Not-At-All-Fishy Cucumber and Tomato Salad (with Sardines)

TheGreenTurnip Score: 7


Sardines are not exactly a typical American comfort food. (Yep, I know. I am a disappointing American.) But for me, sardines canned in olive oil taste like childhood.

What are your favorite comfort foods? Maybe macaroni and cheese? Or peanut butter? Chocolate chip cookies?


(Credit: Bumblebee.)

My Happy Memories of Sardines

For me, sardines rank high on my list of comfort foods. I have many fond memories of these somewhat strange headless canned fish. In particular, I remember one dinner of a baguette, a chunk of cheese, and an open can of sardines that I enjoyed with my family. I was probably 6 or 7 years old.


At that time, my parents were in the middle of building our family house in the suburbs outside Boston. The builder had broken ground in October, which meant it was already pretty nippy and cold outside. Partway through building our house, my parents learned that my dad’s job was relocating us to a remote Pacific Island. My mom and dad were working hard to get the house finished and everything packed.

Looking back, I am sure my parents felt the burden of uncertainty and stress trying to get everything completed. To me, it felt like a big adventure.


In the midst of building, my family had stayed late at the house. As I remember, it was getting dark. The builders had completed the framing and part of the roof, but the walls were open to the cold November weather. My dad had bought a loaf of bread, cheese, and a can of sardines.

We spread a blanket on the unfinished plywood floor and ate – picnic style – in the space that would become the dining room. I was happy munching away on a crusty chunk of bread and a fishy bite of sardine. I am sure it was cold and dark (the house obviously did not have any electricity yet) but I did not mind.

And that is how our neighbors found us – munching away on sardines and bread. I guess from the outside our situation did not look so cozy and fun. They invited us over to their warm (and finished) house for dinner.

Our house! All finished now.


 Not-at-all-fishy Salad!

I know that sardines have a bad reputation for being smelly and oily. And eating anything out of a can has a certain sadness to it. For me though, the flavor and aroma of canned sardines brings back so many happy memories. I can still taste that chunk of bread and sharp cheddar cheese enjoying the company of my siblings and parents as we prepared to face our next adventure together.


In Japanese, there is a word that perfectly describes my feelings towards sardines. That word is “natsukashii.” The word is often translated as “nostalgic” or “dear.” The word captures the sense of evoking memories and emotions from the past.

For me, this salad is packed with the memories of childhood.


Now for most people, who do not hold precious memories towards sardines, I promise this Cucumber and Tomato Salad is yummy and not at all fishy! The cucumber has such a nice fresh aroma and flavor. It combines perfectly with the summery taste of tomatoes. As you stir the salad, the sardines break into smaller pieces adding a little savory flavor but there is no fishy punch. If you would prefer not to add the sardines, I would suggest adding 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and an extra dash of salt in place of the fish.


This recipe makes enough for a week’s worth of medium portions for 1 person (about 10 medium portions).


Canned sardines in oil, 1 can

Cucumber, 1

Plum Tomato, 2

Soy Sauce, 1 tablespoon

Sugar, 1 teaspoon

Sake, 2 tablespoons

Shiracha, to taste (or a dash of crushed red pepper)

  1. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, and slice thinly. Cut the tomato into ½ inch cubes. Mix together the soy sauce, sugar, sake, and shiracha.
  1. In a bowl, combine the cucumber, tomato, and dressing. Stir to combine. Cover and store.
TheGreenTurnip_JapaneseSardinesCucumberTomatoSalad_6.jpgAdapted from “オイルサ_ディンのピリ辛サラダ” from “作り置きサラダ”.

Want to learn more simple, Japanese-inspired weekly meal prep? Read “What is Make Now & Eat Later”


Come back on Monday! New recipes posted here every week.


One thought on “Not-At-All-Fishy Cucumber and Tomato Salad (with Sardines)

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