A week ago, I was having lunch with a Portuguese woman at work, and she told me about grilling sardines on the weekend. It’s a cultural staple in Portugal, and her family loves it.
I never tried grilled sardines before, although I’ve had the canned stuff many times. Curious, I visited a local Portuguese store in Vancouver and picked up a bag of frozen sardines.
At the store, I asked the clerk a lot of questions: “Do I remove the guts?” “It doesn’t matter.” “How do you season it?” “Add a little salt and oil. People stuff them with chives if they want to get fancy.” “Do I leave the head on or off?” “Definitely on, it’s the best part of the fish.”
A lady nearby agreed, you gotta leave the head on. She said she loves sucking the juices from the head after it’s been cooked. I smiled and shared that in Chinese culture, we also eat fish heads. As a child, I loved eating the fish’s eyeballs, and my mom is especially proficient at picking apart the bones to get to the meaty treasures inside. “See, mom’s know how it’s done!” She exclaimed.
Once the fish were grilled, I was eager to taste them for myself. The Portuguese folks at the store were right: the head was the best part.
Eat This Mindfully
Prepare: Take a few deep breaths and assess your hunger and fullness levels before eating. Notice any thoughts, feelings, or emotions you have around eating this particular food.
Look: What shapes, colours, and textures do you see? How much food is on your plate?
Smell: What do you notice about the smell of the fish? Does it remind you of anything? (I felt like I was standing beside a salty ocean.) Are there any other smells you notice?
Taste: What does the fish taste like? What’s its texture like? Beware of bones when eating and swallowing. How does the salsa taste with the fish?
Check in: What changes do you notice in your hunger and fullness? How do you know when you’re ready to stop eating?
- 1/2 ataulfo mango, finely diced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 corn on the cob
- 1 tsp oil
- 4 inch piece English cucumber, peeled and finely diced
- 1/4 red onion, finely minced
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 4-6 frozen whole sardines, defrosted
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp oil
- Brush fresh corn with 1 tsp oil and grill over medium-low heat until cooked. Remove kernels by running a knife down the side of the corn.
- Mix together all other ingredients with the grilled corn kernels.
- Chill in fridge until ready to use.
- Remove any scales by gently rubbing the skin until they fall off.
- Remove the fish guts: cut open the belly from the tail to the base of the head with a pair of kitchen scissors, then gently scoop out and discard the innards. Wash well and pat dry.
- Season fish with salt and oil.
- Grill or pan fry for 3-4 minutes on each side over medium heat until cooked through.
- Serve with mango salsa.
- Frozen whole sardines can be found in Portuguese stores.
- Beware of bones when eating whole sardines, you can remove the spine before serving if desired.