Portuguese Cuisine: Grilled Sardines (Sardinhas Assadas)

Preparing fish is one of the Portuguese fine arts. With approximately half of the Portuguese border lying next to the Atlantic Ocean, this should not come as a surprise. Sardines are plentiful along the coast, and fortunately they do not put them in tins; they grill them.

Every summer pretty well every region of Portugal has its own sardine festival. Vendors set up their grills along the streets and cook the freshly caught fish. People buy and enjoy them.

It’s an easy recipe:

Season freshly caught sardines with salt, lemon juice and cilantro on the outside and the inside. Carefully place the fish on a very hot grill. Turn when the first side is a golden brown. When well cooked, place the grilled sardines on a platter and cover it with a “sauce.” Take two peeled and chopped tomatoes, three tablespoons of olive oil, crushed raw cloves of garlic to taste, thin slices of onion to taste, salt and pepper and the juice of a half of lemon. Sauté the onion and garlic then add to the other ingredients and mix lightly. Serve with grilled potatoes sprinkled with olive oil.

Grilled Sardines
Grilled Sardines

Do you like sardines or other fish?

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8 thoughts on “Portuguese Cuisine: Grilled Sardines (Sardinhas Assadas)

  1. Fresh grilled Sardine….
    Yum.
    If it lives in the ocean, I will happily devour it. I love seafood, not only my favorite Carolina Calabash Style, but all seafood, and the amazing array of ways to prepare it.
    If it lives in fresh water, I will also happily devour it…with the single exception of catfish. I did not get the catfish gene. I not only can’t eat it, I can’t anything fried in the same oil.

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    1. Likewise. The interesting thing about eating fish in Portugal (and probably in Europe in general) is that the fish eye you from the platter, and they are seldom filleted.

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  2. Is the head-on unfilleted thing not a mere artifact of size? I’ve eaten fresh grilled sardines on the coast of South Africa, and they are indeed delicious – very rich, need the tomato contrast. Sadly it is one of species I haven’t found available to easily catch here (I now live on a small island off South East Australia) and while we’ve found a suitable alterative to whitebait, and there are anchovy (which I also haven’t yet worked out how to catch – too deep for my little boat) Sardines… no. Did you ever eat red mullet (aka goatfish) there?

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    1. I am uncertain what you mean being a mere artifact of size. Every kind of fish I ate in Portugal was served intact. That is, they were cooked and were looking at you when they got to the table. I never ate red mullet, but we had a lot of grouper. Thanks for stopping by. Nice hearing from you.

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      1. Sorry I probably should have explained better (I’m a former Ichthyologist and an enthusiastic cook, and I assume everyone knows everything I do.) The reason for filleting fish isn’t, as most people assume, to get rid of the bones :-), well, not only that! It is that fish protein overcooks very easily – so if you have a fish which is very broad or very uneven thickness it is necessary to either steak it or fillet it, or the outside will be overcooked or burned and the inside still half raw. This becomes a cultural habit too, because recipes fit it, and bones are not popular. The size of fish available – by the fishing methods available at that time – when these habits are being set could thus dictate how it is done. Whole fish is less wasteful too, so if food was hard to come by, that could have an effect.

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