Since long time, people have been preserving food in many ways. From jams to fish in can, there are and were always many systems of preserving some of our favorite food. Due to some lower quality preserves, sometimes people think that all preserves have chemicals and are unhealthy. This is wrong! In fact good quality preserves might almost not have any artificial chemicals. For example, in a fish can, salt is a natural preserve. In Poland there are many products of this kind, fish, ready meals, jams.. you name it! I’m mostly interested in some boxes herring fillets and some cans with Sprot. These are extraordinary and I am sure they would be appreciated anywhere in the world as Gourmets products. In fact I love any kind of smoked fish and, in Poland, it is easy to find many smoked food, even cheese which is wonderful! In matters of fish we can also find smoked Sprot, mackerel or Salmon. These are all absolutely amazing!

I have been in to certain fish shops that are great! In Warsaw I saw shops that are very complete and convenient, shops where you can find fresh fish, frozen fish, all kinds of cans and even spices or olive oils. In those shops it is possible to find all kinds or products associated to fish, like that, it’s easy to cook a meal in witch fish is the main attraction. In Portugal, which is a country with long fish tradition, such shops are much more incomplete. You will find all kinds of frozen fish, maybe some fresh fish, frozen seafood and maybe some cans… but nothing else. Of course if you go to the supermarket, you will find long corridors dedicated only to fish, with so many varieties like a Polish person has never seen. In the supermarkets in Portugal there are long frozen fish corridor, huge fresh fish are and even dry Cod area. We also have daily markets. Many cities have their own central market where you can buy everyday fresh meat, vegetables and fish. In big cities like Porto or Lisbon, there are markets in different neighborhoods. There, the fish is always fresh.

I get the feeling that people think the Portuguese only eat fish or mostly fish. Well, this is wrong but not completely wrong. In fact, there are no countries in Europe that eat more fish than meat. Still, Portugal is the country in Europe where people eat more fish. Portuguese people eat 60% meat and 40% fish. Polish people, for example, eat about 12 kg of fish a year. Spanish, French and Greeks eat 30kg a year. The average in Europe is about 21kg per capita. In Portugal people eat about 60kg a year. The rank of the biggest fish consumers in the world are Iceland, Japan and Portugal. So Portugal is the third largest. This is not only because of the the Portuguese geography, near the and in the Atlantic. Obviously, in the Azores and Madeira, Portuguese islands, fish is still one of the main food resources and the continental coast has more than 900km of coast line. The tradition comes from long time, before the Romans and the Greeks were in Iberia… Maybe even from before the Phoenicians. But also, since the Portuguese empire, through all continents the Portuguese learned even more about fish, and since they had to navigate, they had to fish to survive.

In Portugal people eat all kinds of fish. Although many people think that we eat mostly sardines and Cod, you might find Portuguese people eating many different fish and also seafood, from shrimp to crabs, lobster or mussels.

One of the oldest traditions Portugal has is the fish in can. It has one of the oldest preserve industries in the world with so much quality and variety, that it has been copied by many famous countries in the same kind of industry. But the truth is, as Germany has Mercedes, Italy Ferrari or Japan has the best high tech, Portugal has, by far, the best fish cans. Unfortunately, in Poland there are not many Portuguese labels, still you can find, for example, Ramirez, which claims to be one of the oldest companies in the world of this kind of business. Ramirez has many products but mostly, sardines in many tastes and dressings, fillets or without skin and bones. They also have tuna of the best kind in many different sauces like olive oil or hot oil sauce and fillets. In terms of sardines these are by far the best and the biggest. Portuguese sardines are the largest in the world and also the tastier. No, they are not similar to Spanish or Italian. The Portuguese Atlantic provides them a temperature and food that makes them grow in a different way. It might be interesting for you to know that Portugal has the largest Ocean territory in Europe and one of the largest in the whole world. For those who think that Sprot and Sardines are the same, you can’t imagine how wrong you are.. they taste and look absolutely different.

Portuguese producers often use fresh fish and not frozen fish. This gives us the possibility of eating healthier and much tastier. If Tuna is in Portuguese can this is also a guarantee that this is first quality product.

When I first came to Poland, I was not familiar with the language, so I made some mistakes… Once I went to a shop to buy canned tuna so I could prepare a meal. I bought, I went home and I opened the can… I was very confused with what I saw, I thought for a moment that I didn’t know what tuna was. There was something like an oil soup with micro pieces of something floating. I cooked with this but I was frustrated. Later someone laughed and told me that I bought tuna for salad. I asked, what is that, I don’t know such tuna. What is tuna for salad then… simply, tuna rests from the factories, canned for poor countries… it’s about time Polish people say no to this horrible thing. It’s an insult and if you realize what you are buying, this is very expensive. The producers are cheating on people and people let them! You will never find such product in Spain, France, England, Italy or Portugal.

Also I realized that people, like in other countries, give much importance to certain labels since they don’t know exactly what to choose. Labels like Gral or Lisner or some other labels should be forgotten as they don’t provide the guarantee of excellence. Some of the polish preserves are really good! Preserves with Sprot or herring as i mentioned before, but when it comes to sardines or tuna, the quality drops dramatically since these companies buy the best deal, they don’t produce themselves, so they look for the best price and you will never know if you are buying fish from Pacific, Indic of Atlantic. Another shocking thing I saw was cans that claim to have sardines inside. When you read closer the ingredients you realize that inside there are Sprot. It’s an insult to polish people, to the sardine and to the sprot. If these companies write sardine on the can and it is Sprot, they are not only cheating and not being honest, they think that sardine will give better name to their Sprot… why??? This is not the same fish!

Also I realized that there are imported lables from popular countries with very high price. Labels like Rio Mare are sold like the best preserve there is and therefore have very high prices. This is also not honest, this label has medium quality. For example, the sardines from this label are mainly from Morocco and they also buy the fish from the best deal. You can have more quality in Poland buying Spanish or Portuguese cans for lower price.

In Warsaw it’s not so difficult to find many shops with good stuff. For sure in Kuchnie Swiata you will find excellent stuff. But not only there… also in other delikatesy shops and some times in the most surprising places, such as common shops that bet on quality, where clients know that is possible to buy good products for a good price. One thing is for sure.. Canned fish can be a Gourmet product and extremely tasty. If you buy the good stuff you will have for granted that you will enjoy the meal and that, in the end, you feel satisfied.

Goncalo Franco