A King Named Oscar and a great Sardine Curry

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be able to pair up with the King Oscar Seafood , a Norwegian producer of high quality canned sardines, and get to sample some of their wonderful products.  King Oscar has been around for 110 years and offers canned sardines (brisling), anchovies and kipper snacks.  Known by many Americans, especially those of Norwegian heritage, it remains popular to this day in this country.  In an effort to keep up with modern tastes in the U.S. they recently launched two delicious new offerings: Sardines packaged with olive oil and cracked black pepper and another with jalapenos. The latter is not too hot, but simply offers a nice little heat to the gentle flavors of the sardines.

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Norwegian and Nordic sardines are universally recognized as offering the best taste, the mildest aroma and the most delicate texture.  The sardines are typically fished from the famously clean waters of the Norwegian fjords, where the fishing industry has long been strictly regulated, Nordic brisling naturally ensures greater product purity and reduced risk of pollutants such as mercury. Just as important, the icy habitat and perfect feeding conditions of the Nordic waters yield fish with the highest Omega 3 concentration in the world.  The brisling is also a great source for protein and calcium as well.

sardinesImage from sardinediet.com

The Norwegian fishing industry still insists on premium production methods. The fish are “thronged” in the nets, or held long enough to allow natural cleansing, an extra step that enhances texture. Most fisheries now shortcut this process.  The fish going into King Oscar’s packages are caught in netting, smoked using real birch trees and packaged by hand into neat little boxes covered with the red foil with a picture of King Oscar – a symbol of quality and tradition since 1902.

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Image from scanfishphoto.com

It seems strange that a Norwegian food product is named after a Swedish king, but King Oscar’s roots are well planted in Norwegian history and traditions.   King Oscar, baptized Oscar Fredrik, was king of Norway from 1872-1905, and was king of Sweden from 1872 until his death.   While he resided in Sweden for most of the time, he became fluent in Norwegian but simultaneously realized how difficult it was to maintain the union between these two nations.  In 1905 he was dethroned by the Norwegian parliament and renounced the Norwegian throne on October 26th.   Better relations were restored between the two countries before his death, which happened in 1907.  King Oscar was an enthusiast of Arctic exploration and was the patron of many Arctic expeditions in the 1800s. King Oscar sardines remains the only brand to have obtained “royal permission” to use his name.

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Sprat, or “brisling”, has been voted the most noble sardine of them all, by fish experts from around the world, and who have been fortunate enough to sample some of Norway’s finest fish.   Fishing for brisling in the Norwegian fjords has been a lifestyle among Norwegians for centuries. In the 18th century, people started added pepper to the salted water (cure) and exported it as anchovies. The export business really took off when olive oil was added to the fish, like the sardine fishermen in the Mediterranean.

Brisling has been an important food fish, especially for canning.  It is very similar to its larger cousin, the herring, but is more compact on the sides. Not as fishy as herring and not as salty as anchovies, it has become a favorite among many.

Although I think not much food preparation is necessary when eating King Oscar sardines (I love them slathered on fresh, Norwegian style rye bread with some thinly sliced cucumbers, served with a cold shot of Aquavit and a Nøgne Ø beer)- there are of course several ways to enjoy this delicate seafood.  Served on top of an arugula salad lightly dressed with mustard, olive oil and lemon juice is delicious, as is using them as flavoring and garnishes on various pasta dishes with a nice and spicy tomato sauce.

Aren’t these beautiful just on their own – delicate looking enough to just eat straight out of the can!

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I came across this fun curry dish using canned sardines that is just heavenly.  Try it out for a different way of using this wonderful food product from King Oscar. Who knew such high quality could be had in a can?!  This is definitely not the last recipe you will see from me using these tasty sardines!

KING OSCAR CURRY

2 cans whole sardines from King Oscar (the olive oil w/cracked black pepper or jalapeno kind work wonderfully)

2 large tomatoes, diced

1 medium Vidalia onion, thinly sliced;

2 gloves garlic

1-2 red chiles, thinly sliced

1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 tbsp each ground cumin, coriander, curry powder, mustard seeds and turmeric

1 can coconut milk (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh Cilantro for garnish (optional)

Directions: Heat some olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Fry the spices for about 30 seconds to slightly roast them and exude their aroma. Add onions, garlic, ginger, chiles, curry powder and turmeric and and fry with cumin, mustard seeds and coriander. When onions turn slightly translucent, add tomatoes and mix well. Add about 1/4 cup water or vegetable stock and allow mixture to simmer. Add salt and black pepper to taste. When gravy starts to reduce, add in whole sardines but be careful not to stir too much and break up the whole sardines.    Add in coconut milk if using and heat through.  Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice or bread.

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