Sardines are a popular snack in Hawaii and this recipe is adapted from the “Sardine Pupu” recipe in Cook Real Hawai’i by Sheldon Simeon. Olive oil, garlic, soy sauce, and apple cider vinegar come together in this easy and flavorful dish (it’s almost adobo-esque!) Pour the sauce over the warmed sardines and enjoy. It’s super ono.
Pupu is the word for snack or appetizer in Hawaii.
This is one super delicious pupu! It’s saucy and bold in flavor. Savory! Tangy! I always forget just how delicious sardines are.
Enjoy this recipe hot as a solo snack. Eat with soda crackers (more on that below) or rice. There’s no right or wrong way to eat this as long as you enjoy it ^_^
Cook Real Hawai’i
Cook Real Hawai’i is a new cookbook by Sheldon Simeon and Garrett Snyder. We received the book last week and it is beautiful. It’s all about local food which makes my heart burst with a combo of happiness and excitement.
Many of the recipes will be familiar to anyone who grew up or has lived in Hawaii. Every local has their own specific food experience (eg. local Chinese will grow up eating different food from a local Filipino even though we’re all local in Hawaii). It is super neat to see Simeon’s version.
Why This Recipe Works
Simeon’s Sardine Pupu recipe is winner (or as we say in Hawaii, a winnah!) Canned sardines are popular in Hawaii and everyone has their own way of preparing them.
My parents saute canned sardines with garlic and ton of onions plus a splash of fish sauce. We ate them with baguette (kind of like a banh mi). This seems like a part-local, part-Chinese, and part-Vietnamese way of preparing it.
Simeon’s version calls for garlic and onions, but also soy sauce and apple cider vinegar. It’s kind of like an adobo!
A quick and fast sardine adobo because the dish comes together in 10 minutes.
This dish is meant to be a snack. It’s perfect with an iced cold drink. If I’m making this as a heartier snack or a light lunch, I’ll eat it with soda crackers or a big bowl of rice.
*For soda crackers, the local Diamond Bakery ones are the best. You can buy small packages at Long Drugs or a big box from Costco Hawaii. They make many different fun flavors (savory and sweet), but for this recipe, you just want the plain soda crackers.
- Canned sardines in olive oil
- Sweet onion – If you’re in Hawaii, look for sweet Maui onions…nothing compares ^_^
- Garlic – Feel free to double or triple the garlic, the more the merrier.
- Kochugaru – Commonly spelled as Gochugaru outside of Hawaii. These are Korean chili flakes.
- Soy sauce
- Apple cider vinegar
- Chili pepper water
- Fresh lemon
Step by Step Directions
Prepare the onions.
Place the sliced onions in a bowl. Cover with ice and then cold water. Set aside till the ice melts. The drain the onions and let dry on paper towels.
Saute oil, garlic, and kochugaru.
Open the can of sardines. Pour the olive oil from the can (hold back the sardines) into a small pan. Turn the stove to medium-high heat. Add the garlic and kochugaru. Saute for 2-3 minutes until browned and fragrant.
Gently add in the sardines, keeping them whole. Cook for another minute (just enough to warm the sardines through), and then add in the soy sauce and apple cider vinegar.
Remove the sardines onto a small plate. Pour the liquid (along with the garlic) from the skillet over the sardines. Add a splash of chili pepper water and squeeze the lemon on top.
Eat and enjoy!
FAQs and Tips
Yes! Simeon’s original recipe calls for 2 cans of sardines. I just use 1 can because I’m usually making this as a quick snack for one. But you can easily double or even triple the recipe.
Our adaptation simplifies the recipe a little. Here are the main changes we made:
– Simeon cooks down the soy sauce-apple cider vinegar sauce until there’s no more liquid. We only cook down the sauce a tiny bit and then pour it over the sardines.
– After plating the sardines, Simeon adds a lot more chili pepper water. We added less because we have plenty of liquid/sauce from soy sauce-apple cider vinegar.
– Simeon drizzles homemade lemon olive oil at the end to finish the dish. We just squeezed half a fresh lemon over the dish.
Onions are perfect with sardines. You only see a few onion slices sprinkled on top of this dish. But right after I took the photo I added a ton more onions and mixed it up so that the onions also soak up that savory sauce. Oh man, it is ono!
Sardine Pupu Recipe
See below and enjoy ^_^
- Place the sliced onions in a bowl. Cover with ice and then cold water. Set aside till the ice melts. The drain the onions and let dry on paper towels.
- Open the can of sardines. Pour the olive oil from the can (hold back the sardines) into a small pan. Turn the stove to medium-high heat. Add the garlic and kochugaru. Saute for 2-3 minutes until browned and fragrant.
- Gently add in the sardines, keeping them whole. Cook for another minute (just enough to warm the sardines through), and then add in the soy sauce and apple cider vinegar.
- Remove the sardines onto a small plate. Pour the liquid (along with the garlic) from the skillet over the sardines. Add a splash of chili pepper water and squeeze the lemon on top. Eat and enjoy!
- P.S. We enjoy this dish plain as a snack but you can also eat it with soda crackers or rice.
Recipe adapted from Cook Real Hawai'i by Sheldon Simeon.