Sardines For Richer For Poorer

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KUALA LUMPUR – “If you are in a hurry or not keen in cooking up a big meal, just cook the sardines”.

Malaysians may be familiar with this scenario, especially the singletons who may neither have the time or the will to cook elaborate meals, or when surprise visitors drop in.

Thus, one of the quick fixes for a decent meal known to most Malaysians are the canned sardines. So don’t be surprised to find Malaysian households stocking them up in anticipation of a dry day in the kitchen. For the average Malaysia, the canned sardines are an incredible convenience food.

And what more, it is easy to prepare both the canned and fresh sardines. There is no need for much cooking ingredients. Malaysians are all too familiar with the sardine sandwiches and curry puffs available at coffee and tea breaks.

The sardines can be made into sambal, or curry or fry it with onions, ginger and it is good enough to wet most people’s appetite.

A Facebook (FB) friend Rosie Hashim told this writer to make the sardines tastier, she adds a bit of tamarind juice and sliced red chilies.

“Even ‘masak lemak’ (cooked with coconut milk) too brings great taste”, she added.


Going back in time, sardines were once considered a favourite of the low income group. In reality, as they taste delicious, they appeal to almost all levels of the society.

As for this writer, growing up in a big family with limited income, both the fresh and canned sardines appeared regularly in the menu.

To ensure it was enough to feed all the mouths, this writer recalled that mother added the potatoes so that there was more to eat. It was good enough meal for the day.

The fresh sardines then cost less than RM1.00 a kati (about 600gm) and it was sufficient enough even to be shared with the cats!

That was a few decades back.


Today, if one is to consider between sardines and chicken to please their palate, price wise it is better to go for the chicken!

Recently the writer bought a can of branded sardine. The popular oval shaped sardine can, the biggest in size, now costs RM9.30. Buy it, take it home and open it, one will only find three medium pieces in there.

This means each sardine costs RM3.10. Wow, that’s really expensive?

At another supermarket, the price of the same sardine can was RM9.99! Just a week ago this writer bought an average sized chicken for about RM10 only.

So, it is obvious that the canned sardines are no longer cheap!

The same goes to fresh sardines, a kilogramme of sardines at the farmers’ market was priced between RM7 and RM9 per kilo recently.


Another FB friend who goes by the name of Eta MT told this writer that she gets emotional each time she recalled how she lived with little money and sardines while studying at the university.

The woman who hails from Batu Gajah, Perak, recalled how she and her five roommates would cook the sardine using the electric rice cooker.

“We only add onions and chilies. We eat them hot with rice. And the sardine in our meals were the clearest indication that our finances were drying up.

“We pass around the hat, those with more means give more. We were grateful even if we could buy a can of sardine. When there was extra money, we would add eggs, often in the form of omelet, to the menu.

“We would sit down and share the meal together and the sardine surely tasted great”, the woman said recalling that the price of a small sardine can in 1997 was about RM2.50.


Sardines or ‘pilchard’ are related to the herring family and they are rich in vitamins and minerals. The name sardine is said to have originated from the island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean where the fish was once found in abundance.

The sardine are a popular source of protein in Canada, France, Italy, Morocco, India and Japan.

Though their prices may have gone up, sardine remains as an all time favourite menu of Malaysians. – BERNAMA