Iwashi & Herb

The original recipe, in Japanese, from an unknown book on cooking with herbs.

Here in Japan, we are lucky to have seasonal access to fresh sardines, iwashi, and although the original recipe was written with them in mind, tinned sardines also work beautifully in this adaptation.

King Oscar partners with Hagoromo in Japan to market their Oil Sardines or Iwashi Abura Zuke

Iwashi with Herbed Breadcrumbs and Spinach

serves 1-2

  • 1 tin of sardines in oil (I used King Oscar Oil Sardines)
  • 1 large bunch fresh spinach, cleaned & trimmed
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp parsley, minced
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • Other herbs to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Oil from the tin + extra olive oil if needed
  • 50 g butter
  • Sprigs of fresh herbs and herb flowers for garnish


  1. Prepare the broiler and get a pan of water boiling.
  2. Mix together the breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, thyme, other herbs and black pepper.
  3. Coat crumbs with ~2 tablespoons of oil, stirring thoroughly.
  4. Lightly coat an ovenproof pan with the remaining oil. Lay the sardines skin side up.
  5. Sprinkle generously with herbed breadcrumbs.
  6. Broil the sardines and crumbs until the crumbs are golden brown.
  7. While the fishies broil, boil or steam the spinach, drain, and roughly chop. Stir the butter in.
  8. Serve the sardines on top of the spinach, garnished with herb sprigs and flowers.
A Japnese twist on an Italian classic makes an appetiser for two or a small meal for one.

Why is the the recipe singed around the edges? It’s from a cookbook that partly survived a neighbor’s burning house. I found this page resting in a field nearby and rescued it, knowing it would have an appreciative audience here at TTFF.

Kristen McQuillin grew up munching tuna on crackers with her father and enjoying tuna melts at the fancy department store restaurant with her grandmothers. When her husband tried to introduce her to kippers and smoked oysters, she just about vomited. Fortunately tastes change and after two decades in Japan, Kristen now enjoys a wide range of conservas. Except oysters.