Kitchn Love Letters

The $2 Canned Good I Always Have Stocked in My Pantry

published Feb 22, 2024
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When tinned fish rose in popularity last year, I was shocked that the humble fish I snacked on as a child was now defined as an affordable luxury. When I was growing up, I would visit my parents’ African and Caribbean grocery store. They carried curry spices from across the diaspora, coconut and tamarind-flavored tropical sweets, and condiments made from various fruits and peppers. And yet I always returned to a deep-red tin of fish: Titus sardines

Credit: Elizabeth Okosun

What’s So Great About Titus Sardines in Soybean Oil?

Inside the tin are two pieces of sardines, sourced from Morocco, steeped in an inordinate amount of soybean oil. Eaten right out of the tin, Titus sardines were a mainstay for road trips and late-night dinners when no one wanted to cook.

The strong stench wafts out to meet your nose as soon as you open the tin — a heady combination of earthy soybean oil and fish. The oil spills everywhere, staining everything in its path — and I can’t get enough of it. Although overpowering in smell, the pungent taste of the fish is the perfect amount, leaving behind a flavor that lingers in your mouth long after each bite. 

Credit: Elizabeth Okosun

What’s the Best Way to Use Titus Sardines in Soybean Oil?

Tinned sardines are a staple in West African homes worldwide; they flavor a plethora of dishes like yam, fried eggs, and agege bread, a sweet loaf found in Nigeria. That was my favorite way to eat sardines when I was a kid; flaking the fish apart with my fork, I would spoon it onto a fluffy piece of bread. The savory oil seeped deep into the layers of agege bread, infusing it with the fishy taste. It already comes flavored with a significant amount of salt, so there was never a need to dress it up with extra spices. 

Credit: Elizabeth Okosun

These days, however, I enjoy the sardines in a more refined manner, scooping them onto crackers with olives, cream cheese, or avocados. Yet, when I’m in a nostalgic mood, you can still find me whisking Titus sardines into my eggs before folding them into a thick slice of agege bread.

Buy: Titus Sardines in Soybean Oil, $1.99 for 125 grams at African Goods Market; also available in bulk at Amazon

What tinned fish do you always have in your pantry? Tell us about it in the comments below.