By SOL VANZI
My parents and grandparents, survivors of food scarcity during World War II, always kept a stash of non-perishable food “just in case” of emergencies such as typhoons, earthquakes, and strikes. At the top of their list of must-haves were canned sardines, which have become such a part of international standard rations during times of calamity that it has gained a bad rep as “pang-masa lang” or relief goods diet.
The truth is that canned sardines are the most versatile, inexpensive, and nutritious staples to have around at any time.
In the Philippines, the most popular canned sardines are variants in tomato sauce or oil. Single-serve cans contain 155 grams and are the ones that disappear fast from the shelves. At around P16 per easy-open can, it is a lot cheaper than fresh fish. And it is ready to eat or use in many sosyal dishes. Here are some of them.
Szechuan Miswa Soup
Mash contents of one small can of sardines in tomato sauce. Mix with one cup julienned carrots, one small chopped onion, one knob crushed ginger, one large clove grated garlic, a half cup of thinly sliced celery. Stir mixture into six cups of boiling chicken broth or water with a bouillon cube. Season with Tabasco or chopped chili and soy sauce to taste. Thicken with cornstarch dissolved in water. Top with fried garlic and fresh cilantro. Serve dashed with sesame oil.
Broil or boil whole eggplants. Peel and open up flesh to spread. Top with mashed sardines. Arrange individually on plates and drench with a beaten egg. Slide into a heated non-stick frying pan and cook both sides until brown. Serve with catsup and hot sauce.
Italian Baked Eggplant
Layer peeled cooked eggplants with pasta sauce and cheese. Bake in an oven or microwave until heated through and melty. Serve with garlicky French bread and wine.
On pandesal halves, spread pasta sauce, mashed sardines, sliced tomatoes, olives, onions, and whatever else you want. Top with melty cheese and bake until heated through. Instead of pandesal, you may use flour tortillas, shawarma bread, or pita.
A Greek salad with a can of sardines, roasted peppers, some cucumber, olives, and other assorted vegetables is excellent. Greeks also love sardelosalata—the sardine version of the classic taramosalata spread (made from fish roe). It makes an excellent hors d’oeuvres or sandwich. Taramosalata is a classic Greek meze with tarama (fish roe), olive oil, lemon juice, onion, and thickened with soaked bread that tastes great with pita or raw veg. Simply substitute sardines for the fish roe.