Thursday, 8 March 2007

Mackerel boiled in miso - さばのみそ煮

Saba and Miso

Mackerel, saba in Japanese, isn't my favourite fish. It has a really strong, oily taste and the few times I've tried it as a topping for nigiri sushi, I've barely been able to choke it down. On the other hand, it's a great pairing for a bowl of steamed rice or in a bland, sweet bento lunch that needs a salty, savoury kick.

The strong, salty miso flavour of this sauce holds its own with the mackerel in a way more delicate flavours could not, but this isn't something I wanted to gulp down in a few bites on its own. A little bite of fish, some rice, some pickles, then another little bite of fish was all I could take. Yet I'll be making this again, if only because it complements the collection of rice, pickles and side dishes that make up a quick Japanese meal so well.

Like many of my Japanese cooking adventures, I received a translated copy of the recipe from a co-worker. This time, it was a good deal shorter than the original recipe and omitted some ingredients I could plainly see in the accompanying photo of the dish. Hrrrmmm.. I winged it, but going over the recipe with my Japanese tutor after the fact it seems I did everything but score the skin of the fish before cooking. This recipe comes from a book of simplified Japanese recipes for the rushed home cook, which I hope to get my hands on soon, and it took me less than twenty minutes from concept to table, perfect weeknight fare.

Recipe: Saba no misoni

Serves two with rice and side dishes.

2 fillets of fresh mackerel (さば), cleaned and boned**
1/2 naganegi (長ねぎ)aka 'Japanese leek'
3 thin slices of fresh ginger (しょうが)

Simmering Liquid
1/4 cup sake 酒
2/3 cup water 水
1/3 teaspoon dashi powder だしの素
2 tablespoons miso みそ
1/2 tablespoon sugar 砂糖

  • Clean the fillets and remove any visible bones. With a knife, score a cross into the skin side for easier flavour absorption.

  • Combine the ingredients for the simmering liquid in a frypan, add the ginger and bring to the boil.

  • Add the mackerel and simmer for 8-10 minutes, spooning the liquid over the fish every now and then.

    Miso Saba in the pan

  • After around 3 minutes, add the onion, turning to coat occasionally.

  • When the sauce has thickened, remove the mackerel and negi from the pan, arrange on the plate and spoon some of the sauce on top if desired.

** Beware the partially dried, pre-salted fish sold alongside the fresh in Japanese supermarkets, which will be far too salty for this recipe but can make a delicious 2 minute dinner when tossed under the grill just long enough to warm through and crisp the skin.

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