Fuel Yourself with Awesome: Sardines

I love food. Especially if it tastes awesome and makes me feel awesome.

Fuel Yourself with Awesome posts are all about food that fulfills both of those lofty qualifications.

This picture is fueled with awesome

This picture is fueled with awesome.

Now for a short anecdote:

A few years ago, when I first started getting serious about bouldering, I was inflicted with a wicked bout of elbow tendonitis.

I asked everyone for advice and pretty much tried everything anyone suggested (except resting, I assume). I was mad. Just as I was starting to progress, I was getting shut down by pain. Eventually a friend suggested I try taking fish oil, telling me it had worked for a friend of his. I read up on fish oil and then I started taking a ton of the stuff and eating more fish in my diet. Shortly after starting this regime, my elbows were pain free. I was psyched.

To this day I still take fish oil. I’m pretty sold on fish oil’s ability to reduce inflammation in my body caused by life-stress, climbing, eating junk, etc. Eventually, somewhere a long the way I stumbled upon one of those “10 Superfoods You Should be Eating” lists that included sardines. The list touted sardines high natural fish oil content and high mineral content. I figured I would give sardines a shot.

I bought a can of good quality sardines from a nice grocery store… and then that can sat in my cupboard. I was strangely scared to eat them. I didn’t even know what to eat them with or how to eat them. But I knew I needed to face my fears. A bit of creeping around on the internet turned up this recipe: Cilantro-Lime Sardine Salad. So I went for it since I had all of the ingredients (except mayo) in my house at the time. My reaction? It was terrific, I was hooked, and fish-a-mole (like guacamole, but with fish…get it?) was born. Fish-a-mole is excellent on salad, as a dip with chips, cracker, baby carrots, etc., or simply eaten by the spoonful.


Matt Segal eats sardines while climbing big walls! Are you sold yet?!?

Matt Segal eats sardines while climbing big walls! Are you sold yet?!? Photo: Instagram @wildplanetfoods

Now that I am sure you want to take the plunge into eating canned sardines. Here is some crucial sardine beta:

Sardines can be bought either skinless and boneless or not. You might  be temped to go skinless and boneless for your first foray into sardine eating, but you don’t get as much nutritional benefit without the bones and you can’t really taste them IMHO.

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Wild Planet Sardines… in all their glory!

Some canned sardines just aren’t that good tasting. My personal favorite is Wild Planet. Generally I go for one of the varieties packed in olive oil since healthy fats are my JAM. But the sardines in water and marinara are great too.

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Bela Olhau Sardines

Another quality sardine is Bela Olhau. These Portuguese sardines come in several different varieties and exceptionally cute tins. But I just find that they don’t have as nice a flavor or texture as Wild Planet.

Finally, the Starkist Selects sardines are also quite tasty, but they have some less optimal ingredients and only come in the boneless and skinless variety. But they are a good bet for a sardine that can be found in most conventional grocery stores.

Today my sardine eating has evolved beyond fish-a-mole. Here are some of my favorite ways to eat sardines:

1. Straight out of the can:

-into your mouth, onto chips, rackers, rice cakes, salads… ’nuff said.

2. Basic Pan Seared:

-Often for breakfast I will cook 1-2 eggs over-easy with ghee, remove the eggs from the pan, and then quickly throw the sardines in the pan and sear them with the remaining ghee in the pan.

-With a crispy potato pancake: Lately I’ve been boiling large batches of potatoes and using them for all sorts of things. Half a cup of boiled mashed potato and 1 egg fry up into an excellent potato cake. When topped with seared sardines, salsa, and hot sauce, near perfection is achieved.

3. Extra Crispy Pan Seared:

-This takes a bit more time and a bit more oil in the pan, but is totally worth it to achieve a simple, crispy, gluten-free, breaded sardine. Before frying, toss sardines in a mix of tapioca flour, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.

-Frying them is a bit finicky, but with practice they will come out of the pan with an excellent crunchy, smoky, fried exterior.

4. As a Dip:

-There are many variations of the classic fish-a-mole:

Sardines + Guacamole = classic fish-a-mole

Sardines + Avocado + Balsamic Vinegar = nameless goodness

Sardines + Avocado + cucumber + dill + garlic = fish-avo-ziki

-Avocado is not even required…

Sardines + mustard

Sardines + chipotle mayo

Sardines + Frank’s Hot Sauce

Sardines + Kimchi = can you even contemplate the bad breath?… you know you want it!

Finally, here are some great resources on the nutritional benefits of sardines if you need some more convincing before you take the plunge:

Eat This: Sardines

How and Why to Eat Sardines

My Husband ❤ Canned Sardines