Roti Sardin


This sandwich proves that anything is possible if you have a tin of sardines



If you enjoy fish or sardines, I have the perfect recipe for you in my “Trying 5 Sandwiches from 5 Countries” episode. Roti sardin likens to your usual tuna sandwich, except the stuffing is made from canned sardines and tomato sauce cooked into a sambal. If you’re willing to put in a bit of work and sauté some delicious ingredients, this final sandwich is a satisfying, savory treat you’re sure to love.

This roti sardin recipe comes from Nisha, who hails from Penang in Malaysia. Made from sardines in tomato sauce, tamarind, curry leaves, garlic, onion, cloves, anise, and bread, this is no ordinary sandwich. A sambal, or a thick gravy, is made by sauteing red onions, garlic, fresh and dried chili, tomato sauce from the canned sardines, and tamarind juice or tomato. Penang grew up eating this dish every Sunday after her mother returned from church, made the sambal, and used a sandwich maker to make everyone’s lunches.

This sandwich is usually eaten as a complete meal, and it is a popular choice for picnics. When it is served at more upscale events, people often cut the sandwiches into smaller squares to serve as a fancy finger food. However, it is a simple comfort meal to many, and Penang still whips it up whenever she misses home.

Now, where I come from, we usually just slap some ready-made ingredients on bread and call it a sandwich. Roti sardin involves more work, but it is a warm, hearty, satisfying meal that boasts a party of flavors. Just make sure you pull out all the spices, because there’s nothing worse than taking a bite into a hard piece of star anise or clove! Pulling out the spices at the right time ensures that your roti sardin is perfectly savory and sour.

This dish is perfect if you have some sambal lying around, but it’s also a great option if you feel like making a meal out of a sandwich. Give roti sardin a try, and let me know what you think!

Watch the Video


  • 1 can sardines preferably Ayam brand
  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 1 small stalk curry leaves (4-5 leaves)
  • 1 large red onion peeled and sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic peeled and sliced
  • 2 large, fresh red chilis sliced
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp tamarind juice
  • salt to taste
  • 3 dried chilis optional, depending on how spicy you like things
  • fresh cilantro chopped, optional
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cardamom pod


  • Before starting, you can open the can and open up the fish to remove the brittle bones. Keep the sauce for later.
  • Set the pan on the stove on low fire and add the oil in.
  • Once the oil is hot, add in the spices and when they start to crackle a little, add in the curry leaves followed by the sliced onions, garlic and red chillies. If you're using tomato instead of tamarind juice and can take a good heat, now is when you add the tomato and the dried chillies.
  • Increase the fire to medium and cook them for about 3-5 minutes until they start softening.
  • Add in the chili powder, mix everything around and let them all cook for about 2-3 minutes, add a pinch of salt and if you're adding tamarind juice, now is when you do that. (You can add a little bit of water if it starts drying up).
  • Stir in 5 tbsp of the canned sardine tomato sauce and let that cook for 1 minute before tasting it to make sure you are good with the heat and the salt. If it's not spicy enough, you can add 1 more tbsp of chili powder and if it's too spicy, you can add 1/2 more tbsp of the canned sardine tomato sauce. Then let that simmer for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add in the fish, mix it up with everything in the pan and let it fry for about 2 minutes before smashing the fish into smaller chunks. Let it cook for about 5-6 minutes.
  • If there is too much gravy, then you can increase the heat and let it dry up a little. Once that's done, turn off the heat, add in the coriander and mix it up.
  • Fold it into a slice of bread or make a clamp toast sandwich, using a sandwich maker. Enjoy!
Course: Lunch, Snack
Region: Asia


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