|Sorry, not the most photogenic dish in the world!|
Some people who don't like sardines have only ever tried sardines in a can, and perhaps didn't like the taste.
Or they tried fresh sardines, and couldn't find a good recipe for it.
I was in that second category for a while- wanting to make sardines because they were cheap, but not having a decent recipe. Then via google, I found this recipe for Vietnamese style sardines in spicy tomato sauce, which I tweaked to my liking.
It absolutely hit the spot, and after making it quite a few times for sardines, I discovered that it can be used for other small cheap fish as well, in addition to fillets. It is now my go to fish recipe because it's cheap to make, its easy and quick with few ingredients, and my kids like it and I absolutely love it. It also gives me a good excuse to use my homemade fermented fish sauce, but if you don't have any homemade stuff, you can use bought stuff.
I sometimes serve it over spaghetti or rice or mashed potatoes. If grain free, consider serving it over zucchini spaghetti. In Vietnam it's usually made into a sandwich on a baguette with mayo, pickled carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, and soy sauce. (Use homemade gluten free French bread as your baguette.) I often just dip flatbread into the sauce after I finish eating the fish plain- the sauce is so finger lickin' good that I would even use it as a condiment!
This recipe works for a variety of diets, including GAPS, Paleo, gluten free, grain free, etc... The only diets I can think of that it doesn't work for are vegan, and nightshade free, and fish free diets.
And if you don't have homemade fish sauce and can't buy it- I recommend that you make some, if only so you can make this recipe!
4 cloves garlic or 2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups tomato paste
2 cups water
4-8 tablespoons fish sauce (ideally homemade fermented fish sauce)
1-2 tablespoons honey, date honey, coconut sugar or sugar
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
Sprinkle of hot pepper flakes (to taste)
2 1/2 lbs fish, such as 10 fresh sardines or other small fish like bone-in young hake, or cheap white fish fillet
1. Saute the onions and garlic in oil.
2. Add tomato paste, water, sweetener, salt, fish sauce, and hot pepper flakes. Taste, and adjust as necessary.
3. Remove fish heads, fish guts, fish tails, and scales. Chop into small pieces if desired, or leave whole.
4. Put the fish in the tomato sauce, making sure they're entirely covered, and simmer, covered, on a low heat for 20 minutes or so, flip over the fish, uncover, and cook some more. Cook until the sauce thickens a bit and the fish flakes off the bone easily.
5. Serve either hot or cold. Remove bones before eating.
Are you a sardine fan? Have you ever cooked fresh sardines before? How did you prepare them? What is the cheapest fish you can get your hands on? What is your favorite way to cook cheap fish?
Does this look like a recipe you'd try?