Rwanda is a land locked country, and being so, there are rather few options when it comes to finding good, fresh (and affordable) fish. Most of the buffets across town just stop at announcing it on their colorful menus and brochures.
When you insist on the fish as stated on the menu, they will shift goal posts and either claim that you came late, when the early birds had scooped the fish, or that you checked in on an off-day, when fish is rested.
This leaves fish lovers with few options, most notably canned sardines. In Rwanda, sardines are to be found in every grocery shop and supermarket. A can goes for as low as Rwf350. In the smaller grocery shops, it is generally prudent that you call it the politically correct way – saradin.
And saradin is not your usual stand alone dish. Rather, it is the ultimate spice to that other main course of beans, veggies, rice, green bananas, you name it. Everybody seems to have their preferred way of preparing this dish.
Sardines are salted before canning, a process that is as good as actually cooking the fish. They are not heat cooked but are still not raw. You can eat them right out of the can without worrying about anything. Well, at least that is what we are told, although I have personally failed to get the stomach for uncooked sardines from the variety common in most shops.
But if the smell of your sardines turns into a stench and causes such a ruckus, they might have outlived their freshness (and that’s a polite way of warning you they could be expired).
Cooking is an art, and this fact comes to light when sardines are on the menu. Who does not like the sheer thrill of popping open a petite sardine can? Actually, it’s like popping Champagne!
It’s a pity that some people have to employ force (and tools like knives) to gorge the cans open. A can of sardines should be delicately peeled open in the same way it is done with canned beers.
Don’t forget that sardines are essentially cooked food, so there is no need keeping it on the fire for long. Doing so actually deprives it of the one thing for which it’s known – the aroma. And what good are sardines without that?