Mackerel is in season. At least this is what I assumed seeing several luscious looking mackerel dishes on my favourite blogs. I was right: my fishmonger had plenty of surprisingly fresh mackerels and apparently the season stretches through whole summer (though I see mackerel at practically any time of the year). As soon as I brought the fish home, I filleted it and prepared once more my beloved, simple dish: saba no miso ni, or simply mackerel simmered in miso.
If you have never cooked mackerel (in many countries it is known only canned or smoked), it is quite easy to handle, cheap, apparently not endangered and, most of all, very healthy with its high content of omega 3 acids. I used to either fry it or grill it until I discovered the Japanese miso simmering method. Saba no miso ni (サバの味噌に) is a very popular Japanese dish, but hardly known abroad (at least in Western countries). It is a pure delight and one of the most surprising outcomes of all the cooking experiments I have ever made. Even though simmered meals are usually served in autumn or winter, this one is particularly light and as such it is perfect in the middle of summer too.
As a reminder, miso (味噌) is a thick paste and it has three main colour types: white (shiromiso), red (akamiso), black (kuromiso), and also mixed miso (awasemiso). There are myriads of different misos, depending on the brand, the ingredients, the region… Even my small Japanese grocery shop in Switzerland carries many miso varieties, most of which I haven’t tasted yet. Miso is very healthy, packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. It is however important to choose it with a lesser amount of salt, otherwise it is no longer very healthy and may be difficult to cook (the miso’s coulour doesn’t have anything to to with its saltiness sometimes, my black miso being the least salty of all). Miso soup is usually the first dish in which foreigners discover this Japanese staple, but it can be used in so many different cold and warm meals. I find miso highly addictive, probably because it is rich in the umami, the famous fifth taste.
Some of you might have already seen this dish on my blog about two years ago. Even though the old recipe was delicious, but it called for whole fish and the bones wouldn’t soften enough even after long cooking hours. I have decided to post this simpler version using fillets and deleted the old post (you can of course use whole, cut up fish if you prefer). This recipe is a combination of the old one (from No Recipes) and Hiroyuki’s method (Hiroyuki’s Blog on Japanese Cooking), with some modifications.
TIPS: If you own a pressure cooker, this is a perfect dish to use it, but of course it can be prepared in a “normal” pan.
This Japanese dish pairs surprisingly well with fresh chopped dill (a staple in fish dishes in many European countries).
If you choose the fillets, one hour of simmering should be enough (though I preferred it after two hours of very slow simmering). If you choose the whole fish with bones, 2 hours are obligatory if you want the bones to soften. The important thing (in both cases) is to simmer on a very low heat and to avoid touching the fish pieces.
Preparation: 1 – at least 2 hours
Ingredients (serves 2):
4 big mackerel fillets
5 tablespoons mirin (sweet cooking sake)
5 tablespoons sake
3 cm piece of ginger, grated or finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
5 heaped tablespoons red or white miso
250 ml water
Cut the fillets into bite-sized pieces.
Bring to the boil the sake, the mirin, the garlic and the ginger.
Let it boil for 2 minutes.
Add the water, the miso and stir well.
Add the mackerel.
If using a pressure cooker, let the fish simmer for 20 – 45 minutes (I haven’t tested it though…).
If using a simple pot, cover it with a lid and simmer the fish on lowest heat, covered, for at least 1 hour and at least 2 hours if using the whole fish with bones. Do not turn it and avoid touching during the simmering process! If, before serving, the sauce is still too liquid, remove the lid and let it thicken.
Serve it with rice and a salad or pickles. It was delicious served sprinkled with fresh dill.