running, helping her set the table for the grand breakfast: two baguettes, two sunny side up eggs, a bowl of canned sardine and a plate of cucumber strips and tomato slices. On the counter, the thick aromatic coffee rested on the yellow-ish layer of condense milk at the bottom of the glass, waiting to be served. When my dad finished watering the plants in the yard, we gathered around the stainless-steel table on our plastic stools to eat with morning news in the background.

Back in the day, canned food wasn’t as cheap and widely available as it is now. Supermarket was the only place where we could find a variety of canned products, from simple tuna and sardine in oil to beef stew and chicken ragout with peas. So when my mom went to one, she lugged home different types for us to try. Her favorite of all was canned sardine, and so was my dad’s.

To economize, she re-cooked the fish in her own tomato sauce, transforming the 150 ml can of sardine into a biblical amount that could feed our entire family of four. Even better, she removed the metallic smell typical of canned food, thanks to the sautéed onion. The tangy sauce was perfect for baguettes, which were also used to mop up the rich luscious egg yolk, seasoned with some soy sauce and pungent black pepper.


This leveled-up canned sardine worked for dinner too, when she didn’t feel like cooking. Pair this with a bowl of rice, accompanied by the usual leafy greens or simply freshly-cut cucumbers and we got ourselves a decent meal. This combination was especially satisfying on rainy days: we might have gone a little overboard with the black pepper. It warmed up our bodies, and we ate in bliss, as evening news played in the background and rain pattered on the roof.

What you’ll need:
A 150 ml can of sardine in tomato sauce of your choice
3 tsp oil
An onion, diced (about 2/3 cup)
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
2/3 cup water
Salt to taste
To garnish: a stalk of dill

Here’s how:

  1. In a sauce pan, sauté the onion in the oil until fragrant.
  2. Add the tomato wedges and cook them until they barely retain their shape (but not mushy).
  3. Add the canned sardine and reduce the heat to medium.
  4. Add the water and cook until the liquid reduces to half.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste

Serve hot, garnishing with dill and freshly-ground pepper.


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