Seasonal Fishes 11: Saba/Mackerel

Mackerel or saba is a fish eaten over the whole Northern Hemisphere and does come under many varieties and names.
In Japan it is mainly called “Saba”, “Masaba” or “Sekisaba”.
In this country it is mainly caught off Oita, Saga Prefecture, although quite a few are caught off our coasts, especially off Yaizu.
They feed on plankton mainly.

They are prepared and cooked in many guises. In France, my birthplace, they are steamed and then pickled in white wine and spices before being canned.

naturally tinned tuna is available in Japan,too!

In Northern Europe they also eaten half raw as smorgasbrod and pickled fish.

It can be appreciated as sashimi, but it must be absolutely fresh and is best served with grated fresh ginger and lemon.
As far as sushi is concerned, “masaba” variety is best

Saba Konbujime nigiri.

It is especially popular as “oshizushi” (pressed sushi).

Double oshizushi!

My preference goes for Saba konbujime.

Saba Bogata

The mackerel is kept inside a variety of wet seaweed for an hour or so before put whole on top of a long “bar” of rice, then cut to size.

Saba Heshiko Zuke.
Saba/Mackerel has been a staple fish in Japan since immemorial times.
One way to conserve it for better transport away from the shores was “Saba Heshiko zuke”, that is pickled in miso and sake white lees.

Saba/mackerel is easily grilled, either on the stick as above,

or grilled and served cut in slices.

The same grilled saba can be served as oshizushi/presed sushi!

Saba can be also served to a tatsty crispiness by deep-frying it!

Or simmered the Japanese way with miso, sake, soy sauce, ginger and mirin!

A very versatile fish!

4 thoughts on “Seasonal Fishes 11: Saba/Mackerel”

  1. Is oshizushi the same as Saba Battake ? Saba Battake is a shime saba pressed in wooden box, and pressed. It looks similar, but I am wondering if they use pickled saba or shime saba ?

    I think Saba in caught in Japanese water although related to European Blue Mackerel , has differences in taste be espcially once cooked.
    Japanese Saba tend tobe tilted on “dryer” side , and the European ones are really fatty especially the Norwegian Mackerel variery.

    Frankly I enjoyed the European variety for Shioyaki and Japanese variety as for sashimi or sushi.

  2. Thorough report of how Saba is big in the Japanese appreciation. Thanks for posting.
    Sadly in New York City, fishmongers just don’t carry it at all, except from the Blue Moon Fish company coming to Green markets in Manhattan and Brooklyn. It means that the mackerels are there along Long Island coasts. Just that fishmongers don’t care to to sell it or customers have no notion how succulent it is.

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Why may Shizuoka people be justified in assuming they eat some of the best in Japan?

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