Tinned fish has been undergoing somewhat of a renaissance as of late — as they should! No longer stashed in the back of the pantry, these tasty morsels are taking centre stage with tin-to-table dining.
If you have embraced the anchovy, its time to graduate onto the sardine. Enjoy them smashed onto olive oil-soaked toast with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of chives. Or if you need to ease into it, try them laid on top of a pan con tomate to temper their salinity.
We've reviewed a few readily available tins on Australian shelves to help you embark on your sardine journey. For the purpose of the study, we opted for fish that were packed in olive oil to create an even playing field, but just like tinned tuna they also come in host of delish flavours.
Jump-scare warning — these sardines are HUGE! If you are just dipping your toes into the sardine waters, these might be a bit intimidating purely based on their substantial size. However, despite their appearance, they are delicately sweet with an extremely soft, almost creamy texture. They are packed in rich amber-coloured olive oil and are perfectly smooshable onto toast.
The Stock Merchant MSC Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil
YUM. This tin caught us off guard due to its unassuming packaging. The olive oil that the fish were submerged in was deliciously bright and fruity, influencing the overall flavour. These sardines were extremely mild in their fishiness, and slightly sweeter than the Ortiz. The fillets themselves were plump yet flakey and tender. First-timer friendly, especially at the price point. Could not fault these.
Pollastrini di Anzio
We were so excited for these ones based on their beautiful packaging, but sadly we were reminded that you can't always judge a book by its cover. Visually, once the tin was cracked opened, the Pollastrini sardines were a little scruffy and haphazard. The fish didn’t have a strong silvery shine amid the dark oil, which tasted flat in comparison to the other tins. These sardines were definitely the punchiest so far, with a salty, briny flavour. Overall, a middle-of-the-road sardine especially once you consider the price point. We’ve heard good things about their spiced version however, so maybe that’s where this little fish works its magic.
We squealed when we peeled back the lid of this can. While the box design wasn’t the most inspiring, the plain tin revealed a beautiful tessellation of silvery, dainty sardines with an intense shine. With a very blonde flesh, these sardines were plump and soft yet held their texture. They tasted savoury and had the perfect amount of fishiness that you want from a sardine. Physically, these fillets were smallest of the bunch, and held their shape perfectly on toast. At this price point and size, they are a very approachable sardine.
Thank you for following along on this eye-opening journey.
by Gemma Leslie