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Saba, which means mackerel in Japanese, is one of my favorite Asian fish meals and is relatively inexpensive. Shioyaki means “salt grilled”, so Saba Shioyaki translates as salt grilled or fried mackerel fish. If you’re looking for a fish meal for a reasonable price which is quite delicious with just a few ingredients, this is definitely a recipe you should try!:-)
Mackerel or SABA is one of the most popular types of fish in Japan used for cooking. There’s an expression there, “mackerel run very fast,” which means that this fish that gets damaged very quickly. So we pay a lot of attention to its freshness. In addition, because of its parasite, they are never eaten in sashimi = raw. If you should always cook or freeze them. When we eat raw or pickled in vinegar, we pay a lot of attention by looking at the meat at the time of preparation.
In Japan, “blue fish” such as mackerel, horse mackerel, and sardines are very popular, and these blue fish are often cooked with vinegar. Shimesaba is very simple recipe, but / so this dish shows the competence of the Cook…. At the Japanese restaurants, first order this “shimesaba,” and you will immediately know the expertise level of the chef:-)
Over where I lived previously, Marukai has an abundance of mackerel to buy, both fresh and frozen, but there was a sale for $3.28/2 for wild caught frozen fillets… So I had to buy a few packets. After thawing them out, they look quite fresh too. Pretty good, right?
Mackerel is a very popular fish in Japan since ancient times.
It belongs to the species of the genus “Scomber” and “Rastrelliger”. In Japan, there are mainly 4 kinds of mackerel: Ma-saba, Goma-saba, Gurukuma and Nijo-saba.
At home, it is caught in the coastal regions at all seasons, so it is not an expensive fish.
On the other hand, it gets spoiled very easily. So it is necessary to remove the blood and clean it as soon as possible after you buy it. In addition, its flesh is very fragile. It is necessary to be careful not to break it when cooking.
Mackerel is a very nutritious fish, rich in protein, iron, and vitamins B1 and B2. Like sardine and tuna, It contains quite a lot of Omega 3.
Normally in Japan, it is grilled, simmered, or fried.
With mackerel, we often make sushi and sashimi by marinating it in vinegar. On the other hand, it is rarely eaten raw because of the risk of anisakis (you may want to skip looking at this if you like fish or sushi as its gross, it’s a nasty worm like parasite that lives in some fish and can be transferred to humans by eating raw or uncooked fish or other types of meat)
If you do not have enough experience to cook this fish, I recommend that you do not eat it raw !
After brushing the skin and meat of the fish with some sake, you sprinkle salt (preferably you’d use a big-grain salt, but table salt is fine) on it, let the saba sit for 20min, and…
Voila! The saba starts to sweat out its extra moisture, which you can dab off with a napkin before preparing it for the oven.
Eady Saba Shioyaki Recipe
With just a few ingredients and some baking, you get a delicious, nutritious, and healthy dinner, which you can serve it by itself with some lemon (I had no lemons, so yes, that’s a lime :P), or combine with some rice and miso soup.
- 2 saba fillets
- Olive Oil
- Sake or Mirin, for brushing
- Pat fish dry with paper towels.
- With a basting brush or a paper towel, lightly brush some sake/mirin on the skin and meat of the saba.
- Sprinkle salt on both the skin and meat of the saba, enough to cover it. Let stand at room temp for 20 min.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
- Dab off any liquid that has surfaced after the 20 minutes, and brush off any excess salt.
- Lightly dress fish in some olive oil (so it won't stick to the pan).
- With the saba's skin side down, place on pan and cook for 15-20min, or until fish is cooked all the way through.
- Serve with lemon, and/or rice and miso soup, and enjoy!
I don’t prepare fresh fish very often at home, because there is a dire lack of a quality fishmonger in my neighborhood (and even in the local market, it is not great). As a result, it is often at the turn of a walk in another neighborhood that when I come across a fishmonger I let myself go to buy fish, usually without knowing much in advance what I will do with it.
This was still the case the day I bought two mackerel fishes. I had in mind an Asian recipe already made a few years ago of mackerel stewed with tea, but I decided finally towards a Japanese recipe of mackerel cooked sake, mirin, soy sauce (or oyster sauce), and ginger.
So, the many emblematic ingredients of Japanese cuisine, which here combined with the nimono technique (simmering under a floating lid) rid the mackerel of its sometimes strong smell and make it a delight to enjoy hot or cold with a bowl of rice. Yum!
You can even add the Saba Shioyaki to your kids school bento lunch box and have a really nutritious and healthy snack for your little one.
Have you tried making Saba Shioyaki before? Let me know in the comments.