Canned sardines are a popular delicacy in Portugal. The country has a long tradition of fish preservation, and sardines have become a national icon. Don’t expect sardines in the form you know from local supermarkets.
Portuguese sardines from traditional artisan producers are prepared with extraordinary care, still by hand. I tried spicy sardines made by Pinhais, one of the oldest companies in the industry, which has been engaged in this activity since 1920. Their cannery is located in Porto, and the production process is captured in this interesting video:
Sardines are steamed before canning, i.e., the heat treatment does not take place during canning, as with other manufacturers. As a result, there is not as much fish fat in the can, and the taste is different. Each can contains a piece of chili pepper, bay leaf, carrot, and cucumber. And how do they taste? The best sardines I have ever eaten.
However, you will find a large number of sardine producers in markets and shops, and it is up to you which ones you choose. Some sellers willingly show the contents of the can on their mobile phones, saying that at this level of processing, it is about “Michelin stars“. And the content proves them right.
The price for one can is approximately between 4 – 5 EUR, you will find cheaper and more expensive ones. Portugal has negotiated an exception, and if you fly home from Portugal without a transfer, you can take canned food with a volume of up to 150 ml and do not have to be stored in a bag with liquids. I tried this, and the sardines passed the airport control without any problems. Sardines can also be a suitable gift.
And when you are in the heat of shopping, be careful not to bring home other sardines in a can instead of sardines – chocolate ones. Although that can also be a nice gift.
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