Sunday, 9 June 2013

A Comparative Study of Tinned Sardines by Diane and Martine (for their own amusement)

The Santa Maria tinned sardines from Portugal have gone AWOL. They are no longer resting in the canned fish aisle of the three Woolworths stores I frequent. How could Portugal pack up the cannery without telling us? Or have the economic woes of Europe reached the depths our sardines swim in? Had I known my sardine consumption would be affected, I may have stopped reading the 'Hunger Games' and taken more interest in world finance. Or worse case scenario…have we eaten all of the Santa Maria sardines? Have we made them….extinct?

What's going on?

In way of substitution, I've had to buy fresh ones and gut them and cook them's a bloody business.

I fear we must now tread into unknown territory to reclaim the Santa Maria or net the next best tinned sardine. Maybe even find a better one. Are you game?

Oh my!  I will check my store for you! Solidarity!

Thus our comparative study of tinned sardines for our own amusement was born. After exhausting supermarkets and delicatessens and the multitude of ethnic diasporas across Melbourne we decided we needed a bigger pond to play in so we went global. Here are the results. 

1. Cuca
Sardinas con picantes
Product of Spain
Ingredients: sardines, vegetable oil, gherkin, carrot, onion, spices and salt.

Firstly, I will state upfront that, apart from chillies, I HATE any additional ingredients added to my tinned fish. So it was with some trepidation that I bought this tin of sardines. However, I thought to myself, the Spanish have been long time consumers of the humble sardine and while on holiday in Spain, I consumed a vast amount of delicious fresh sardines so if anyone knows what to do with a sardine the Spanish should know. Would it however, defeat the ultimate tinned Sardine in chilli oil from Portugal – the Santamaria? Let’s see:

Texture: firm, no different to the Santamaria. 
Size: satisfactory and equal to the measurements of the Santamaria.
Number: 3
Smell: This is where things started to go downhill. Not an offensive smell, but a smell that I didn’t associate with tinned sardines. Too ‘herby’.
Flavour: not offensive but not fishy enough. Why do sardines need a piece of carrot and a piece of gherkin in the tin? What can that possibly add to the flavour? The oil was too thick and had too much presence; it didn’t exactly neutralize the sardines but it dulled their piquancy. I kept tasting the oil more than the sardines.
Heat: The heat of the chilli was perfect.

The verdict is: double the price of the Santamaria but half the satisfaction.

2. Delicius
Sardines in olive oil
Product of Italy, manufacturing plant: Morocco.
Ingredients: sardines, olive oil, salt

I am wondering: Are their sardines caught in Italian waters then transported to Morocco for canning or are they caught in Moroccan waters and processed by Italians living in Morocco?

Flavour: I can only describe it as ‘clean’. A very light and subtle tasting oil and a subtle tasting sardine – not much fishiness or saltiness.

The verdict is: Flavour lost in transit?

3. Ocean Rise
Sardine Sprats with hot chilli
Product of Germany, made from local and imported ingredients. Production method: wild fishery.
Ingredients: sardine sprats, vegetable oil, chilli flakes, salt, smoked.

Are sardine sprats the same as sardines? I was about to find out. Turns out they’re near enough to a sardine for me and I was pleasantly surprised by them. Here’s me thinking the Germans only knew what to do with a sausage.

Texture: firm and thin
Size: smaller than a sardine but not too small
Number: 8
Smell: Smoky. Just from opening the tin my fingers smelt like they’d been sitting around a camp fire for a couple of hours.
Flavour: I like the smokiness and that combined with some fine heat from the chilli flakes make it quite the winning combination. The vegetable oil is light and doesn’t compete with the chilli or the sardines.

The verdict is: Maybe too potent a flavour to eat every day but a very economical price and I think I could get used to these as a substitute for the Santa Maria.

Di says:
The Santa Maria has been located. Coles. Bringing in supplies.

Martine says:

I think we should continue on our tinned sardine comparative study so we are prepared with a back up plan should the Santa Maria completely disappear one day. Still on board?

Di says:

4. Santamaria
Sardines in hot sauce
Product of Portugal
Ingredients: sardines, soya oil, salt, hot chilli peppers, red pepper

Flavour: Perfect.

Verdict: Thank you Portugal. Long live the Santamaria sardines.


5. King Oscar, brisling sardines lightly smoked on oak
Packed in Poland (North Atlantic sardines)
Ingredients: sardine briskets, soya oil, salt

Martine says:
What’s a brisling sardine? Small and so neatly packed. A real winner. 14 sardines not swimming in oil. Light flavour, would barely know they were smoked. Small but plump.

Di says:
Brisling Sardines .... mmmm…yum yum. Yum. Teeny tiny sardines that looked soooo cute!  Almost too cute to eat and seasoned to perfection. WooHoo

Verdict: We bow before the King.

6. King Oscar brisling sardines in extra virgin olive oil
Product of Poland
Ingredients: brisling sardines, olive oil, salt.

A smooth gentle flavour from the oil and the sardine. Sardines taste best in extra virgin olive oil I've decided.

Verdict: All hail King Oscar!

7. Marco Polo Sardines in vegetable oil
Product of Croatia
Ingredients: sardines, soya bean oil, salt.

Di says:
Well I tried them yesterday and they are very mild on the taste buds, light oil and of pleasant texture too; however, it's the first time I have had a mishap with the ring pull opener and had to resort to a can opener!

Martine says:
Trouble with the ring pull opener is unheard of in sardine savvy circles. This is definitely one for the books! If it had been the King Oscar tin then I'd suggest it was just an anomaly but as it was the surprising and slightly suspicious Marco Polo from Croatia purchased from a Lebanese grocery in Sydney Road then I don't think we should be surprised - neither Eastern Europeans or the Middle East can be trusted with sardines…I mean what experience have they had?

8. Portview
Sardines in tomato sauce
Product of The Philippines (wild fishery)
Price: 0.59 cents
Ingredients: Sardines, tomato sauce (water, tomato paste, sugar, salt, thickener, garlic powder)

The verdict is: I was caught completely off guard. They were DELICIOUS. The sauce was like tomato paste - thick and rich. Very satisfying on the taste buds and the hip pocket - they were only 59 cents!

The Portview left me on a high. Like someone who’s just placed a bet on a long shot horse in the Melbourne Cup and come up a winner, I went straight out to test the other sardines in tomato sauce. Alas, like all gambles, one seldom wins twice let alone three times!

9. King Oscar brisling sardines in tomato sauce
Product of Poland
Ingredients: brisling sardines, tomato sauce (water, tomato paste, sugar, vegetable oil (from soya), salt, spirit vinegar, thickeners, acidity regulator.

Not as tasty as the Portview Aldi purchase from the Philippines. Surprising...I thought King O would have been superior but I preferred the rich tomato paste style sauce in the Portview over the thinner Oscar tomato sauce.

Verdict: 6/10

10. Brunswick Sardines in tomato sauce
Product of Canada

Ingredients: sardines, tomato sauce (water, tomato paste, soy oil, thickeners, salt, sugar, spice extractives, acidity regulator, colour and emulsifier.

O Canada! Has the cold climate over there frozen your taste buds? Are you sure you put in all of those ingredients? Just putting the sardines in a red coloured sauce won't suffice. Sorry. 

11. Brunswick Sardines in Olive Oil and 12. Brunswick Sardines in Springwater
Product of Canada
Ingredients: sardines and olive oil/sardines, springwater

NO and NO. Don't like mushy sardines

13. Vigilante Sardinas
Product of Spain
Ingredients: sardines, vegetable oil and salt.

Di says:
Hmmmm,  largish fish, pleasant taste but maybe a little too oily or maybe I am in wrong mood today!  Feel somewhat drained unlike the sardines!

Martine says:
Very nice flavour and texture and the same size as the Santamaria but you're right, it's the oil...too thick. The Spaniards have used vegetable oil and Santamaria uses soya oil. Nearly every tinned sardine we’ve tried that uses vegetable oil has had the same problem - the oil is too dominant. 

I am taking our research into Dubai. If we can have 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen', then we can try sardine fishing in a Dubai supermarket.

14. Baltic Sardine Sprats
Product of Latvia

Latvia, Latvia. You may need large doses of oil to act as an insulating buffer against the cold that enfolds your part of the world, but your sardines don't. Those little sprats were swimming in it. They were all lined up uniformly,  like communist soldiers on the top row but underneath....disaster! Mushy. The top row tasted like regular sardines in a light flavoured vegetable oil but a strange flavour arose from the depths of the Baltic where the secret herbs and spices lay. And no ring pull? Has Latvia not yet emerged from the 1950's? A baffling  Baltic sardine experience.

I had the Baltic ones today. Yes, the first thing to hit me was the missing ring pull and the round tin.   I started to eat the tiny sardines but half way through I thought I think I am losing my taste for sardines and had to actually force them into my mouth (totally unheard of).  They got oilier and saltier and the seasonings more pungent the deeper I delved and did your sardines appear to get darker and darker in colour?  Maybe they are from the 1950"s!  

Verdict: No, thank you very much.

15. Fish 4 Ever: Sustainably fished sardines in organic sunflower oil.
Product of Spain

These sardines were fished off the coast of Portugal and packed in Spain. Possibly swimming in the same school as the Santamarias. They were the same texture (very firm) and the same in  size and appearance as the Santa Marias. I looked at them in the tin with great expectations. However, may be it was just me on the day, but I didn't like the oil and the sardines had a bitterness I didn't like. 

16. Escuris Sardines in olive oil

Product of Spain

Martine says:These pale generous sized sardines have just been consumed on rice with fresh coriander, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, grated beetroot and fresh chillies. Two thumbs up. Light flavour, oil not too much presence, firm texture. Have the Spaniards finally nailed a 10/10 tinned sardine? 

17. Homebrand Sardines

Di says:

The Safeway sardines are the double wrapped ones but today, as it turns out, I had the Coles homebrand in vegetable oil (made in Thailand) - very edible indeeeeeed! 50 cents a tin!

Martine says:

I shall get right on to those sardines tomorrow. Thailand, interesting....I thought they would be more used to illegal immigrants/refugees swimming in their waters than sardines, but there you go. I guess a green sardine curry or a sardine laksa has never entered their minds so they're giving them away. We could give them the recipe!

You're right...the Safeway no name brand sardines are not offensive at all. Just ate a tin for lunch. God bless Thailand!

Di says:

The Coles ones may possibly be even better!!! What a bargain!!  You will have to do the "no name" comparison!

Martine says:

Was in the Asian grocery store in Box Hill and found some Thai sardines in tomato sauce and Malaysian sardines for us to try. I know, the ones in tomato sauce are a risk, but I'm prepared to gamble 99 cents! You will need the can opener!

Di says:

18. I tried the Sumaco and firstly I loved the appearance of the tin, shape and colour. It fit beautifully in my hand.  I felt like it contained something precious and what a surprise!  Tomato sauce and the most delicious sardines...I would certainly have them again!

Martine says:

Go Thailand!

I have just consumed the Sumaco on toast for breakfast. I agree with you about the tin, it is very attractive, it actually caught my eye in the shop before I knew there were sardines in it. I liked the sardines, but as usual, I'm not won over by the tomato sauce...I like tomato sauce with bite!

19. I followed the Sumaco with the Ayam. I swear they are manufactured in the same place...the sauce looked and tasted the same and the sardines were on par. the tomato sauce was irritating me so I went to the fridge and pulled out my friend's mum's tomato relish and dolloped a generous amount all over the that was good! Maybe there is a niche for sardines in tomato relish? Shall bring you some so you can decide!


20. I was in Leo's standing in front of the only tin of sardines we haven't tried. At over $5 a tin, I'd put off making the purchase, but today I was feeling extravagant and carefree so into the shopping basket two tins went. 

Firstly let me explain the packaging for Pan do Mar which means 'Bread of the Sea'. My first thought was: I like that sardines are called bread of the sea. Was it a marketing ploy or did they really think that? Next it says Sardine fillets in organic olive oil, sardines without skin and bones from sustainable fishery stocks. My second thought: We've tried those Fish 4 Ever tins and quite frankly, organic blah blah blah just upped the price and didn't improve the taste! 

Then we get to the copious amount of fine print on the back of the tin: Caught in the North Portugual Atlantic zone (possibly in the same place as the santamarias?). Hand cleaned (wow!) and canned in first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil from Spanish organic agriculture. The sardine is the fastest growing species therefore its consumption is recommended by environmental organisations. Di, we are safe to eat as many sardines as we want! We're actually HELPING the environment! I'm liking these sardines and their fishermen already and I haven't even opened the tin yet. I read on:

'The sardine fillets canned in this tin are caught by the fishermen off the northwest coast of Portugal (North of Portugal and Galicia - I've been there - if it's where I'm thinking, it's where the Camino de Santiago path begins or ends (whichever way you're travelling it! I've seen the ocean...very choppy the day I stood on a rocky outcrop and looked out to the costa del morta - coast of death). There was an oil spill there 8 years ago but I digress - Utilzing small ships and traditional methods which avoid depredation and by-catch. The whole sardine size 14-15cm assures that it is at least one year old and has completed its first reproduction cycle. In the fishery season of Sept 2011, which took place in the waters near Matosinhos, Portugal, from the catch by the ship 'Rumo a nossa Senhora da Guia', member of the Propeixe Fishers Cooperative, the amount of 1050kg was processed and canned with lot identification numbers....this product comes from a fishery that has been independently certified to the MSC's standard for a well-managed and sustainable fishery.'

Phew, that was a lot of info about my dinner! I opened the tin in anticipation. I wanted this sardine to taste good! And it did! Spain, you've done it....quite expensively for the consumer, but nonetheless, these sardines look and taste as cared for as your description. And the very, very nice, it would be a gastronomic crime to drain that oil. I'll be cooking with it at a later stage.

The verdict is: too expensive to buy on a regular basis, but so glad I tried them, they were delicious, although I do prefer a whole sardine because I like the crunch of the spine! 10/10

Note: since writing this we have found whole sardines by the same company.

21. Coles No Name brand
Martine says:
I was in Coles today and bought a tin of the home brand...they are from Vietnam! Hope they didn't fish them out of the Mekong...I've seen what's in the water!

Di says:
Don't sardines live in the ocean!

Diane and Martine are doing a bit of travelling this year thus the sardine catchment area has been expanded and they are reeling in an odd assortment.

Di's catch in Singapore

Ayam Brands (product of Thailand):

22. Sardines in Black Olive and Caper Tomato Sauce
The sardines in black olive and caper tomato sauce really only had a caper in the sauce!  ONE! I couldn't find the olive!
23. Sardines in Cumin and Coriander Tomato Sauce
Heavy on the cumin and the sardines were DRY. 
24. Sardines in Sweet and Sour Sauce
The sweet and sour sauce tasted like the olive and caper tomato sauce! LOL.
25. Sardines in Dill and parsley Tomato Sauce
Same sauce different packaging!

All four tins had the same tomato sauce - thin consistency and no real tomato flavour. 4/10

26. Sardines in Spicy Lime Tomato Sauce
The sardines in tomato sauce with spicy lime returned some credibility to the Ayam name. They were biggish sardines sitting in a sauce that was more like a tomato paste than the aforementioned watery tomato sauce. This one had some substance and the spicy lime made its presence felt. 5/10

27. Sardines in Black Beans
I had to call upon my black bean loving friend for this one. The sardines in this tin were fried which made them very firm. Other additions were garlic, salt, sugar and soy sauce. The black beans were bountiful. The oil kept everything moist but didn't have a strong presence. The verdict was unanimous: not too salty, we liked the texture and the flavour and although the overall brown/black colour didn't look that appetising we would definitely buy these sardines again.

28. Sardines in Spring Water
Firm. Not bland. 

Thank you Ayam Brand from Thailand, but overall I think it best for you to stop using tomato sauce and just stick to sardines in oil. 

29. Beach Cliff sardines in mustard sauce (product of Canada)
Sardines in mustard sauce? Who would have thought? Beach Cliff I'm glad you did because I enjoyed these on my toast this morning. I was hoping the mustard sauce wouldn't be thin like the Ayam tomato sauce and it wasn't. It was creamy. I was also hoping the mustard wouldn't be like the mustard sauce one gets as a condiment to hotdogs but it was - not hot at all. Every time I took a bite my taste buds went searching for a flavour to hook on to and the only flavour I think it found was a slight mustardy sweetness (but there was no sugar in the listed ingredients so maybe that was my imagination. Ingredients: mustard flour, modified corn flour, water, salt, tumeric, spices). An unusual sardine eating experience. Canada you started my day off in a surprising way and left me wanting more surprises in my day!

Sardine Fishing in Dubai, Germany and France

Oh the choices! I was like a child in a lolly shop. Here we go:

30. Waitrose Sardine Al Limone - purchased France
Ingredients: skinned and boneless fillets, olive oil, lemon and sea salt.
Product of Morocco. Fish caught in the Central Eastern Atlantic.

Di says: The tin wins the prize for most beautiful tin!  The colours on  the tin as subtle as the lemon infusion.  Maybe the hint of lemon overpowered by the oil.  Skinless and boneless sardines from the Central Eastern Atlantic.  Very nice indeed.

Martine says:I totally agree with you. The tin was magnificent...I still haven't thrown mine out!
I didn't like the bonelessness and I don't think I'm enraptured by the lemony flavour.

31. Wild Planet Wild Sardines - purchased Dubai
Ingredients: lightly smoked sardines, extra virgin olive oil, water, sea salt.
Product of the USA, processed in Vietnam.

This is their blurb: Ounce for ounce, Wild Planet sardiens provide more calcium and phosphorus than milk, more iron than spinach, more potassium than coconut water and bananas and as much protein as steak. One can of Wild Planet sardines contains 313mg EPA and 688mg DHA Omega 3 and is an ample source of Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and selenium. Sardines contain coenzume Q10, a nutrient found in the body's cells and believed to have antioxidant and immune system boosting properties. These sardines are considered a Best Choice for Sustainability by a consensus of environmental organisations.

Di says: I devoured the Wild Sardines, caught in the Pacific Ocean and processed in Vietnam, immediately!!  My sardines were dark coloured, medium sized fish.  I love the spiel on the back of the box i.e." ounce for ounce Wild Planet sardines provide more calcium and phosphorus than milk, more iron than spinach, more potassium than coconut water and bananas and as much protein as steak."  They are a complete food so I needn't eat another meat or dairy product or fruit or vegetable ever again!

Very impressed also to read that "no BPA used in can lining" - those Vietnamese are on the ball!

Not only did you provide me with a feed tonight that provided me with sorely needed "antioxidant and immune boosting properties" but so much to read in the packaging - an award winning literary masterpiece!!!!

Martine says: I was really impressed by the spiel on the back too. And I think you're right - we can live on sardines alone, they're the complete nutritional package! Very nice flavour, a little on the dry side, but plump and LOVED the touch of smokiness. 

32. Sepia - purchased Germany
Ingredients: sardines, sunflower oil, salt
Product of Morocco

Martine says: Edible but not memorable.

Di says: Too salty

33. La Comtesse - purchased France
Ingredients: Sardines, olive oil, salt
Product of Portugal

Martine says: This morning for breakfast I cracked open the La Comtesse sardines in Olive Oil. A product of Portugal so I was quite excited to compare it to the Santamaria. Disappointed. The sardines broke before I had them out of the tin and the olive oil was a bit thick, made my toast soggy! 

34. Saupiquet les sardines au piment - purchased France
ingredients: sardines, vegetable oil, salt, carrot, chillies, gherkin 
Product of France, processed in Morocco

Why the gherkin and carrot? Had that before and just like before, added nothing to the flavour.

35. U sardines au piment - purchased France
sardines, sunflower oil, salt, chilli
Product of France, processed in Morocco

Not spicy enough.

36. Ligo sardines with coconut milk and spices - purchased Dubai
Ingredients: sardines, coconut milk, soya oil, salt, sugar, cornstarch, ginger, chilli and spices
Product of the Phillipines

Di says: I just had Ligo Gata Style Sardines with coconut milk and spices and I thoroughly enjoyed them.  They were moist, tender and quite spicy - yummy!  

Martine says: Am just eating Ligo sardines...loving them in the coconut milk! Love the heat. I've added them to rice noodles and vegies and it's like eating a sardine laksa. Yum!

Di says: Yep they are hot and yummy and creamy!  What a lucky find!

37. Fontaine - purchased in Germany
Ingredients: sardines, extra virgin olive oil
Product of Germany
Just an ordinary tin of sardines. 

38. California Garden - purchased in Dubai
Ingredients: sardines in water and salt
Product of Thailand

Di says: These were in water and salt and were a refreshing change to the oil based ones..and yes they were from Thailand but I think the salt made up for everything!

Martine says: Yes, I agree with you, these were really good, much better than the Canadian ones in spring water. I'd buy these again. 

39. Saupiquet -purchased in France
Ingredients: sardines, extra virgin olive oil, salt
Product of France

40. Titus - purchased in France
Ingredients: Sardines in vegetable oil with chilli. salt
Product of France

41. Les Delectables - purchased in France
Ingredients: sardines, sunflower oil, chillies, salt
Product of Morocco

Martine says: I ate these for breakfast with egg and avocado on toast. They really hit the spot.

Diane says: Yummm...chewy but spicy's like I have had collagen injected into my lips..what a feeling!

42. Rochambeau - purchased France
Ingredients: sardines in extra virgin olive oil
Product of France

Just another tin of sardines!

43. Saveurs Millesime 2011
Product of France
Delicious!  Tender and moist fishies, golden oil, not overpowered by any salt or flavourings..............very natural!  Going to top of list too!

And finally, the tin of sardines that has toppled the Santamaria in chilli oil, my new favourite tinned sardine...drum roll please....

44. Hyacinthe Parmentier  - purchased France
Ingredients: sardines, extra virgin olive oil, chilli

Martine says: I am bringing you home the best tin of sardines EVER. The Santamaria has well and truly been toppled! Can't wait for you to try Hyacinthe Parmentier's tinned sardines.

Di says: Hyacinthe?

Martine says: I know! I would like to meet her! she has put together a mighty fine tin of plump sardines in olive oil with pieces of chilli, real lemon and a bay leaf in the tin....sublime. am just translating her message in French on the back of the tin. Stay tuned!

Martine says: This is the translation (more or less): For all gourmets, I carefully selected these fine tasting sardines which have the soft consistency and generous flesh. These Atlantic sardines are accompanied by high-quality ingredients and are steamed according to an authentic recipe so that all the flavours are sublimated. I can assure you a moment rich in taste.

Verdict: Hyacinthe we want to meet you!

Di says: salivating!

Meanwhile back in Melbourne...

45. Trata sardines with hot chilli peppers 
sardines, soya oil, salt, chilli peppers
Product of Greece

Di says: Just tried the Greek Mediterranean Sea Sardines with hot chili peppers.  They were delicious - nice and small with silvery skin and really moist.  There was a pepper in the tin but I didn't eat it so, all in all,l they were just like normal sardines in vegetable hint of "hot".

Martine says: How timely! I ate them for lunch yesterday and thought exactly the same  - not a hint of 'hot'! So disappointed because I love chilli but all the tin contained was one faded red chilli that looked like it had seen better days - much like Greece itself! However, they were delicious and as you said, small (7 in the tin), silvery and a good flavour.

46. La Nova
Sardines in oil with chilli (soya oil, water, chilli, salt, food colour)
Product of Vietnam

Only 2 sardines swimming in red oil.

Then Di paid a visit to The Czeck Republic, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain and Brunei and hauled in quite a catch:

47. Giana
Sardines in brine
Product of Peru

If we have to eat sardines in brine then we'll eat these. Sardines produced in Peru! 

48. Conservas Camping
Sardines en escabeche (vinagerette)
Product of Spain

Unusual but ultimately unimpressed. Too fruity.

49. King Oscar Balticke Sardinky
Purchased in The Czeck Republic
Product of Norway

50. King Oscar Balticke Sardinky pikantni

Stop the press. These two are in our top 10. Unbelievably good. The Baltic sardines were white, small, tender, like velvet on your tongue and the flavours were complex and divine. It's the first time we've seen green chillis in a tin and they packed a welcome punch. The 'tomato' sauce wasn't a tomato sauce, it was oil, infused with mixed Italian herbs, most noticeably oregano, sliced black olives and specks of red which I assumed were the tomato. Despite the lack of noticeable tomato there was a tomato flavour. We want more please, lots more. The chances are slim though, unfortunately these sardines are not available in Australia. Check out the King Oscar website to see if they're available in your country

51. Pollastrini
Product of Italy

I found this tin in the fridge in Oasis Bakery, Murrumbeena. It cost $7.00! And we couldn't finish it because the sardines were TOO SALTY! Probably one of the worst tins we've eaten!

52. Imperial
sardines in olive oil
Product of Belgium

This tin contained 3 big fish - quite palatable, but nothing special.

53. Gulong
Product of China

These ENORMOUS sardines (we wondered if they really were sardines) had the texture of salted, softened wood! Plenty of blackbeans, plenty of salt, plenty of leathery sardine. Plenty of 'I can't eat this!

54. Smiling Fish in Tomato Sauce

55. Smiling Fish with chilli
Martine says: I ate both of your Smiling Fish tins for breakfast this morning! The sardines in the chilli tomato sauce were really spicy...if you eat them get ready for another collagen infused feeling. I liked them and wanted to keep eating so opened the other tin, but you know how you should always never have seconds because no matter how hard you try to make it exactly the same as the first serving, it NEVER tastes exactly the same? Yes, I should have know better, especially since the second tin didn't even have chilli in it! Nevertheless my piggy tendency took control and after taking a couple of bites I decided, like all Thai produced sardines in tomato sauce, there wasn't any flavour and Thailand really should not make any more. so I added a tablespoon of dried chilli and in the end, I only ate half. 

56. Sardines in Tomato sauce 

Product of Thailand

57. XO Sardines in tomato sauce
Product of China

Martine says: Upon arrival home I cracked open the sardines in chilli sauce from China and threw the sauce and 6 whopping sardines into the pan with broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini and spring onion. It looked like tomato soup with veggies and sardines floating in it. Tasted OK! Not very much chilli though...the Smiling Fish were spicier. 

58. Nissui

sardines, molasses, soy sauce, sugar, starch thickener
Product of Japan

Martine says: Not that impressed by the Japanese sardines. Only two and half sardines in the tin, firm, I didn't mind the flavour but it didn't have much depth to it. I ate the sardines with soba noodles so the sauce was dispersed, my taste buds were looking for a flavour to cling on to but there was only ever a hint of sweetness, fishiness, saltiness but nothing that shouted 'give me more!' 

Di says: I tried mine.  Sauce was sweet...was it the herbs or were they smoked???  May be irradiated but not glowing!

59. Deep Blue

sardines, sunflower oil, salt.
Product of Holland

Martine says: I found the oil a little bitter. Nice sardines, but can't beat sardines in extra virgin olive oil.

60.  Oceanview (from Aldi supermarkets)
brisling sardines in olive oil. 
Product of Germany from imported ingredients.

These sardines grow on you. A little smokey. 8 in the tin.

The catches from Spain and Greece.

The following sardines were all enjoyed with cooked beetroot and sour cream, horseradish and dill dressing on the side. We can highly recommend this salad to accompany your sardines.

61. Angelo Parodi
sardines in olive oil 
Product of Portugal
Purchased in Italy

The only difference between these sardines and the Mayflower sardines was the number in the tin. Angelo gave us three and they were excellent. 10/10

62. Mayflower
sardines in olive oil
Product of Portugal
Purchased in Spain

There were only two big sardines in this tin but oh my, two of the best sardines we've tasted! The oil was excellent. 10/10

63. Good fish
sardines in organic extra virgin olive oil. 

We found the Good Fish to be not so good fish. Hand selected blah blah blah. We didn't like the Good Fish as much as the Mayflower and Angelo Parodi. The oil was slightly bitter. 8/10

64. Albo - sardinas picantonas
Product of Spain
Purchased in Spain

We think the picantonas were waved above the tin as it travelled along the conveyor belt. Don't bother with this tin if you're a chilli lover, if you're not then maybe this will suffice. 4/10

65. Albo - sardines in olive oil
Product of Spain

Sorry Spain, but these were mushy. 

66. Ella
Ingredients: sprats, vegetable oil, salt and spices.
Product of Latvia
Purchased Melbourne.

After our experience with the Riga sprats, we looked at this tin with some trepidation. Nevertheless we got out the can opener and tucked into the multitude of sprats sitting so neatly in the tin. Their smoky flavour, even though they weren't smoked, was what we enjoyed about them.

67. Vigilante small sardines in olive oil
Product of Spain.
Purchased in Melbourne.

These were small, like a bristling sardine, pale in colour and mild to taste. Very nice. 10/10

67. Trata (green tin)
Aegean Sea sardines in Minerva olive oil
Product of Greece
Purchased in Melbourne

These were a little mushy on the outside but firm on the inside! The oil was too thick for our liking.

68. Trata (blue tin)

I have just eaten both tins of the Greek Trata sardines. The first tin was sardines in vegetable and in the Greek style we've become accustomed to they fell apart on the fork getting them out of the tin! Mushy. The second tin were smoked - they smell a bit like the camp fire the morning after the fire! Quite smoky in flavour and firm.

There are better tinned sardines out there.

69. Trata (orange tin)
As above.

70.  555
Yes, they are hot and spicy!

71. Five Star

I couldn't figure out where these were from and they were so awful I'm not interested enough to find out. 

72. Freemantle sardines

These sardines are from  Monaco's delicatessen in Camberwell Road, Camberwell
After sampling these velvety textured morsels, the first word the three of us used to describe the flavour was 'interesting'.

The second thought that was expressed was 'they don't taste like sardines.' They are more like an anchovy but without the sharpness or saltiness.

Would we eat them again? No
Are we glad we've tried them? Yes.

73 and 74. Delicius fillets without the spine. 
Didn't like these - too dry. 

75. Rianxeira - I can't remember what these tasted like! I forgot to take notes.

76. Tosos - popular, smoked winter sprats. These are a product of Poland, purchased in Melbourne. I had no expectations - if anything I was thinking they could be like the Riga sprats from Latvia (bad). I was pleasantly surprised - very nice and I would buy them again, if only I could remember where I'd bought them!

These two tins were hand delivered to me from The United States. Thank you Margie.

77. Trader Joe - wild caught, skinless and boneless Sardines in Olive Oil

78. Season - sardines in pure olive oil

They are both from Morocco. I tasted both side by side and the sardines looked and tasted identical. I think the Season Brand had the clearest, olive oil I've ever seen. Trader Joe's oil was slightly darker, but there really wasn't much difference.

As a rule skinless and boneless sardines are not my favourite because the texture is always a little dry but these were pretty good. 

I noticed on the back of the pack, Rabbi Shneur Z Revach ensured the sardines were parasite free!

What did you think Di?

I didn't eat mine as there was chicken to be eaten so tomorrow is the day!  Thank you again!!!!

Shalom to Rabbi Shneur Z Revach for ensuring they were parasite free! 

Sardine Fishing in The United States of America
Work sent me overseas, so of course I went fishing. This catch is fromTrader Joe in San Fransisco, Whole Foods Market in NYC and a quintessential New York delicatessen specialising in caviar, appetisers, smoked fish and canned goods called 'Russ and Daughters' at 179 E. Houston Street. Established since 1914; I fortuitously stumbled upon this little gem next to Katz's Deli. First the deli catch:

79 and 80. Cole's sardines

The packaging states they are 'caught by local boats off the northern coast of Portugal'. The ingredients: tomato sauce, olive oil and salt. 

verdict: no complaints. The tomato sauce wasn't a favourite.

81. King of the Sea

Product of Morocco

verdict: if you have to have skinless and boneless sardines then these are a good choice.

82. Matiz Gallego

Product of Spain

verdict: nothing special

83. Mordagada

verdict: I ate these in a salad and was happy!

84. Great King

Product of The Phillipines.

verdict: These were lightly smoked and satisfactory.

Next stop Whole Foods Market:

85, 86 and 87.  Bela
Product of Portugal

Well i tried Bela lightly smoked Portuguese sardines in cayenne pepper and olive oil- what a delicate delight!

So glad you found them as delicately delicious as I did. These three tins are amongst my favourite.

88. King Oscar

Your tasting of the Harissa flavoured sardines sparked a sardine craving so I cracked open the King Oscar sardines in extra virgin olive oil with spicy cracked pepper (peppercorns of red, white, green and black). The King Oscars are, as described on the packet, a tinier, more delicate brisling sardineand these are no exception. Just like every tin of King Oscar we've had the good fortune to come across, the sardines and the oil are of exceptional quality. However, the cracked pepper added a flavour and smell that my taste buds just didn't like. 

And Trader Joe's:

89. Sardines in Harissa
Product of Tunisia
ingredients: soya oil, red peppers, garlic, coriander, caraway and salt

BTW I just had Trader Joe's wild caught sardines in harissa.  They were dark, chewy, spicy and very salty.  Instructions were quaint "refrigerate in separate container after opening".....who has leftover sardines I ask?

90. Trader Joe's, smoked sardines in olive oil
Product of Portugal 

Verdict: OK

91. Chicken of the Sea
Product of Thailand

Verdict: No.

And on a brief sojourn on an island off the coast of Thailand, Diane sent the message: By the way I scored one teensy tiny tin of  spicy Thai sardines from 7-11 - hope you don't get sick!

92. Sealect
Product of Thailand

The Verdict: As you can see from the photo the dressing sauce was not just tomato, chilli and lime juice as pictured on the can. it had been thickened with something, I thought by the look of it maybe coconut milk but there was no coconut flavour. It wasn't a bad sauce - tomatoey and spicy but not over- powering. There were 2.5 sardines in the tin. And a piece of chilli. The sardines tasted acceptable - not dry at all.

Thank you for dinner!

After the holidays fresh tastings arrived from other parts of the world from friends who had kindly brought us back a tin (thank you Jane and Chris).

93. Cabo de Penas
Product of Spain

Verdict: as the package says: 6/10.

94. Yaksi
Product of Turkey

Verdict: This was the biggest tin of sardines we'd ever seen so we had to call in our extra sardine sister, Sue, to help us. Only none of us could read Turkish and after using that most underused utensil in the kitchen, the tin opener, and flooding the table with oil, our first mouthful revealed we were not eating sardines. We were eating anchovies. 

95. Delamaris
Product of Slovenia (Diane found them in Coles at Ringwood)

Yum, those sardines were yum! Quite peculiar in that the olive oil didn't taste of was very very light. The sardines almost had the taste of a sardine in brine. The ingredients lists salt but thesardines weren't salty. I compared the Slovenian sardines against the King Oscars in Olive Oil because I happened to have them open. The King Oscars' olive oil was thicker and tasted of olives which made me then tip the oil out of the Slovenian sardines and test it in water to make sure it was oil! It was.

Thoroughly enjoyed the Slovenian sardines - light, easy on the palate. Thanks for sharing. 

OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I need an ambulance!   I opened sardines, forced myself to eat 2 mouthfuls and then threw it in the bin!

Which brand?
this has never happened before!
Did they make you sick?
Has your cold worsened?

It's the cold!

96. Pollastrini Di Anzio
Product of Italy
I found this tin in David Jones in the city. $10!

We've tried this brand before and haven't been impressed, so it was risky to buy another tin, especially at such an exorbitant price. We do find it hard to pass up sardines with chilli though, so I made the purchase. Not worth $10 but nice heat to them. 

97. Our final tin for the year is this King Oscar in Olive oil with lemon juice. 
Product of Poland
I found these in the supermarket in Nelson Place, Mont Albert.

Verdict: Gold! Like the Bela tin with lemon juice, the flavour is authentic and subtle but what the King has over the others is his pristine silvery, velvety, little sardines that are so gentle in flavour and texture.

I have started a pinterest board for sardine recipes here:

98. Safcol brisling sardines in tomato sauce
Ingredients: water, tomato paste, salt, vinegar, thickener.

Yet another tin of sardines in tomato sauce that doesn't please my palate. I found these had a bitter taste. The blurb on the back says they 'come to you from the cool, pristine waters of the Baltic and European oceans' but they're packed in China! I wonder what happens to them between being caught and being laid in the tin in China?

99. John West 
Ingredients: sardines, salt, sunflower oil

My friend, Jude, made a remark the other day about sardines that totally shocked me. She said, 'I prefer the John West sardines to the King Oscars.' NO WAY! How can this be?There's just no understanding some people's tastes! The JW sardines are small whitish fish like the King's but they have a slightly bitter taste - I think it's the oil. 

You can't beat olive oil. On the subject of oil, I've read Dr Michael Perlmutter's book 'Grain Brain' you can listen to an interview with him here: and he and other researchers have all made it very clear that any processed/GM oil eg. soya, vegetable, canola, sunflower etc is detrimental to our health. So it's reduced eating of or maybe even goodbye to the Santamaria and any other sardine that doesn't get packed in olive oil. 

100. King Oscar in spring water.

Verdict: bitter. Mushy. Unlike.

101. Think Green
Product of Greece

It seems Leo's has decided to expand their sardine collection. They've added Think Green to Cuca, Santa Maria, Pan do Mar and Fish 4 Ever. At over $5 a tin and knowing that past tins of sardines from Greece have been very ordinary, I wasn't overly excited about buying them but how could I leave a tin unturned?

Verdict: As you can see in the picture, good looking sardines, nice oil. No complaints but nothing exceptional for the price. 

A catch from Hungary, Austria and Russia.
Di decided to avoid Melbourne's erratic summer weather and go somewhere with a more constant temperature - Europe in winter! It was constantly frozen but it was a novelty. This is part of her catch and it made for an interesting tasting session:

102. King Oscar in vegetable oil. 
Purchased in Budapest.

Verdict: ok, but not up to the standards we're used to.

103. King Oscar in tomato sauce
Purchased in Budapest
Ingredients: I've used google translate, but Hungarian words are so lengthy and it doesn't always identify the word so I can't be bothered going through all the ingredients. As far as I know there is vegetable oil, vinegar, salt, sugar and potato starch.

You know how we feel about tinned sardines in tomato sauce so we were doubtful about this one. Still if anyone could get away with it, King O could, but expectations were low. 

Verdict: Not bad. A sweet, semi-thick tomato sauce, not offensive on the palate. 

 104: We don't know what to call these because we can't read Russian, in fact we're pretty sure the first tin isn't even sardines because upon opening and tasting we were not pleasantly surprised....YUCK! small pink pieces of flesh with a smooth silky texture - if fish had a liver, we would have said it was liver, we wondered if it was meant to be in the cat food section? 

105: Also from Russia this tin wasn't your average sardine tin size, it was longer and wider. The fish were big and kind of dry.

106. Nuri
Product of Portugal
Purchased in Austria

It was with some relief that our next tin was from Portugal - the Portuguese have never let us down. However, even this tin defied normality. Di thought they had a bit of bite to them in the aftertaste, but I didn't get much of a chilli hit out of them. There was a piece of carrot in there and they really had the most unusual flavour - kind of herby. Portugal you bamboozled us with this tin. It was enough sardines for one night.

107. Nuri
This tin of sardines came in tomato sauce and olive oil. It tasted great on pasta. The chilli didn't have much heat and was accompanied by a gherkin and a piece of carrot.

108. Every day
Product of Morocco.
Purchased in Austria

I couldn't help myself, after last night's sardine fest, I had to open another tin tonight. I opened the German tin with chilli. The sardines were as tough as the Germans riding their bikes through the snow! They were big sardines, quite dry and there was a real chilli in there but there was no chilli flavour whatsoever. Very disappointing! The oil was very clear and no particular flavour - apparently sonnenblumenol is sunflower oil. 

109: Eva
Product of Croatia
Purchased in Hungary.
Ingredients: sardines, salt, vegetable oil and lemon

These sardines were from the Adriatic Sea. A sliver of lemon was sitting on top of the sardines. The lemony flavour was authentic and well balanced. They don't beat the King Oscars or the Bela in lemon juice though. 

Crumbed sardines found last night at 11pm at B'Stilla Cantina, a Moroccan street food cafe in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. $8. Tasted great - but what doesn't when crumbed? A slightly spicy mayo over the top. I didn't think to ask them if they'd used tinned sardines or fresh. It made my night! 


Oooh I have someone here who knows some Russian:  

105 is sardines in oil;  and the "catfood" is COD LIVER did taste like like pate!   The Arabs put the liver of a f****** cod in the sardine section!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cod Liver!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! aaaghhhhhhh I feel this is the time to be bulimic but I guess it's too late for that now!

Try this delicious, quick and easy recipe for your next party! Cod liver is rich in vitamins and perfect for dietary cooking.
Serves 6-8.

Place the cod liver in a colander and let the oil drain off. Mash the liver
with a fork and combine with the chopped eggs and onion in a serving bowl.
Add salt to taste and decorate with parsley sprigs and olive halves. Serve with bread.

190 gram can cod liver in oil.
3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and chopped.
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped.
Salt to taste.
Parsley sprigs.

Black oil-cured Greek olives, halved.

Di found an odd little selection of tinned sardines from far flung lands, so we had a tasting:

110. Home Ocean
Product of Peru
Ingredients: sunflower oil, salt and chilli.

Sardines from Peru! We were curious. There were lots of little fish packed in clear oil with a chilli sitting on top. We took a mouthful: no heat from the chill, just salt and a bit dry. This tin bored us. Sorry Peru.

111. Brunswick in Tabasco sauce.
Product of Canada
Ingredients: soya oil

Despite us not really liking the Brunswick sardines in general because they seem soft and flavourless, we really liked these because they had real bite. Unfortunately they're in soya oil so won't be eating them again.

112. Big Fish
Product of Hungary

Yuck. Fail.

113. Twist and 114. Classic in olive oil.
Products of Hungary

Twist had no flavour. Boring.

Classic lacked flavour and were dry - they reminded us of tuna. If you'd never eaten sardines in your life and this was the first tin you'd ever eaten then you'd probably never eat sardines again.

115. Classic in tomato sauce


116, 117 and 118.  Safcol
Product of Poland

Safcol are into all the sneaky packaging tricks they can fit into one box. Let's look at their Brisling sardines in oil first: Next to the word 'oil' are little green circles that look like olives. On the plate with the sardines are olives and there is another bowl of olives in the background. Consumers are lead to believe these little fellows are in olive oil. They're not, they're in sunflower oil. Di and I don't like sunflower oil. Next is 'European Quality, taste the difference'. Does Safcol truly believe that Australia's never had a tin of sardines from somewhere in Europe before? It's where sardines come from! It's where most of the other tins sold in Australia come from! Do they think sardine consumers are stupid? And what European quality? If we were talking about Italian shoes then yes, quality, but we've eaten 116 tins of sardines, most of them from European countries and unless they're from Portugal or come from Hyacinth Parmentier's canning factory, or have been handled by the King -Oscar, then they're like any other tin of sardine. Speaking of the King, these Safcol sardines look like King Oscar's brisling sardines - small, light coloured, packed the Poland - made me wonder if these Safcol sardines are the sardines King Oscar rejects? 

Martine ended 2015 in the Caribbean over the summer holidays and did a bit of sardine fishing in The Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico City. Sadly, she lost three tins of Mexican sardines (Spanish imports) at the airport on her way home because she had them in her carry-on bag; apparently tinned sardines are considered a potential weapon!  I would have thought a gun or a knife a less smelly and more time efficient weapon, but who am I to argue with the stern and terse security guards at Mexico City airport? Di and I really enjoyed the three remaining tins that survived the trip home, snuggly tucked away in the suitcase.

119. Jaja, product of The Domincan Republic

These sardines were wide and flatish. We really liked their flavour and if they had been in olive oil instead of vegetable oil then we would have said we loved them. We looked on the tin to see if it stated their catchment area, but it didn't say. Thank you The Dominican Republic, which took me 40 hours to get to!

The following two tins were bought in Cuba. What an experience that was going into the supermarket with barely any products and seeing a small stash of tinned sardines sitting in a glass cabinet. I bought them at the Harris Brothers supermarket in Havana. 

120. Alteza, product of Spain

There were about 8 little sardinillas in this tin. No piece of chilli but there was a faint chilli after taste. They were ok, just not very spicy and also in vegetable oil.

121. Spar, product of Morocco?

There were 3 plump sardines in this tin with one long chilli, which wasn't spicy to eat on its own but after eating a mouthful of sardine, there was a fantastic hot aftertaste. They are reminiscent of the Santamaria. We enjoyed this tin but once again, it was a bit disappointing to see the use of vegetable oil.

Happy Birthday Di! 

In celebration we cracked open 7 tins of sardines by the pool and pretended we were on the Portuguese coast eating fresh sardines! The aqua class going on in front of us wasn't a bother at all. We did got some strange looks from passers-by but what can you expect from the uninitiated?  There were winners and there were losers:

Firstly, one of our readers, Daniel, begged us to give other varieties of Cuca (product of Spain) a go, namely the sardines in tomato sauce. So we finally got ourselves to Leo's and made the following purchases:



122. Picantes: in vegetable oil dished up with a gherkin, carrot and eeny weeny whole chillies. In our previous review of Cuca picantes we said they smelled 'herby' and the vegetable oil had too much presence. Not so this time. The three sardines in the tin were firm and delicious and the heat from the chilli was perfect for us.

123. Al limon: in vegetable oil with tiny pieces of lemon in the tin. These were reminiscent of the Bela sardines with lemon. An absolute pleasure to eat.

124. En tomate: in vegetable oil, onion,  vinegar, spices, salt, tomato. OMG, Daniel, you were absolutely right. These sardines in tomato sauce are like no other. They are what sardines in tomato sauce should be. The sauce is more of a passata and we LOVED it. It was like eating sardine bolognaise. All we needed was some pasta. Thank you for your recommendation. For the first time EVER we will be purchasing more than one tin of these Cuca sardines in tomato.

125. In organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. Fished from Galician waters. More please! The oil was too good to throw away - we had to decant it into a container to take home.


Cuca, we love your consistency and your flavours. If only you used olive oil in all of your varieties.

The Losers: EVA, from Croatia. Quite possibly the worst tinned sardines we've ever tried and not been able to eat.

126. With Chilli. No chilli in the tin, no heat in the soya bean oil. Just lots of salt. Unbearable.

127. In vegetable oil (soya bean). They were packed like King Oscars, but that's where the similarity ended. Terrible.

128. Tomato Sauce. Bitter, we actually spat it out! Di used the word 'vile'. I stated, 'Maybe the worst ever.'

Eva sardines with chilli but not a chilli to be seen! 

We love the packaging of the Jose Gourmet sardine range which we came across in a deli at the Prahran Market. They're pricey but make great gifts for the sardine connoisseur. Di decided to taste them.

129.  These Portuguese sardines in extra virgin olive oil were delicious.  These tins ticked all the boxes  A+

130  Spiced Small Sardines. Product of Portugal.

For my liking, these were the nicest by Jose. These were delightfully small sardines in a light sunflower oil with spices (peri peri, carrot, red pepper, cloves, laurel and salt). An interesting mix of spices, perhaps too much salt but nevertheless very enjoyable. Would definitely buy again.

131.  JoseGourmet
Smoked Small Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Product of Portugal 

Ingredients:  Extra virgin olive oil, natural smoked flavour, salt 

Small smoky flavoured sardines packed sideways in golden olive oil and packaged in a very artistic box; however, the same comment applies as with the other Jose Gournet varieties sampled thus far and that is they are too salty for my liking.

132. Spiced Small Sardines. Product of Portugal.

These were delightfully small sardines in a light sunflower oil with spices (peri peri, carrot, red pepper, cloves, laurel and salt). An interesting mix of spices, perhaps too much salt but nevertheless very enjoyable. Would definitely buy again.

133.  Conservos Santos
Sardinhas em Limao
Product of Portugal.
Ingredients:  Sardines, Sunflower Oil, Natural Lemon Flavour, Salt.

Sardines were medium to large sized, "natural" lemon flavour was unimpressive and, as with the other varieties of Conservos Santos sardines previously tasted, oversalted.  I was in two minds as to whether to finish the sardines as the salty taste was overpowering.

134.  Conservas Santos.  Sardinhas em Tomate (Product of Portugal). Ingredients:  Sardines, Water,  Tomato Concentrate, Sunflower Oil and Salt.

Not really a fan of tomato sardines but that's just me - the tomato usually overpowers the sardines and this was the case here.  The sardines in this can were large, dark in colour,  and possibly a little on the dry side but the tomato sauce probably disguised the dryness to some degree.  

PS.  Should we give the Portuguese a "heads up" that we are landing on their soil (waters) next year?

135. Product of Portugal. 
Had these today. Larger sized sardines in a heavy and dark coloured and spiced (peri peri) olive oil. They were similar to something we have had before.  The oil was quite thick and really rich in colour and definitely spicy!  Ingredients are sardines, oil and salt. 

136. Wild sardines in extra virgin olive oil with lemon, lightly smoked by Wild Planet and 
137. Wild sardines in water. There were 7 firm, plump sardines in the tin with water. Like all sardines in water they had a slightly bitter taste. The sardines in oil with a piece of lemon, as you can see in the picture, were pretty good. Caught in the North Pacific ocean and processed in Vietnam. 


 139. Despite the unattractive tin - these sardines tasted great.

140. Sardines in a glass jar. My prayers have been answered! We loved these sardines.

141. And our least liked way to find sardines in a tin:




144 We actually didn't mind these ones.
145 and 146 We give them a pass, but when there are so many other great tinned sardines, we wouldn't bother with these.



The catch from Italy and one tin from Sicily was small and relatively unexciting. Tinned sardines were a little difficult for me to find there.

148, 149, 150, 151, 152


Back in Melbourne

153 Oritz
A sardine tasting by the pool with Wonder Woman for someone's birthday.
Oritz are expensive here in Melbourne, but OMG are they worth it. They're velvety on your tongue. The salesperson at the Prahran market, where I bought these,  did say they were the best sardines. I doubt he's done as much research as we have to come to that conclusion, but he's right! They're one of the best.


 154. If you ever need to feed the masses sardines, then this is your tin. Bertocci Cellars, Burke Road, Deepdene. We liked these sardines a lot.

155, 156, 157.  Dear old John West, why has it taken you so long to come up with sardines we want to buy? Your new range of sardines with rosemary, lemon and olive oil were worth the wait....especially the rosemary - who knew sardines and rosemary were a match? You did.

158. A Santamaria in extra virgin olive oil - yay!

I'm off to the homeland of tinned sardines - Portugal. I'm expecting a big haul and I can't wait! Stay tuned. 

Welcome to 2018 sardine connoisseurs. The year started with Martine in Lisbon standing in a sea of the most beautifully packaged tinned sardines. She was like a child who had stepped into a candy store; she didn't know which way to turn first but she knew she wanted them all! There was plenty of choice in the supermarkets but it was the sardine shops she had come to visit. Entire stores devoted to the humble tinned sardine with the most eye catching and colourful displays ever to be seen. Where to begin?

The first stop was O Mundo Fantastico Da Sardinha Portugal:


What a delight their staff were, they were just as enthusiastic about the humble sardine as I was! The sardine company, Comur, keep things simple but colourful by only selling sardines in olive oil and marketing their tins by labelling them with a year from 1916 onwards so it was easy shopping: just select your birth year or that of a friend and voila - a unique birthday present. These tins cost 7 Euro each, so they are a special occasion only tin. They taste great - excellent olive oil and the perfect Portuguese sardine. Even if you don't want to make a purchase, just visiting the shop is a delight and like visiting Disneyland, it makes you feel happy! If you happen to have a flight layover in Lisbon, there is a shop at the airport. They also sold sardine pate, so I threw some in for Di and I to taste test and review. The pate comes in little portion control packs and the verdict from us (and our other sardine sisters) is a thumbs up.

The pate contains: water, carrot, soybean oil, tomato puree, potato flakes, margarine, salt, onion flakes, soya flour and 70% sardines. Our thoughts on it were: mellow, tomatoey, not too fishy, easy on the palate. 

Next stop: Fabrica Das Engruias:
This was actually a tinned eel shop and there was a platter of eel on bite sized pieces of bread to taste test. The eel is marinated in vegetable oil, vinegar, garlic, spices and piri piri. Eel doesn't look very attractive in the tin, but if you can get past the look of it, the flavour is great in small amounts and is perfect on a biscuit or piece of bread as an h'orderve. When I threw the remainder of the eel and marinade over rice, I found the flavour too rich to consume the whole tin at once.  

Across the street from the tinned eel was it's sister fish shop and my third Comur stop: Conserveira De Portugal. Downstairs they had a pretend vault full of gold tinned sardines, symbolising how sardines are growing less in number and predicting they'll become a rare resource. I didn't think the oil in this tin was as good in taste or quality as the above 1967 tin. 


Along the way to my final fishing destination were tourist shops and supermarkets also filled with sardines and I stumbled across Conserveira de Lisboa which was like a 1940s style shop with all the tins behind the counter. They also have an outlet at the Time Out Market.

My last port of call was Loja Das Conservas.
I think I spent an hour in this shop talking to the sales staff who really know their tinned sardines. They sell tinned sardines from all fourteen Portuguese fishing canneries. Each cannery has its own section explaining its history and displaying its products. There was simply too much to choose from and I had to consider weight, so in the end I settled on one tin from each cannery but I did contemplate sending home a box via sea mail. 

 The Portuguese sardine haul

 Sardine shops in Lisbon


Jars of sardines are a rare find, but I'm very happy when I do find them as I'm conscious of the BPA factor with tins. Of course these sardines were delicious and a Portuguese tart (another favourite food of mine) completed the meal. 

I ended my fishing trip at, which is a tinned sardine cafe in Pink Street. I tried sardine caviar or ovas de sardinha which I didn't like. In Sole Pesca they throw away the tinned oil and douse the sardines in a locally sourced olive oil and serve it to you with bread on the side. Delicious. 

Thank you Lisboa for all of the sardines (and Portuguese tarts), it was the perfect holiday destination!

The other country, aside from Spain, that produces their fair share of tinned sardines is Morocco, so off I went. I was disappointed. Plenty of tinned sardines on the supermarket shelves but none of them in olive oil and since I know how bad processed oil is and my bag already contained more tinned sardines than clothes, I only bought two tins which were a little unusual:


Sardine balls! 

These are made in Casablanca and contain: vegetable oil, tomato sauce and spices. As you can see they could be confused with dog food. They tasted like tuna masquerading as sardines, were a little spicy and they fell apart easily. In short, they tasted awful.

163. 164. 165.

The second tin I bought was from Essaouria, which is a walled fishing town about 2-3 hours drive from Marrakech. The fishermen in their blue boats, bring in their catch each morning and sell it fresh or vendors throw the fish on to grills for immediate consumption. However, there were no whole fresh fish in this tin, which as you can see looks like cat food. This was sardine pate with cumin, chilli, salt, vegetable oil, tomato concentrate and corn flour. Luckily for us it didn't smell or taste like cat food. It was delicious - not too oily, it spread firmly onto a biscuit and it had a complex flavour that made you want to keep eating it. We think the serving suggestion might be to try it on toast with butter.


Morocco, thank you for the pate but not the balls and I have one question for you: you have plenty of olive trees, mountains of olives are sold in the markets and without fail olives are served with every meal. Why on earth don't you visit Portugal or Spain and learn how to put olive oil in your tinned sardines? 

Back to the Portuguese sardines:

Vianapesca - sardines in spiced olive oil and piri piri.
These sardines were largish silver ones and the oil had a faint pepperiness to it. My palate is so used to eating chilli, I had to concentrate to find it, but Di found the subtle heat. We couldn't fault this tin. 

Cocagne in olive oil.
Apparently they've been around since 1906. This tin was little but it still had four sardines in it. We liked its size and we liked the golden hue of the oil. It was equal to the Vianapesca, smooth and not too salty. 

Portugal has never let us down in our pursuit of the perfect tinned sardine. We will continue to work our way through the Portuguese sardines we've now got stockpiled at home and post our tastings over the coming months. 

Jumping back to Morocco momentarily for a taste of Titus:
Ingredients: sunflower oil and chillies.

This tin is already on our list, but we didn't make a comment about it earlier. I had picked up the previous tin in France and the tin stated it was a product of France, however Di picked up this tin in Perth and it states it's a product of Morocco. Wow! It packed a punch. If you like your sardines HOT (and I do) this is the tin for you. These sardines were firm and spicy and came with three chillies. If you like the heat that harissa delivers or you're partial to the tins of chilli infused Santa Marias then you'll enjoy this tin. 

The camera hasn't picked up the redness of the oil. 

The next tin was also caught in Perth, but it's a Portuguese product. 
Ingredients: olive oil, salt and piri-piri.


The oil wasn't very good and there were no chillies in the tin, however there was some heat in every mouthful. This tin contained a surprising twelve mini sardines. Fides we expected better from you since you are Portuguese, but you are ranking low on our  Portuguese list of tinned sardines. 

April already and we still have plenty of Portuguese delights to crack open. Tonight, at our poolside tasting, as a first course, we threw in the Briosa sardine pate. Despite it being the colour of tinned cat food, we thoroughly enjoyed this pate. It wasn't too heavy or too light and it basically tasted like mashed sardines, but the ingredients in addition to 54% sardines were: tomato, olive oil, vinegar, spices and salt.

We followed the Briosa pate with the Briosa filleted sardines in olive oil, lemon and basil. Oh we loved this flavour. The oil was thick and golden, a piece of lemon and little flecks of basil floating throughout the skinned and boned sardines. I wish I'd bought a dozen tins. The tins for both the pate and sardines were 'gift wrapped', in matching paper - a nice touch Briosa. 

168. 169.

The second tin we tried tonight was Minerva in ragout sauce, also gift-wrapped. We enjoyed this tin too even though we don't usually enjoy the tomato sauce variety. This one however, tasted like real tomato with olive oil. The ingredients were: tomato, sunflower oil, cider vinegar, onion, laurel, parsley, clove and salt. A winning trio in tonight's sardine tasting.

Minerva's sardines in ragout sauce.