Inspired by the abundance of underutilized fish in the Pacific Northwest and the ready-to-eat products found in Asian and European markets, Tiny Fish Co. “embraces flavors more often found in restaurants than in a tin."
Other fish in the sea
“Preserved foods are a snapshot of time and place,” says Sara Hauman, Tiny Fish Co. owner and chef. The 34-year-old entrepreneur is a two-time James Beard Rising Star semi-finalist and hometown fan favorite of Top Chef Portland 2021.
“I want to continue to embrace sourcing locally just as I would in a restaurant while showing consumers on a national level the bounty of the waters in the Pacific Northwest.”
Hauman works closely with a family-owned and operated shellfish farm based in Washington State. Home to the Puget Sound, the area is known for its abundance of char, cod, clams, pollock, mussels, rockfish, salmon, spot prawn and trout. Tiny Fish Co. is also committed to ethical sourcing from local fisheries that can trace the vessels harvesting the fish.
Tinned fish is having a moment
During the pandemic, tinned fish experienced a renaissance with home cooks as a go-to, shelf-stable pantry staple that is easily prepared and incorporated into a healthy diet.
“Tinned fish is having a moment,” Hauman says. “The artistry behind the preservation techniques and even the design of the tins and packaging seem to be increasing the widespread popularity of fish in cans in the US.”
Tiny Fish Co. products come packaged in the cheerful pinks, yellows, blues and greens popular with other recent sustainable tinned fish launches including Fishwife and Scout Cannery – also both woman-owned.
Spicing up tinned fish
Hauman admits that she loves a tin of smoked salmon with a side of mayo and crackers but is inspired by more adventurous tinning techniques after encountering age-old conservas traditions in the Basque region of Spain and the flavorful tinned seafood of Asian groceries.
“Fish has been preserved underground with chilis, fermented and dried with sugar and soy sauce, pickled and even salted, dried and covered in fat,” she explains.
“I want to embrace these traditions and put my own creative spin on what I think tinned fish can be.” She has chosen to avoid the traditionally salt-heavy profiles in favor of citric, soy and spices.
Tiny Fish Co. launched last month online and in select Portland stores, starting with the Spanish-style smoked mussels flavored with extra virgin olive oil, sherry, vinegar, paprika, cumin, coriander, fennel, garlic, onion, salt, oregano, citric acid and natural smoke.
Coming soon with plans to expand retail placements nationwide: Rockfish in Sweet Soy Sauce, Octopus in Butter Lemon and Dill, and Smoked Geoduck with Black Pepper.