In which I wax lyrical about canned sardines

Here's a couple of paragraphs on the place of canned food in my childhood diet, which I wrote a few months ago but wound up not using in that particular blog post:
Talking about canned/tinned foods, yesterday Stellou was surprised to learn that my mother would sometimes serve baked beans from a can alongside other Asian dishes and rice for dinner at home. That made me think of all the Western canned food I grew up eating at dinner:
  • Baked beans
  • Corned beef
  • Dinty Moore beef stew
  • Cocktail sausages
But not Ayam brand canned sardines in tomato sauce, although you'll find them at Chinese economy rice stalls in Singapore, ladled onto piping hot white rice if you ask for it. No, at home, I grew up eating canned sardines with sliced white bread, sandwich-style.
When I was studying in the US, one of the small happy discoveries I made at the Asian supermarkets along Chicago's Argyle Street (aka Vietnam-town) was that they sold those canned sardines, Ayam brand and perhaps others. The others didn't matter: Ayam brand was what I grew up with, and Ayam brand is what I still slap between slices of white bread, occasionally --- unheated and unseasoned with oil, onions or anything that might mask the flavour of the unabashedly pungent sardines bathed in sweet, gloopy tomato sauce.

(I do not eat these canned sardines around anyone who isn't family. And even around family, I rinse the can thoroughly before tossing it into the trash.)

In London, I haven't seen a single can of Ayam brand sardines, in any kind of sauce.

The brands they have here don't quite measure up: John West is a passable substitute in terms of flavour, but less than generous in terms of tomato sauce. Today I tried Brunswick --- tomato sauce flavour fail, and the fish were oilier and much skinnier than I'm used to.

If London can sustain so many restaurants selling Singaporean/Malaysian food, there must be a place selling Ayam brand sardines. I just need to find it.

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At 2/16/2011 10:39 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have yet to find Ayam brand sardines here! I miss eating them - usually with plain porridge.

And a few months ago I had a craving for Heinz baked beans. I figured it was easy enough - isn't Heinz an American company after all? But it was amazingly difficult to find the baked beans in tomato sauce! And when I did, it was ridiculously expensive! And American baked beans are no substitute - guess I'll have to wait till I go back to Singapore. Or bite the bullet and ordered off Amazon!

Good luck with the great Ayam search!

At 2/18/2011 6:49 am , Blogger Tym said...

I grew up on Heinz baked beans too! Haven't had a major craving here, but they're not hard to find and not obscenely expensive, so I've had them every now and then. Baked beans are so British!

A friend on Facebook tells me a Malaysian supermarket near her in West London might have them. It'll just depend on whether my craving is strong enough that I bother to go all the way there ...

At 2/24/2011 2:50 am , Blogger Jonny Hamachi said...

Welcome to the Society.


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