Addictively Delicious Ati Manel Tinned Garfish in Spiced Olive Oil

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There is nothing more exciting in this business than when you get to try a completely new species. I received a tin of Ati Manel brand needlefish in spiced olive oil for Christmas and now is the time to break it out. If you have dipped your toes in the Tinned Fish Craze, you have probably seen these tins of sardines, tuna, shellfish and pizzas…better known in English as garfish.

What are needlefish?

There are three species of needlefish within the genus Big handsome which are also known as needlefish. They are very distinctive looking fish, with a long, thin body and a long, needle-like mouth, hence the name. In Portuguese they are known as pizzas OR needle fishAmericans may find the name confusing, as there is an unrelated family of fish, the pike, which are a favorite fish of sportsmen.

Garfish used for food are not targeted, they are a bycatch of European mackerel fisheries. They follow a similar migratory pattern and are often caught together with mackerel. Garfish could be considered an underutilized species as there is not a large market for these otherwise tasty and seemingly abundant fish. The problem may have to do with their bones: Garfish bones contain a harmless chemical that turns them green.

About Ati Manel

The company that canned my bass is the rebirth of the original Ati Manelan old and popular Portuguese canning company. Artist/designer Luís Mendonça is the great-grandson of Ati Manel, but he was sixty years too late to live out his family's legacy. The original company closed its doors in the 1950s, but the family held on to the vintage marketing and design materials. Mr. Mendonça was inspired to resurrect both the classic designs and his family's commitment to quality canned seafood.

The modern company is a creation of Luís Mendonça and Adriano Ribeiro, who also created the well-known Jose Gourmet Canning Company, also in Portugal. They definitely fooled me into thinking they were a long-established Portuguese cannery, not some rock star of canned fish. Their website talks about the importance of bringing back what made the original company and its products so popular. Much of this has to do with the close relationships needed between the harvester and the producer.

This is actually my second can of Ati Manel to try, as I recently tried their small scallops in Caldeirada sauce. I thought they tasted pretty good, but I would have to heat the can to get the most flavor out of the sauce. It was a late night snack, so I'll have to get another can to review it properly, but first impressions were good.

The packaging and the product

Nowadays, it is expected that cans of imported products will contain fantastic works of art. preserves and Ati Manel delivers. The artwork on each box is based on Ati Manel's vintage European advertising from the mid-20th century. They have that timeless aesthetic that reminds me of old ocean liner posters or classic Italian coffee ads. In real life they are a Maritime historianI'm not an art historian, so I don't know if the box art falls into Art Deco or Mid-Century Modern, but I know what I like.

Open can of Ati Manel needlefishOpen can of Ati Manel needlefish

Inside the box were the thin, silvery needlefish, neatly packed in a tangy looking olive oil. The fish were in good condition and not overly packaged. I noticed that the needlefish are very firm, but also delicate. It is easy to ruin the skin if handled too much, but they will not fall apart into mush.

canned garfish on platecanned garfish on plate

I tried a garfish on its own and it was somewhere between an anchovy and a sardine, but probably more on the anchovy side. They are firm, lean and salty, with a better mouthfeel than a sardine. I wasn't sure if I liked them on first bite, but just like anchovies, I kept coming back for another bite “just to be sure”. It's probably the saltiness factor combining with the spicy oil, but I found the flavor quite addictive and could have easily eaten the can right there.

Ati Manel needlefish in boxAti Manel needlefish in box

I put some pieces of needlefish on Wasa gluten free crispy breadwhich I also find addictive, along with some banana pepper slices. It was quite tasty, and much better than my attempt to combine the fish with a piece of salami. The best version, without a doubt, was to eat them straight from the box with a fork along with half a soft kaiser roll to dip in the oil. It was incredibly delicious and a potential appetizer that everyone would enjoy.

The Verdict on Canned Perch by Ati Manel

This was a fun adventure and definitely one of my favorite canned fish experiences so far. If you like anchovies, especially if you find yourself snacking on them, these are for you. If you prefer sardines, but are looking to mix it up, these canned garfish in spiced oil are different enough to be fun. I don't like sardines, but I really like these garfish and can't wait to try more from Ati Manel.

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