I don’t care what you may know about sardines before because I am here to tell you that Portuguese Sardines are delicious!  Yessir that is a fact and this year the sardine season arrived just in time for Santo Antonio to end up being some of the tastiest sardines I’ve had in the 5 years I’ve lived here!   It’s a shame then that sardines get such a bad rap back at home in the US,  but you can’t blame Americans for scrunching up their noses at this fish when all they may have seen or tasted of them are the poor-quality slimy, stinky sardines in a can from God knows where (cuz it ain’t Portugal!).  Here on the other side of the Atlantic though, sardinhas are so quintessential Portuguese cuisine, so good that even the canned ones will amaze you, let alone the fresh grill-roasted sardinhas assadas, which have a much smoother and clean flavor.  Yet sardines have always been one of the hardest things to convince my friends and family to try!

Not buying it?  Well let me help you learn more then about this fabulous fish with some interesting facts you may not know about Portuguese sardines.  Hopefully then I will see you one day soon here in Portugal chowing down on a platter full of sardines this summer (as the sardine season is from May – August) and nodding your head that I was right 😉

7 Things You Didn’t Know:

  • A Gastronomic Wonder – The Sardinha Assada from Setúbal is one of Portugal’s “7 Maravilhas da Gastronomia” (7 Wonders of Gastronomy), meaning they really do take their sardines seriously here!
  • Historically Beloved Fish- Portugal has regarded the sardinha as an important and valuable fish since as early as the 16th Century, with a record from the census of fish on the Portuguese coast done by judge Duarte Nunes do Leão who wrote “From the same sea of both Setúbal and its neighbor Sesimbra, there are more and more tastier sardines than one can give.”  So I guess that’s why every year the Portuguese try to each as much as they can get their hands on!
  • Sustainable! –  Did you know that the Portugal Sardine fishery was the first in the European Union to be a “Certified Sustainable Seafood” by the MSC- Marine Stewardship Council in 2010?  It is now currently one out of three sustainable fisheries in Europe and is still the only certified sustainable fish in Iberia to date!
  • The Secret is in the Skin – Sardines are the most flavorful when they are gordas- fat, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they are fat in size but more with the “buttery flavor” of their flesh.  One of the ways to tell if a Sardinha Assada has the optimal fat content is if the crispy roasted skin slides off clean and easy with the flick of your knife.  If that’s the case then you’re in for the tastiest!
  • Guinness World Record?? –  That’s right!  On May 29th, 2010, the Portuguese Sardinha Assada won the Guinness World Record for “The Most Seafood Prepared at an Outdoor Event” (and still currently holds the title), which was done at the Maior Sardinhada do Mundo (Largest Sardine Roast in the World) in Setúbal, Portugal with over 13,000 lbs. of roasted sardines alone!  I personally witnessed the event (check out my photo album!) and helped them to achieve by gobbling down a plateful of roasted sardines myself :)
  • Eat Them With The Right Stuff – The traditional accompaniments for sardinhas assadas- whole, grill-roasted sardines are batata cozida (boiled potatoes, drizzled with olive oil of course!) and a special salad made with roasted green peppers, onions and tomatoes.
  • Drink Red Wine With This Fish! – Yes indeed, the strong flavor profile and fat content of sardines definitely needs a red wine to accompany them.  Almost any tasty Portuguese red will go with sardines but the Northern Portuguese of the Minho region prefer in particular their local vinho verde tinto, a unique-tasting red wine made predominately from the native Vinhão grape, served chilled in traditional malgas– ceramic cups.  This refreshing Vinho Verde wine is what I prefer to have with my sardines as well.


Cheers to Portuguese sardines!  Don’t knock ’em until you’ve tried ’em! :)

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2 Responses to Portuguese Food Fact Monday: 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Portuguese Sardines

  1. Nuno Sousa says:

    Dear Andrea,

    being portuguese, of course I love sardines too. But I prefer to eat them by hand (comê-la à mão). As you like them as well, if you ever go to Lagos, in Algarve, go to a restaurant named “o escondidinho”. It is a very small and rustic restaurant, but so help me God if it ain´t the best sardines I´ve ever had. And Lagos is a wonderful village in every way. Starting on a beach in the morning and ending in the nightlife “downtown”.

    I´m always happy to see that foreigners like our food and culture. It just makes me glad.

    Best regards.

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