Recipe: Sardine Nanbanzuke

Friendly sardines – the whole bunch for about £3 from Wing Tai

SUNLIGHT. FINALLY. Time to over-optimistically pack away my collection of umpteen-denier black tights. After that, time for something cold and tasty.

This is one of my favourite cold dishes – quickly fried sardines that are then left to enjoy a sweet-sour marinade in the fridge. It always used to accompany me up mountains on hikes when I lived in Japan – because getting to the top of the m*****f***ing mountain would mean that I got to eat this and a few jelly pots. I respond to juvenile incentives.

Nanbanzuke is loosely based on escabeche, brought to Japanese shores by Portuguese sailors (along with Christianity, which only really caught on because everyone thought rosary beads made an awesome accessory. Some things never change). I like using sardines for this because they stand up to frying nicely and also make for good packed lunch size – you can use other oily fish like salmon too.

Sardine nanbanzuke


8-10 sardines, cleaned and cut into fillets

Plain flour

Tapioca or corn starch

250ml dashi

50ml soy sauce

100ml rice vinegar

2 tbsp sugar

1 small carrot, julienned

1/2 onion, finely sliced

1/4 red chili, finely sliced


  1. Combine the dashi, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar – mix well
  2. Mix the flour and starch together and dust the fish
  3. Fry a couple of fish at a time in a wok of hot vegetable oil (not too many or the oil will lose heat) until golden and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper.
  4. Add the sardine to a tupperware and pour over the marinade
  5. Add the chili, carrots and onions and pop the lid on
  6. Leave to get happy for at least an hour – serve cold

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