Sardines are consistently rated as the most nutritious and environmentally friendly fish you can eat, and yet some people remain suspicious. “Wait! They have bones and scales?”
Well, yes, most premium sardines have bones — which melt away during processing, which is why they have more calcium per serving than a glass of milk. And yes, they do have scales, though they’re too tiny to notice.
So despite the little fish’s sustainability and wealth of protein, calcium and Vitamin D — and the fact that sardines contain roughly 2,000 mg of omega-3s per 3.75-ounce serving — many people consider sardines a non-starter.
But sardine makers, like Norway-based King Oscar, also offer what is known as “skinless and boneless” sardines, a potential game-changer for the tiny fish.
John Engle, president of King Oscar USA, says that skinless and boneless sardines are another kettle of fish entirely. “Skinless and boneless sardines are actually an entirely different species of fish from our traditional ‘brisling’ sardine. They’re slightly larger, and fished from different waters, which allows us to remove the skin and bones from the fish and bring a totally different taste and texture to the can, qualities very similar to tuna.”
It also allows sardine companies to experiment with new flavors and even recipes. For example, King Oscar’s Spanish-Style Sardines are caught off the coast of Morocco and combined with olive oil, red peppers, pickled cucumbers, carrot and a dash of salt and a hint of chili flavor to make for a new twist on a time-tested food, and even potentially begin to change people’s perception of sardines.
“People eat seafood in a can by the millions — just look at tuna,” said Engle. “I think that by introducing new varieties of skinless and boneless sardines, it’ll open up the possibility of eating sardines to people who have heard that they’re good for you, but who just haven’t been able to get past the ‘yuck’ factor.”
One popular food blogger, Kimberly Moore of The Hungry Goddess, is already ahead of the curve. She suggests pairing King Oscar Spanish Style skinless and boneless sardines with paella to put a healthy, savory spin on the rice-based classic.
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