11 August, 2011

Sardines In A Pouch

Love 'em or hate 'em, there is one thing no one can deny about sardines: they are fragile little things, and don't take well to being indelicately handled. More than once, a little fishy morsel has broken off and tumbled back to the plate when I've tried to lift it whole with my fork.

You'd think that, of all the people familiar with sardines in the world, the people who actually process and package and sell them would know this. Apparently not, because Crown Prince actually has tried selling sardines in pouches.

When I saw these at Big Lots! it was almost mandatory that I buy them.  I couldn't think of a more ridiculous way to pack sardines, and I couldn't wait to find out what they were going to be like when I opened them up at lunchtime.  I could just imagine what they would look like after having been tumbled through the wholesale and retail distribution chain without the traditional exoskeleton of a metal can, and I was sure it wasn't going to be pretty.

I opened the first pouch - sardines in soy oil, lightly smoked - and tipped them out onto a plate.  "Not pretty" was an understatement. These fish had the shit kicked out of them. I think there might have originally been four whole sardines in the package, but without the help of a forensic ichthyologist, there was no way to tell.  I found some fair-sized fish chunks, lots of little pieces, and plenty of tiny fragments and soft-cooked bits of rib bones.  There were also some long, semi-crunchy lengths of spine. I never remove the spines or other bones when I eat whole sardines, so I didn't bother trying to remove them when I ate these.  The fish tasted fine, although the texture was a little dry despite having been packed in oil.  And of course, there was the horrifying presentation.

The second pouch were sardines in mustard sauce.  These fish had successfully retained their shape, probably thanks to the high-viscosity mustard sauce which had the consistency of gear oil and likely provided some shock absorption during shipping. Unfortunately, Crown Prince's mustard sauce isn't the best I've ever had; it is strong and rather harsh and covers, rather than enhances, the flavor of the fish.

The final pouch, containing the sardines in "Louisiana hot sauce" (not pictured) was sort of in between the other two in terms of sardine integrity. The fish were broken but not mangled but I can't really attribute that to the presence of sauce.  As interpreted by Crown Prince, "Louisiana hot sauce" is a quantity of oil colored bright red by the clots of brownish-red pepper sauce which are suspended within it. It adds little to the flavor of the sardines, but does add a mild but irritating back-of-the-throat scratchy heat in the manner of cayenne pepper powder.

It is no surprise to me that the only place I have seen sardines-in-a-pouch offered for sale is at Big Lots. Only a job lot store could possibly sell them with a straight face, and a quick check of Crown Prince's website shows me that they don't even list this packaging option as one of their products.  Hopefully, sardine pouches were a marketing experiment that won't be repeated.

10 comments:

Alyse said...

I think it must be an experiment. The pouches are not listed on the website. Personally buying fish in a pouch makes no sense to me. I never have and probably never will. The little fish bodies are what makes sardines oh-so-exciting!

Just found your blog last week. I was doing a search on sardines. I love the "Fishy Delights" series.

J. Astro said...

"...without the help of a forensic ichthyologist, there was no way to tell..." Haha - nice. :)

Second picture looks like dog-yak. *shudder*

LpB said...

I actually found this site because I was wondering if sardines are sold in pouches. I love sardines, but the cans are lined with BPA. Crown Prince has stated on their site that they are trying to move away from using BPA without having to raise their prices to accommodate for the cost of doing so. Maybe this was an attempt. Very few food cans are made without BPA.

Anonymous said...

I just saw these, brand new, in my Walmart and had to buy some. Have yet to try them out so I'm hoping they won't be terrible!

Anonymous said...

I thought this was probably a bad idea. Sardines are usually packed very orderly in rows in a tin so they don't get all mashed together. That one pic you made looked like vomit. The person at Crown Prince that came up with this idea obviously dies not eat sardines. Thanks for the review.

--SK

Anonymous said...

I thought this was probably a bad idea. Sardines are usually packed very orderly in rows in a tin so they don't get all mashed together. That one pic you made looked like vomit. The person at Crown Prince that came up with this idea obviously does not eat sardines. Thanks for the review.

--SK

Anonymous said...

I bought these on a whim. I eat sardines for lunch several times a week, and love them. These were absolutely horrendous. The pouches had some large, thin, semi-transparent bits in it that looked like scales of a much larger fish. They were crunchy. They didn't taste good, and the texture about made me gag. I couldn't even finish it. I wouldn't eat these even if they were free!

Anonymous said...

Any luck returning these or complaining to crown prince and getting anything for free?,

Cp should atleast send one free can of sardines for each one bought.

Pete Gaffney said...

These are great!!! It makes it way easier to eat with less nasty fish residue in the garbage. Trying to buy a case of 20 right now... anybody seen these online in bulk? biglots.com doesn't have them, and Walmart lists them as instore only.

Ted Knudson said...

They are not the greatest but are great for camping. You can not take canned sardines in the widerness areas of the US and Canada but you can take the pouches. If anyone knows where I can buy some let me know.