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Sardines wrapped in a sustainable (and baby-friendly) package

December 7, 2009

My (baby’s) heart beats for sardines

Pregnancy does strange things to you. Let me count the ways:

1. Baby brain (If you thought morning-after hangovers were bad … and you have it ALL the time).
2. Multiple aches and pains (Everywhere! Even in places you didn’t know existed).
3. Food cravings (Yes, pregnant women really do love pickles, but not always with ice cream)
4. Heartburn (Horrible, horrible, and especially if you’ve never had it before).
5. Frequent visits to the potty (Self explanatory).

One of the biggest changes I’ve experienced, especially as a food writer, is a diet that has gone topsy-turvy. On some days, even post-morning sickness, I don’t feel like cooking or eating.

Then, there are all the food no-no’s. No rare steak. No sashimi. No foie gras. No alcohol. No soft cheeses. No deep sea fish. Granted most of these items are not a huge part of my diet, I am an avid fish eater. I’ve long been aware of sustainable choices but since getting pregnant I have been more careful about what fish I consume especially since one of the biggest concerns is seafood contaminants.

Large predatory fish—like swordfish and shark—end up with the most toxins (such as mercury, which affects brain function and development), industrial chemicals (PCBs and dioxins) and pesticides (DDT). These toxins usually originate on land and find their way into the smallest plants and animals at the bottom of the ocean food chain. As smaller species are eaten by larger ones, contaminants are concentrated and accumulated.

I really wanted to participate in this year’s Teach a Man to Fish event (sorry Jacqueline!) but I was a bad, bad girl and missed the deadline.

However, I figured it’s never too late to expound on the pros of sustainable seafood.

We all know about the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch List right? In October, they released a “Super Green” list of seafood that’s good for human health and doesn’t harm the oceans. The Super Green list highlights products that are currently on the Seafood Watch “Best Choices” (green) list, are low in environmental contaminants and are good sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. A triple whammy!

An unusual find–canned sardines packed not in tomato sauce but in olive oil with an assortment of other goodies

On this list is a childhood favorite of mine—sardines. Fresh sardines are not the easiest to come by (especially in Asia) so the next best thing is canned sardines. Now don’t scoff at me please, but I loved canned sardines as a child. My mom would simply sauté them in the tomato sauce they were nestled in and serve it over rice.

As a matter of fact, one of my first “cooking” lessons during home economics class in secondary school was how to make sardine sandwiches. I can still remember my teacher, Ms. Judy Loh, eagerly opening a distinctive red oval can to reveal the headless specimens packed tightly within. (A little about Ms. Loh: she had super-short hair shaved close to her head but she still managed to look somewhat feminine with a fringe that fell over her forehead in wispy curls. Did I mention she also taught physical education? Go figure!)

Next, she lifted the sardines out of the can, into a bowl and mashed them with a fork, mixing in the tomato sauce from the can. “Don’t worry about removing the bones,” she said. “They’re soft enough to chew and full of calcium!”As a 14-year-old, you’re skeptical about everything so I wasn’t quite convinced. Then again, you also never argued with your teacher when you’re in Catholic school.

Ms. Loh threw in some chopped bird chillies and shallots and mixed everything together into a paste. She scooped the mixture onto white bread, spread it out evenly and cut the sandwiches into dainty fingers for us to try. Honestly, it wasn’t bad!

Well, Ms. Loh was right about the goodness of sardines. A 3 ounce serving of the canned variety (with bones) has 38% of the daily value of calcium, PLUS as a rare natural food source of Vitamin D, that same 3 ounce serving has well over 100% of the recommended daily intake. Did I mention that it also contains omega-3 fatty acids good for heart/eye/brain function and health?

In addition, sardines are low on the food chain and reproduce rapidly, making them a very sustainable option. Being low on the food chain also means being low in mercury and PCBs, which makes sardines an especially smart choice for pregnant women like me. I can meet my recommended fish intake goals to support brain development in my little bundle of gestating joy.

Sardine puffs–a childhood favorite

One fine day a few weeks ago, being a pregnant woman, I was struck by a craving for sardines. As luck would have it, I had just received a copy of Andrea Nguyen’s new cookbook Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More. And guess what I spied flipping through it? A recipe for sardine puffs, a favorite in Singapore and Malaysia where it is known tenderly as “karipap.”

I was up for a challenge so I also made Andrea’s Chinese flaky pastry dough to go with the sardine filling. The pastry came out with delightful concentric swirly patterns (hence the name “karipap pusing”) that just fell apart into delicate shards in your mouth (and elsewhere).

Can you see the concentric circles in the cross-section of the dough?

For the exact recipe for the Chinese flaky pastry, do pick up a copy of Asian Dumplings. And for additional tips on making all manner of dumplings, everything from pot stickers, to soup dumplings, to wontons, visit Andrea’s helpful website AsianDumplingTips.com.

Karipap sardine all bundled up and ready to go into the fryer

Sardine Puffs (Karipap Sardine)

Instead of the usual sardines in tomato sauce, I found a Portuguese brand that came packed in pure olive oil with bits of chili pepper, carrot, cucumber and even a laurel leaf. This recipe, adapted from Andrea’s, uses store-bought puff pastry. Yes, I give you full permission to be lazy and head to the supermarket. For the Chinese flaky pastry recipe, please pick up a copy of Asian Dumplings. This filling tastes great on toast too!

Filling:
2 (3 oz) cans sardines in pure olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of ketchup
1 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil (from the can)
1/4 cup chopped shallot or red onion
1 hardboiled egg, chopped
1 pound store-bought puff pastry, thawed

Remove the sardines from the can and reserve the oil. Use a fork to split open each sardine and lift off the spine bones. Set the flesh aside and discard the bones (or not, just like Ms. Loh advises).

In a small bowl, mix the sugar, salt, ketchup and lemon juice together. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet and add the shallot and cook for about 3 minutes or until translucent and fragrant. Add the sauce and cook stirring for about 2 minutes. Add the sardines, stirring to break up the flesh. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the egg. Cool completely.

Preheat the oven according to package directions.

Roll out a pastry sheet to about 10 inches square and cut into four 5-inch squares.

Fill each square with 1 to 1½ tablespoons sardine filling. Moisten adjoining edges with water and fold over to form a triangle and press closed. Use the tines of a fork to press on the edges to seal well and place on a prepared baking sheet.

Repeat until all the pastry or filling is used up. Brush with beaten egg and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.

As grandma always says, please share:

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2009 4:36 pm

    Puff pastry and sardines sound like a match made in heaven! I’m not even preggers and it sounds delectable ;-)

  2. December 7, 2009 5:19 pm

    These are lovely! I was only introduced to sardine puffs a few years ago (only had curry puffs as a child) and they were fantastic!

  3. December 8, 2009 5:05 pm

    These look great, Pat. My mom’s sardine salad was always an after-church favorite on Sunday afternoons. Sardines, lime juice, shallots, chilies, fresh coriander, served with bread.

    Congrats on the baby!

  4. December 9, 2009 6:56 am

    Your description of cooking sardines (sauteeing them in their own tomato sauce then serving them with hot rice) is a common Filipino technique, too.

    Satueed sardines are eaten in the Philippines for quick breakfasts. Hot garlic-fried rice and/or soft rolls accompany them here.

    They’re considered peasant food: they’re cheap, filling and nutritious, an easy source of protein.

    Unfortunately, their sodium content can kill you–you should consider that too, esp. since you’re eating for two :-p

  5. Tuty permalink
    December 9, 2009 6:02 pm

    For me and hubby, sardines in oil with white bread to mop up the oil goodness :-)

    Where can one buy the brand you featured?

  6. December 12, 2009 1:04 pm

    Tuty,
    Do you cook fresh sardines? I found this brand at the Filipino-Indian market in Seaside which is a city neighboring Monterey here in California. Perhaps try a Latin or Asian market in Seattle?

  7. December 12, 2009 1:09 pm

    Hi A,
    I’m always amazed how similar SE Asian cuisines tend to be across the board.
    Yeah I know I should be watching out for sodium and a dozen other hidden ingredients that are bad for baby. But everything in moderation is ok right? :)
    Cheers,
    Pat

  8. December 12, 2009 1:10 pm

    Hi Tisha,
    The sardine salad sounds delish and very similar to a Thai dish a friend shared with me as well. Thanks for sharing!

  9. December 12, 2009 1:12 pm

    Hi Su-Lin,
    Yes, they are absolutely delicious. Then again anythign wrapped in flaky/puff pastry has to taste good! Cheers, Pat

  10. December 12, 2009 1:12 pm

    You go that right, Cathy!

  11. Tuty permalink
    December 12, 2009 5:09 pm

    Filipino-Indian market? What an interesting combo :-)

    I usually get the sardines with oil and chili made in Morocco. However, the oil isn’t olive oil. I will try to find the one with olive oil.

    Thanks for the tips

  12. January 20, 2010 6:54 pm

    I didn’t know, congratulations! Those puffs look fantastic, and I love the information about the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s updated green list.

  13. January 21, 2010 10:24 am

    Thx foodhoe! It’s been an amazing journey! Baby is due next month :).

  14. May 31, 2010 5:40 am

    I really love sardines, but never really knew any other way to eat them other than on toast!!!! lol. Anyway just tried these puffs, and thanks for sharing they are very very good.

    The work well as little bits to hand out when you have friends over as well.
    Thanks

  15. August 2, 2010 3:11 pm

    Awesome! I am making these soon!

    Welcome to the Society!

Trackbacks

  1. Sardines wrapped in a sustainable (and baby-friendly) package - Cooking YOUR Food
  2. Blog Love: The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook « Paths of a Foodie

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