As Morocco is the world’s sardine capital, it comes as no surprise that this small, healthful
fish is eaten frequently and in many different dishes. One popular way to prepare
sardines on the street is with a garlic-and-herb-laden charmoula marinade smeared
between two facing butterflied sardines, which are then lightly floured and deep-fried
as a pair. They are called serdine chrak. Chrak means “coupled” or “partnered.” They are
also sometimes known by the amorous French term, sardines amoureuses.
Marinated pairs can also be panfried, grilled, covered with tomato sauce and baked, or
prepared in a tagine. But deep-frying the fish in a big, blackened kettle of bubbling oil is
the classic street style. Shake off as much flour as possible before slipping the pairs into
the hot oil.
Note that Atlantic sardines tend to be larger than their Mediterranean counterparts and
may require more marinade.
MAKES 1 2 PAIRS; SERVES 4 T O 6
24 medium sardines
4 garlic cloves, minced
Heaped 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf
Heaped 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
1⁄4 tsp cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄4 cup/60 ml fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
Light olive oil or vegetable oil for deep-frying
All-purpose flour for dredging
2 lemons, cut into wedges
Rinse the sardines and clean each. Remove the
head, trim the tail, and gently open outward,
sliding a thumbnail along the central spine to
remove it, as well as any bones. Spread open
into a single, butterflied fillet.
In a small mixing bowl, add the garlic, parsley,
cilantro, cumin, paprika, and cayenne. Season
with salt and pepper. Moisten with the lemon
juice and 1 Tbsp olive oil. Blend well.
Coat the sardines with the marinade and
lay in a shallow bowl. Spoon the remaining
marinade over the fish. Cover and marinate
for at least 15 minutes.
Lay a sardine skin-side down. Spread with
1B⁄c tsp of the marinade and then place a second
sardine on top skin-side up. Repeat with the
remaining sardines and marinade.
In a large skillet or sauté pan, heat at least
B⁄c in/12 mm of oil over high heat until the surface
shimmers. Reduce the heat to medium-high.
Put flour in a wide bowl. Holding a sardine
pair together, coat with flour and then dust off
any excess. With a slotted spoon or spatula,
gently slip the pair into the oil. Cook until
golden, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer to
paper towels to drain. Working in small batches,
dust the remaining sardine pairs with flour and
cook in the same manner.
Serve hot with the lemon wedges.