Japanese style grilled mackerel with crispy skin and tender flesh, seasoned simply with salt. This easy recipe allows you to enjoy this delicious fish to the fullest in practically no time!
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What is saba no shioyaki?
Saba no shioyaki (鯖の塩焼き) is a simple dish made with skin-on mackerel fillets that have been lightly seasoned with salt and grilled. Saba (鯖) is the Japanese word for "mackerel" and shioyaki means "salt grill".
This dish is well loved and can regularly be seen in households in Japan. It's most commonly eaten for dinner with rice, miso soup and pickles but it's not uncommon to eat it for lunch or even breakfast too!
What kind of mackerels to be seen in Japan
There are 4 common type of mackerel around Japan:
- Blue mackerel
- Indian mackerel
- Double-lined mackerel
- Chub mackerel
In supermarkets in Japan, you can see fair amount of imported mackerel from Norway as well.
In fact, 90% of imported mackerel in Japan is from Norway.
How we eat mackerel in Japan
As one of the most popular types of fish in Japan, we eat mackerels in many different ways such as:
- Salted and grilled
- Saba miso (simmered in miso base sauce)
- Karaage (deep fried)
- Shime saba (pickled)
Mackerel and Japanese culture
With Japan being an island country, it's no wonder that we have a long history of eating fish.
Eating mackerel has had roots in Japanese culture for quite some time. Mackerel bones have been unearthed from Jomon-era (around BC 3000 to BC 100) sites and it is thought that mackerel has been eaten since these ancient times.
It is believed that mackerel was eaten by a wide range of people, from commoner people to aristocrats.
Tips and tricks to make a great saba no shioyaki in a home grill
It is not hard to make grilled mackerel, I mean it's just cooking fish under a grill right?
That's true, but these small tips and cooking duration make a big difference.
So I will list tips and tricks specifically to make saba no shioyaki (grilled mackerel) in a home grill!
Use sake or salt to remove unwanted odour
Mackerel may have a fishy odour when cooked as it is. There are two options to fix this and improve the taste, texture and smell of mackerel.
- Sprinkling salt to allow the mackerel to release excess water content
- Rub with 1 tbsp sake
Either way, rest the mackerel fillets for 15 minutes at least (ideally 30 minutes), and then dry the surface with a paper towel.
Preheat the grill
Before grilling fish, it is important to first ensure that the oven grill is well preheated. 3 minutes with high heat setting is enough time (although this can depend on your grill - electric grills generally take longer).
Placing fish on a cold grill not only takes longer, but also causes the skin and flesh to stick to the grill, which will be annoying when it's time to wash up.
Additionally, you can lightly oil the surface of the wire rack inside the grill oven to prevent the skin and meat from sticking.
Be generous with heat
Some people may set on low heat because you are worried about burning your fish, but a low heat is not a good idea when it comes to grilling fish.
If you cook for a long time, not only does the excess oil and water leak out but also the flavour and good juice will be lost, resulting in a dry mackerel lacking in taste.
My recommendation is:
- 4 minutes on flesh side (medium-high to high heat)
- 3 minutes on skin side (medium-high to high heat)
This might change depending on your grill. I use a gas (fire) oven grill however each grill is different, so when you make it for the first time, I recommend keeping an eye on it so that it won't burn.Print