Go to any bar in Spain or Portugal and there’s one tapas dish you’re sure to find: conservas. While the name directly translates to “canned” in both Spanish and Portuguese, it more accurately refers to canned seafood – but not the kind most Americans might be familiar with.
Instead of the basic selection of albacore tuna you can get in the canned food aisle of any American grocery store, conservas come in the form of mussels, clams, squid, sardines, and the many other types of seafood found in the coastal region of the Iberian Peninsula. , where Spain and Portugal are located. Conservas, or canned fish, as they’ve come to be known on TikTok, are kept at the peak of freshness in various broths, oil-and-vinegar-based brines, and spice blends, historically to make them last year-round.
However, for TikTokers it’s less about the feature and more about enjoying #TinnedFishDateNight.
Although conservas are referred to as “canned fish” on TikTok, it seems that they only differ in name. Throughout the app you see people opening their cans, arranging them on a charcuterie board and eating them tapas style with olives, crisps, even straight from the can with a glass of white wine. The practice is nothing special or new to the Southern Europeans who so often enjoy it, so why has this suddenly appeared on TikTok?
@alihooke Friday Night #tinfishdatenight #chefsoftiktok #datenightideas #easydinnerrecipes #canned fish #sardines #canned fish
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Harrison Weinfeld, a fish canning expert who goes by @TheSardinfluencer on Instagram, says part of it has to do with people becoming more conscious about their food choices. “Like most things related to food in Europe, canned fish is about coming together around the table to enjoy a relaxed meal. It’s about community and slowness of experience,” he explains to POPSUGAR. “The canned fish we’re seeing going viral is a natural continuation of this history, offering a ‘choose your own adventure’ version, where every destination is delicious.”
Like the aged cheeses and cured meats that make up the ever-popular charcuterie board, canned fish is an attainable gourmet food of many varieties, offering endless opportunities to enjoy the “dolce far niente” approach to living and eating that Americans so adore. . a lot. It’s in the same category as having a glass of champagne with lunch à la “Emily in Paris” or stopping for a midday gelato on the Spanish Steps like Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday”, but in a way that fits in our own lives. The fact that the canned fish packaging is ultra-Instagrammable makes it even more appealing, Weinfeld points out.
How to try canned fish yourself
While you may be tempted to choose your canned fish based solely on its TikTok-worthy packaging, the words on the label and price are much more reliable indicators of quality and taste.
Weinfeld recommends canned fish imported specifically from Spain or Portugal, which TikTokers have reportedly 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 sardines, mackerel and line-caught tuna. It will typically run you about $3 to $5 per pack, sometimes more than $15, both online and in gourmet stores. You can search in stores or online for brands such as Fishwife, Patagonia Provisions, Matiz España, Pinhais, and Scout. You can even buy a package of Weinfeld favorites on Portugalia Marketplace ($40).
It’s possible to make canned fish on a budget, but you’ll sacrifice flavor, Weinfeld warns. Those in the $1 range (including those cans of tuna you rely on for tuna salad sandwiches) often have questionable sources, are overcooked, and tend to be overly fishy. If you want to get the canned fish date night trend right, you’ll definitely want to take note of the Europeans, and high quality seafood is the best place to start.
The great thing about canned fish is that it has a long shelf life, which means you can have a little tapas moment at any time. When you’re ready to enjoy your canned fish, Weinfeld says the easiest way to do it is to treat it like a charcuterie board and simply replace the cured meat with canned fish. Because of its naturally salty and smoky flavours, canned fish pairs particularly well with anything pickled, so be sure to add salty foods like cornichons, olives and pickled onions to your plate for a delicious contrast of flavor and texture. Hot sauce with clams and manchego cheese with sardines are some of the most popular combinations, but even eating the canned fish on a cracker can be tasty. If all else fails, a little salt and lemon will go a long way, and you can find plenty more inspiration on TikTok.
One-pot meals and 30-minute recipes do have a place and purpose, but date night with canned fish (or tapas, really) isn’t about getting food on the table quickly with the least amount of dishes and ingredients. So have fun experimenting with combinations, try out the different varieties and give yourself a chance to enjoy the food in front of you. Keep your pantry stocked with canned fish, and when you need a break from the hustle and bustle, just open a can.
Image source: POPSUGAR Photography / Kalea Martin