Sanma Shioyaki: Grilled Pacific Saury with Salt
In Canada, autumn means Apples: they’re incredibly abundant at this time of the year. But in Japan, autunmn means Sanma, a fish so seasonal that its Japanese name brings together the character for autumn (秋) with the one for knife (刀 – because, of course, sanma kind of looks like a long blade) and the one for fish (魚), to make 秋刀魚, literally “Autumn Knife Fish”.
In the west, sanma is formally known as “pacific saury”, but more commonly referred to as “mackerel pike”. Personally, I’ll always call it sanma, and think of it as just another reason to look forward to the autumn. In season, sanma cost almost nothing, and grilling them always brings back memories of the big, back-to-school barbecue parties students at my university always organized at the start of the fall term.
Sanma is definitely best grilled over a charcoal fire and lightly seasoned with a bit of salt or with a light mixture of soy-sauce and grated daikon. It’s already too cold to barbecue here so, for tonight’s dinner, we did it on a stove-top grill.
In Montreal it’s very difficult to find fresh fish, but vacuum-packed frozen fish is also fine. I’m very proud of myself that I paid just $2.10 (for two of them!) for this spectacular fish at Angel Seafoods the other day.
- Pacific Saury – two whole fish
- Daikon – a small section
- Soy sauce – 3 tablespoons
- Grate a piece of daikon lightly, to obtain the watery pulp
- If you prefer, gut the fish. (This isn’t strictly necessarily: personally, I like the fish “whole” – guts and all.)
- If your grill is shorter than the fish, cut it into two sections.
- Sprinkle a generous quantity of salt onto the fish
- Let the fish sit for about 15 minutes, then rinse off the excess salt
- Pat off the excess moisture using kitchen towels
- Heat a stovetop grill (or, better yet, do it on a barbecue)
- Grill on each side for about 8 minutes, letting the considerable amount of fat sanma contains drain away.
Serve hot, alongside a little molehill of grated daikon pulp. At the table, add soy sauce to the daikon pulp, mix, and add the soy-sauce-daikon mix to the fish.
Tonight, we had Grilled sanma alongside white rise, miso soup and stir-fried soy sprouts.