The dishes of France have influenced Vietnamese cuisine in a delicious way. Enter: Vietnamese-Australian chef and TV host Luke Nguyen, whose latest book explores the relationship between these two food cultures and documents the best of the best. Considering those parameters, rice-, bread crumb–, chili- and cilantro-stuffed whole sardines sound just about right.
Different variations on stuffed sardines can be found along the stretch of the Ligurian Sea coast between France and Italy. For the fullest flavor, use very fresh sardines.
- 1 cup cooked white rice
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 2 tablespoons crushed roasted almonds
- 3 tablespoons chopped coriander (cilantro), plus extra to garnish
- Grated zest of 1/2 lime, plus lime wedges to serve
- 1 red chili, sliced, plus extra to garnish
- 3 eggs, separated
- 2 cups panko
- 6 fresh sardines, boned and butterflied, leaving the tails on if desired
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 handfuls rocket (arugula)
For the sardines
In a mixing bowl, combine the rice, garlic, shallot, almonds, coriander, lime zest, chili, egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of the panko crumbs. Spread the remaining bread crumbs on a flat plate. Add a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to the rice mixture. Using your hands, stir to combine until the ingredients stick together. Gently squeeze 1 tablespoon of the stuffing in your hand, making a tight sausage shape. Place the stuffing on the inside of a sardine, then flatten so it sticks to the sardine.
Place the egg whites in a shallow bowl and whisk for 1 minute to thin them out slightly. Dip the sardines in the egg white, then coat with the bread crumbs and set aside. Repeat with the remaining sardines and stuffing.
Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook two sardines at a time, belly-side down, for 2 minutes. Turn and cook for another 2 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towel.
Meanwhile, place the rocket in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the sardines on a serving platter with the rocket. Garnish with extra chili and coriander and serve with lime wedges.