The best cicchetti in Venice: Sarde in Saor
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Sarde in Saor: Venice on a plate
Sarde in saor, meaning Sweet & Sour Sardines, are a philosophy of life in Venice.
They are the sneakiest of cicchetti because they drip, you can’t hold them in your hand and you have to put the fish and onion all together in your mouth. In short, you have to surrender to the use of the fork. But when you taste one, you already think how good the second one will be.
The Saór or savór is a sweet and sour condiment based on vinegar, white wine and white onions; sometimes pine nuts and sultanas are added.
It is a process born as a method of conservation on the boats of Venetian fishermen and sailors. The word saór in the Venetian dialect means “flavor”.
A little background on Sarde in Saor
The saór was, and is mainly, used for sardines or other small fish from the Venetian lagoon, but also for chicken and various types of vegetables – thry the recipe by Cook in Venice for Sweet & Sour Butternut Squash. The main ingredient is first fried and then marinated in the saór so that it can be kept for longer. Sarde in saór should be eaten cold preferably after 24-48 hours of marinating, and are typical of all or almost all Venetian bacari.
Although there are some who want to see in the sardines in saór a descent from Jewish cuisine, the most probable hypothesis is that the saór is born on the boats of fishermen and sailors who, forced to long voyages, had to invent methods of conservation for their food.
Of course, the first form of sardines in saór was certainly not the one we know today, most likely the first recipe involved marinating fresh sardines interspersed with layers of onions with oil and vinegar. Over the centuries the recipe has then undergone small variations that have ennobled it such as frying, the addition of sultanas, widespread in Venice thanks to its relations with the East and, more recently, pine nuts.
Maffioli defined them as “Sailors’ food and mainland supply”.
In 1755 the sarde in saór received an important national recognition by appearing in the theatrical text by Carlo Goldoni “Le donne di casa soa” . Every year in Venice the sarde in saór are the protagonists of the Festa del Redentore which takes place in July.
A very simple fish dish, so rooted in the culture and life of Venice and Venetians in general, to represent Veneto itself.
Ingredients for Sarde in Saor
Sardines, onions and vinegar, these are the ingredients masterfully combined with the following proportions 2: 1 or 2 kilos of onions for every kilo of sardines.
The ingredients are few, simple, but their quality is essential for a successful dish: the sardines must be very fresh and the onions of the territory, because the saor is made with a white onion from Chioggia produced in the territory of Venice. The onion in the past represented an effective remedy against scurvy.
The dish should be tasted cold and is excellent accompanied by slices of grilled white polenta.
Where to eat Sarde in Saor in Venice
El Sbarlefo, Salizada del Pistor, 4558, Venice
El Volto, Calle Cavalli, 4081, Venice
Do Spade, San Polo, 859, Venice
TuttoSeafood at TuttoFood Milano
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