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Aug 23, 2006 10:28 PM

What is the difference between boquerones, sardines and anchovies?

I'm just not getting a satisfactory answer goggling.

Today's lunch was a can of boquerones in olive oil. If no one told me, I would just think it was a good sardine.

Is it just a particular variety of fish? Is there one and only one fish that is a boquerone? It is almost always referred to as a Spanish anchovy. Is it just a specific type of anchovy?

Why did these get singled out and not just grouped under the category of sardine? Why aren't anchovies just grouped under sardine?

There is, after all, no such fish as a sardine. It can be any type of fish as this Washinton Post article says ...

"A sardine can be almost any small, fatty fish, but most often is related to the herring ... in Scotland are the sprat or brisling (both Clupea sprattus); in Spain and the Mediterranean, it's the round sardinella (Sardinella aurita); in Norway, it's a sild (any of several species of small herring); and in England and much of the rest of Europe, the young of the pilchard (Sardina pilchardus) ... in North America, cans juvenile Clupea harengus, otherwise known as Atlantic herring."

The very end of the article seems to indicate that only one specific fish is a boquerone which is the same as an anchovy?

Is that true?

Another nice little article just about boquerones.

About anchovies

So why don't people just salt sardines like anchovies? The boquerones don't seem particularily fattier or different than a sardine.

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  1. Not sure about sardine species, but boquerones are spanish white anchovies, cured in vinegar, packed in oil.

    Warning: rant: personally, I much prefer good old fashioned salty anchovies to the vinegary boquerones, and I'm getting really annoyed with boquerones turning up everywhere in lieu of salted, especially on caesar salad where they don't belong! Keep them the hell away from my pizza, nobody gets hurt!

    2 Replies
      1. re: Cathy

        It is probably the cool trend right now. The can I had, Rianxeira Boquerones en aceite de oliva, didn't have any vinegar taste or listed that on the label. They just tasted like a pleasant sardine, but I wouldn't put it on a pizza or caesar salad, just as I wouldn't put an ordinary sardine on it.

        Someone brought me these from Spain. I'll have to check out Spanish Table to see what they have boquerone-wise.

    1. I read the other day that baby herring are often sold as sardines... I realize this only confuses things further. Sorry about that.

      1 Reply
      1. re: steinpilz

        Yeah, there is some sort of informal limit about how big a herring can be before it can stop being called a sardine.

      2. Anchovy and sardine both belong to the herring family. Sardine is not a name for one fish but a collective term for a number of small soft-boned species in the herring family. The word sardine came from the original canning of the small fish in Sardinia. Anchovies are usually smaller than sardines and also different in their jaw structure. The lower jaw of sardine protrudes farther out than the upper jaw. This is reverse for the anchovy. Boqueron is the Spanish word for anchovy. The word boquerones by itself does not mean "white anchovies, cured in vinegar, packed in oil", as stated in a previous post.
        In Portugal, Spain and Italy, one can find anchovies packed in oil, similar to sardines. Of course, most of them are heavily salted and canned.

        3 Replies
        1. re: PBSF

          Thanks. I guess I lucked out since my can wasn't heavily salted. Actually, some of the sardines I had from Spain were heavy on the salt, but not this particular can.

          However, got it. I understand the difference.

          1. re: rworange

            I am glad you enjoyed the sardines. Eating canned anchovies and sardines are serious business in Spain and France. The top sardine canners date their vintages.

          2. Probably not relevant to this discussion, but in Spain the boquerones I had were served fresh and were a world apart from the ones in cans. They were usually sprinkled with a little salt after being cooked in olive oil - no vinegar, no high heat. I've seen fresh boquerones occasionally in US markets, always for ridiculous prices and never with that flavor the Spanish ones had.

            1. The boquerĂ³n eaten most in Spain is also known as European Anchovy--its latin name is Engraulis encrasicolus. It is a different fish from the sardine, which (in Spain) is Sardina pilchardus. There are other anchovies that are eaten in Spain (and the US and elsewhere) from this same Engraulis family--anchoas, anchoitas, anchovetas, etc. I'm not sure that sardinilla is just a small sardina pilchardus... it may be a different fish altogether.

              If the fishmonger doesn't know the latin name of the fish that he/she is selling and can't tell you where and how it was caught, then there is really no telling what it is... When trying to translate Spanish fish varieties to American English, I've found that it's best to find out the latin name, because there is much more variety and specificity here (Spain, that is) when it comes to the denominations of fish.

              In the US, fish tend to get grouped under very general semantic categories that don't mean a whole lot, "anchovy", "sea bass," "bream," etc.--so, unless you do your homework, it's hard to determine what the fish is--especially given the fact that most fish on the European side of the Atlantic aren't present on the East Coast and would have to be imported, so generally "European" fish are substituted with cheaper Asian or South American fish of a different species (which is not to say that they aren't good, just that they may be of a different species/variety).

              Here in Madrid, boquerones--both battered and fried and al vinagre (in vinegar)--are one of the perennial tapas that you get with a glass of wine or beer. Most bars make their own variation. I don't think anyone would throw them on top of a caesar salad here! Fresh sardines are usually grilled and you find them at all the outdoor street festivals here, as well as at tapas bars that specialize in this.

              Can't wait to read your other post on the sardines more thoroughly. I'm much more of an aficionada of boquerones, so I'm looking foward to benefitting from your sardine research.

              1 Reply
              1. re: butterfly

                Thanks so much for the info, butterfly ... and, again, the boquerones.