Real sardines for me mean the sardine with which I was raised – oily, sweet and flavorful. In Japan it is called ma-iwashi (you can learn more about it in my book The Sushi Experience). The head-to-tail size is about 10 inches. The very fresh sardine is plump (life in the nutrient rich cold water fatten them) in appearance and scales are intact. My mother always salt grilled them over a portable charcoal grill when I was small. This sounds like a fun barbecue meal that you can greatly enjoy at your back yard during summer with your gas grill. Well, my mother’s story is different. For her to make a fire it took almost 30 minutes and to cook the fish she put all of her attention to it to ensure perfect grilling – no peeled skin, no heavily burnt spot, moist and intact flesh. Grilling fish was a part of our every day meals year round, not just during a summer barbecue season.
Yesterday I had a chance to enjoy good quality sardine at Aldea. My appetizer was cured Portuguese sardine on brioche. Chef George Mendes (one Michelin star) knows how to do it correct. Vinegar cured fatty sardine was delicious on top of faintly sweet and crisp & tender brioche. I could have eaten five dishes of it easily.