Grilled Sardines in Soy Sauce


Dried seafood snacks – from shredded squid to salted fish – are perhaps the Asian version of Western snacks like Pop-Tarts and popcorn. And at izakayas, little umami-packed fish like sardines are typical snack fare. Alongside edamame, karaage, and a bottle of beer, you’ll find plenty of these cheap, sustainable, and nutrient-rich fish. They’re easy to prepare at home, and cooking them in rice wine and soy sauce takes away any fishiness you might have previously associated with the canned variety. Instead of salt-grilling the sardines, these guys are sautéed in a pan until their bones almost melt. Scoop the up with some of their cooking sauce and eat them over rice.


2 tablespoons vegetable oil

18 fresh sardines, heads removed (optional), gutted, rinsed, and patted dry

1 ½ inch knob fresh ginger, thinly sliced

¼ cup sake or other rice cooking wine

¼ cup soy sauce (preferably Japanese shoyu)

1 lemon, thinly sliced

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sardines to the skillet, nestle the ginger slices in between them, and sauté for several minutes, until they start to brown on the bottom. Add the sake and let the pan liquids simmer, shaking the pan gently so the sardines do not stick, for 5 minutes. Then add the soy sauce and continue to simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, until the sauce is mostly reduced and thickened.

Transfer the sardines immediately to a serving plate. Top the sardines with the pan sauce, including the cooked ginger, and scarred the lemon slices over the plate.