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Sardine Pupu

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.

A plate of prepared Sardine Pupu, ready to eat!
Sardine Pupu, ready to enjoy!

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 ^_^

Book cover of Cook Real Hawaii by Sheldon Simeon and Garrett Snyder.
Cover of Cook Real Hawai’i.

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.

Simeon owns Tin Roof which is one of our go-to eating spots in Maui (it’s super close to the airport and is often our first spot as soon as we land).

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.

Sardine Pupu recipe from Cook Real Hawaii by Sheldon Simeon and Garrett Snyder.
Sardine Pupu photo from Cook Real Hawai’i.

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.

Ingredients for Sardine Pupu: canned sardines, onions, garlic, Korean chili pepper, lemon, olive oil, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and chili pepper water.
Ingredients for Sardine Pupu.

Ingredients

A plate of prepared Sardine Pupu, ready to eat!
Sardine Pupu, ready to eat!

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.

Add sardines.
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.

Plate.
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.

Enjoy!
Eat and enjoy!

A plate of prepared Sardine Pupu, ready to eat!
Sardine Pupu, close up ^_^

FAQs and Tips

Can I double this recipe?

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.

How does this recipe differ from Simeon’s?

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.

About the onions.

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 ^_^

A plate of prepared Sardine Pupu, ready to eat!

Sardine Pupu

Yield: Snack for 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

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.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. P.S. We enjoy this dish plain as a snack but you can also eat it with soda crackers or rice.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Cook Real Hawai'i by Sheldon Simeon.

Adam

Friday 18th of June 2021

This was seriously delicious , I poured the whole pan over Omurice with extra chili oil and was taken to heaven. 10/10 this is going to be a new weekly meal.

Kathy

Saturday 19th of June 2021

Aloha Adam! So happy you enjoyed. I can imagine how super good this would be with omurice, love that idea ^_^ - Kathy

Alan

Tuesday 6th of April 2021

Yup; another great old school dish! My late wife used to make this all the time, and almost exactly the same way as your recipe. For me (before I married her) I was too lazy. I would just open up the can but leave a part of the lid still attached to the body of the can. Then I would just put it on the burner of the stove on low heat and just heat it up. I would eat it on rice with shoyu; that was about it! Another old school dish I used to make and love is to just open up a can of red salmon, and put sliced Kula onions on top and eat that with rice. Remember those days when a can of red salmon was super cheap?

Kathy

Tuesday 6th of April 2021

Hi Alan! Ahaha I've heard about the cooking the sardines right in the can but never gave it a try! Am too chicken lolol. With rice and shoyu...sounds perfect. I remember when all these canned fishes and meats were considered cheap...nowadays even Spam is kind of pricey :) - Kathy

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