When’s the last time you ate a fried fish stick? For many of us, those uniformly cylindrical sticks are a childhood staple, designed to be friendly and crowd-pleasing, but not necessarily exciting. However, with a little tweaking, fried breaded fish can showcase the flavors of the sea just as well as any other seafood dish.
We love sardines for their dense, rich meat, which holds up well to frying. Though whole fish can be intimidating for some, this recipe uses sardine fillets for a neater presentation, which eliminates the annoyance of tiny bones in your teeth. With an unmistakably sardine-esque flavor and a crunchy panko crumb breading, this dish will please both seafood connoisseurs and skeptical neophytes.
Even better, sardines are widely recognized as one of the most sustainable fish you can eat. They are smaller and further down on the food chain, which means they do not accumulate toxins like mercury or PCBs quickly. They reproduce quickly and are abundant in the oceans. Plus, sardines are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids and are inexpensive compared to top feeding fish.
If you haven’t experienced sardines outside of a can, give us a call to try some!
Panko-Crusted Fried Sardines
6 whole sardines, each about 8” long
2 cups flour
4 eggs, beaten
4 cups panko breadcrumbs
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp parsley
The first task is to clean and gut the sardines. Cut off the heads, but don’t throw them out—you can save them for fish stock or fish head soup!
Using a fillet knife, slice the belly of the sardines to remove the guts. Butterfly the center of the fish so both sides lay flat skin down. Remove the spine and any visible bones. Trim any excess skin that isn’t attached to the fish’s meat.
The remaining fillets are now deboned and child-friendly.
Combine the panko breadcrumbs with the pepper and garlic powder. You can opt to mix other spices or herbs with the panko for added flavor. The sardines are also relatively salty on their own, however you can add additional salt into the panko at this step.
Using separate bowls dredge the fillets in flour, then beaten eggs, then panko breadcrumbs.
Using a neutral cooking oil of your choice (olive oil not recommended), pour oil in a non-stick pan so that it reaches a depth of one-half to one inch. Heat the oil on medium heat for about 5 minutes, then place the fillets in the pan. Cook on each side for 3-5 minutes, or until the panko crumbs are golden brown. Once finished, plate the fillets and garnish with parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to your taste.