Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Spicy Sardines in Caramelised Onion and Tomato Sauce

I posted a roasted sardine dish earlier to show how we can include fish in our diet without breaking the bank, and here's another sardine dish, this time using sardines from cans. Sardines in cans are much easier to come by for most people and are really cheap. You get the same healthy omega 3 fats, b12, protein and best of all, calcium from the soft bones (no need to worry about picking them out this time because they just crumble). Another good thing about small fishes like sardines is that they are lower in toxins because they're lower in the food chain.

I like sardines in tomato sauce, but I avoid the tomato flavoured canned sardines because they're full of nasty vegetable oils and corn syrup. I get them canned in brine*, simply salt and water, and then add tomatoes and onions instead of sugar for the sweetness, and of course, a fiery chilli kick.

*If you can get hold of sardines preserved in oil, that's even more wonderful, they hold up their texture much better. Olive oil though, not processed vegetable oils or sunflower oil.

Spicy Sardines in Caramelised Onion and Tomato Sauce
serves 1-2
1 can of sardines in brine (or olive oil, but brine is cheaper)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (or about 1/3 cup of tinned tomatoes)
2 onions, peeled and sliced
1 Thai birdseye chilli, deseeded and sliced (or a milder chilli/chilli flakes/powder, to taste)
1 tbsp sweet rice vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
1 tbsp coconut oil (or extra virgin olive oil)

1. Heat the coconut oil in a pan over medium high heat. Add the sliced onions and let them cook till brown and caramelised.
2. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook till it disintegrates.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients, including the sardines and cook for a couple of minutes more.
4. Serve with rice and vegetables. If you want to, you can hack at the sardines with your spatula to break them up and then serve like a ragu of sorts over noodles or pasta too.

This is a fast and frugal dish that I can whip up anytime because I always have onions, a can of sardines, tinned tomatoes, and chilli flakes in my larder. Plus it's yummy; any "fishy smell" will cease to exist under all that sweetness from the caramelised onions, sourness from the tomatoes and vinegar, spiciness from the chilli, and saltiness from the sardines.

Quite evidently, I'm back from Romania! To my disappointment Mcdonald's has made its way there too, in fact, is there a country without the famous golden arches? But I had a great time eating my way through yummy bouncy (yes bouncy! how?!) sausages called mititei, cornmeal porridges (like polenta, called malinga) and stuffed cabbage rolls (something I really want to try making a version of really soon ;)


  1. I love these sardine ideas! Keep them coming! :)

  2. This is awesome! I love sardines because they are high in protein and contains good fats. Yet I'm a little hesitant about buying the ones canned in tomato sauce because it just tastes so 'artificial'. I've tried the ones canned in brine, but didn't like it too. You got me excited. I'd have to try your variation!

  3. Hi Shu Han, I love sardines..its a comfort food for me.Thanks for the lovely recipe.I am your newest follower.I hope you can drop by again and follow me. Marelie

  4. Looks good! I need to try using Sardines more. Thanks for posting on Simple Lives Thursday!

  5. Thank you! I'm happy to see more people interested in sardines (:

  6. Hi Shu Han,
    This is a very interesting recipe, I don't think I have ever tried this, but I sure would like to. Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and hope to see you next week!