Go to any bar in Spain or Portugal and there’s one tapas dish you’re sure to find: conservas. Although the name translates directly to “preserves” in Spanish and Portuguese, it more specifically refers to canned seafood – though not the kind that most Americans might be familiar with.
Rather than the basic selection of albacore tuna you can get in the canned aisle of any US grocery store, canned foods come in the form of mussels, clams, squid, sardines and many other types. of seafood found in the coastal region of the Iberian Peninsula, where Spain and Portugal are located. Preserves, or canned fish as they are called on TikTok, are kept at peak freshness in different broths, oil and vinegar-based brines, and spice blends, historically to make them last all year round. .
For TikTokers, however, it’s less about function than enjoying #TinnedFishDateNight.
Although conservas are called “canned fish” on TikTok, it seems that they only differ in name. Through the app, you’ll see people opening their boxes, arranging them on a charcuterie platter, and eating them tapas-style with olives, potato chips, even straight from the box with a glass of white wine. The practice is nothing special or new to southern Europeans who enjoy it so often, so why did it suddenly break out on TikTok?
Friday Night #tinfishdatenight #chefsoftiktok #datenightideas #easydinnerrecipes #tinnedfish #sardines #tinnedfish
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Chef Harrison Weinfeld, who goes by @TheSardinfluencer on Instagram, says part of it has to do with people becoming more intentional with their food choices. “Like most food-related things in Europe, canned fish is about getting together around the table to enjoy a quiet meal. It’s about community and the slowness of experience,” he explains. it at POPSUGAR. “The canned fish boards we see going viral are a natural progression of this story, offering a ‘choose your own adventure’ version, in which any destination is delicious.”
Much like the cured cheeses and cold cuts that make up the ever-popular charcuterie platter, canned fish is an accessible gourmet food with many varieties, offering endless opportunities to indulge in the “dolce far niente” approach to living and to eat that Americans so glorify. a lot. It falls into the same category as drinking a glass of champagne with an “Emily in Paris” lunch or stopping for a midday ice cream in the Spanish Steps like Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday”, but in a way that fits into our own lives. The fact that the canned fish wrappers are ultra Instagrammable adds even more appeal, Chef Weinfeld points out.
How to try canned fish for yourself
While you may be tempted to choose your canned fish based on TikTok-worthy packaging alone, the words on the label and the price are much more reliable indicators of quality and taste.
Chef Weinfeld recommends canned fish imported specifically from Spain or Portugal, which TikTokers would have found at stores like Trader Joe’s and Cost Plus World Market. He says Spain is known for its clams, mussels, octopus and squid, while Portuguese brands produce the best rod and line-caught sardines, mackerel and tuna. This will usually cost you between $3 and $5 per pack, sometimes as high as $15 online and at gourmet food stores. You can look for brands like Fishwife, Patagonia Provisions, Matiz España, Pinhais, and Scout in stores or online. You can even buy a pack of Chef Weinfeld’s favorites from Portugalia Marketplace ($40).
It’s possible to make canned fish on a budget, but you’ll sacrifice flavor, warns Chef Weinfeld. Those in the $1 range (including the tuna cans you rely on for tuna salad sandwiches) are often from questionable sources, overcooked, and tend to be overly fishy. If you’re serious about following the canned fish trend, you’ll definitely want to take note of the Europeans, and high-quality seafood is the best place to start.
The advantage of canned fish is that it has a long shelf life, which means you can treat yourself to a little tapas time whenever you want. When you’re ready to enjoy your canned fish, Chef Weinfeld explains that the easiest way to go about it is to treat it like a charcuterie board and simply swap the charcuterie for canned fish. Due to the naturally salty and smoky flavors, canned fish goes especially well with anything pickled, so be sure to also add pickled foods like pickled pickles, olives, and onions to your plank for a boost. delicious contrast of taste and texture. Hot sauce with mussels and sardine manchego cheese are some of the most popular combos, but even just eating the canned fish as is on a cracker can be tasty. If all else fails, a little salt and lemon goes a long way, and you can find plenty more inspiration on TikTok.
One-pot meals and 30-minute recipes have their place and purpose, but canned fish parties (or tapas, really) aren’t about getting dinner to the table quickly with fewer dishes and ingredients. So have fun experimenting with the pairings, try the different varieties and give yourself a chance to savor the food in front of you. Keep your pantry stocked with canned fish, and whenever you need a break from the hustle and bustle, just open a can.
Image source: POPSUGAR Photography / Kalea Martin