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The Jamaican Canned Fish Food....Sardine Salad..#046
February 02, 2009

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Sardine Salad

We Jamaicans have an uncanny affinity with a little fish called sardine. This canned fish has been on the Jamaican food roster since time immemorial. And, as you will learn, we have no intention to just give up on this fish anytime soon.

Most of us like to eat this little fish with hardough bread mostly at breakfast; the designated sardine-tolerant time. And, yes, when we are a little low on cash during the weekdays and don’t want anybody to find out about our financial situation…easy nuh mon’… we nyam (eat) sardines with white rice…Yah Mon!

Even though sardine is not a manufactured Jamaican food product, you could not tell by the demand for it on the island. To help this demand, most supermarkets and corner shops around town are usually stocked with more than an ample supply of this canned fish.

This is one canned product partially from the ‘dryas’ family that will not spoil or spoil your day…when your day comes around.

We have a plethora of unofficial sardine recipes that would make a good sardine recipe book for anyone interested, but as you know, we would never tell too many people about this little canned fish food that’s a great helper during tough times…nuff said.

I can remember when we used to ‘run-boat’ in Sydenham, the little village where I was reared…


‘RUN BOAT’ in our parlance means informal cooking with friends. This terminology has nothing to do with boats, or running. We just talk like that; in coded language.

‘DRYAS’ is a term used for baked foods such as bread, cakes, cookies, etc. However, canned foods end up in this family, too.

‘NYAM’ means eat, or to eat food.


It seemed as if, back then, that we had to have some type of canned fish (sardines, herring, or salmon) when we ‘run- boat’ on the canal banks at night. Let’s say the ‘boat’ on Monday was Calaloo, Tuesday…Salt fish, Wednesday…gully fish and shrimp, by Thursday it would have to be some kind of canned fish; because the price was right.

While sardines are not the preferred canned fish for the ‘boat’, when push come to shove the price makes it right, you know.

But seriously, our choice for using sardines is not only economic, but also variety in our food consumption practices; breaking away from the standard fare.

In our little corner of the world, we have managed to carve out a niche in cooking sardines creatively. We have made sardine fritters, omelets, curry sardines, sardine and flour dumplings, sardine and rice, sardine rice, sardine and onions, sardine and fried dumplings, sardine and crackers, and sardines and tomatoes. We also eat sardines with avocado pear, bread, boiled bananas, cheese, hard boiled eggs, yams, and potatoes.

If I keep thinking, I will come up with some more established Jamaican sardine recipes for you…Yah Mon!

And now….A drum roll please…. with a little trumpet music playing in the background…tat ta daaa tata tat a da ta daa.

Sardine Salad!!!…. Tell the world! Time for change…things will not be same anymore…Sardine Salad is here.

Yes, I know I'll be vilified for this one…even my wife, Mavis, started making comments already, but that’s cool though. You can’t stop people from talking about you and your culinary tastes, but you sure can stop them cold in their tracks when they taste your food.

Alright then…Seet Yah!

1 large Lemon 1 can of Sardines (in soya oil)

1 large head of Lettuce (chopped)

1 salad Tomato

1 Avocado Pear

1 Green Bell Pepper

½ large Onion

Two tbsp. Olive Oil (optional)

Open the canned sardines and place them in a bowl. Drain the oil from the fish and discard it. Cut the lemon into halves and squeeze the juice from one half of the lemon onto the sardines. Make sure you get the juice on all of the fish in the bowl...let the bowl of fish sit for a while.

In the meantime, slice the green bell pepper into very small pieces (I prefer slicing the pepper longway instead of crossway).

Slice the tomato into thin salad slices; of course, you can slice it the way you like, too. Do the same for the onion.

Now slice the avocado pear into eight slices from the top to bottom; remove the skins from the pear.

Spread the lettuce on a large plate; carefully place the slices of green bell pepper around the edge of the plate. Place the avocado slices the same as the green bell pepper slices. Cut the tomato slices in halves; place them around the plate of lettuce on the inner circle of the avocado slices. Add the onion slices at random; no special form or style.

Sprinkle the two tablespoonful of olive oil over the salad.

Now that the lemon juice is soaked into the sardines, the fish taste will not be as ‘fishy’ as before. Use a fork to break each fish into three or four pieces.

Add each piece of fish to the already made salad on the plate.

As we would say…YAH MON!!! IT REDDY YU KNUH…

Although I am going to toot my horn about creating this salad, I know that somewhere, someplace, there’s a Jamaican who have done this and hasn’t told anyone; but you know me…I say, PASS IT ON…Yah Mon!!!

Please remember it is January, and that means that you have to cleanse your system with bitters and all. And as a reminder you can go here now… Jamaican Cleansing

Happy Cooking,

Uncle Zack

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