Sanma-no kabayaki: Braised Pacific Saury Fillets
Here’s another recipe featuring my favorite fatty fish: pacific saury (sanma). This one involves rather more than just grilling: “Kabayaki” is a braising technique for fish fillets that uses a sweetened soy sauce mixture similar to what you would use as a marinading liquid for teriyaki.
Classically, kabayaki is a way of cooking freshwater eel. If you’ve been to a Japanese restaurant in England you’ve probably run into Kabayaki as “unagi-don” or “unadon” - eel-on-rice. It’s great; a classic restaurant dish.
In this recipe, we use Pacific Saury instead of eel for two very good reasons. First, eel spoils almost as soon as it’s out of the water, making it virtually impossible to cook at home (unless you have a large fish tank, some sharp knives and a fair bit of gumption!) Second, eel is expensive. Sanma, on the other hand, is not only delicious but affordable, too: so Saury Kabayaki is kind of like poor man’s Eel Kabayaki.
It’s a powerful dish, sure to impress friends, and very good when served “donburi” style: in a large bowl over plain white rice.
Ingredients (for two):
- Whole pacific saury - two (can’t find them? substitute another oily fish, such as mackerel or sardines.)
- Oil – two tablespoons
- Sansyo powder
For the sauce
- Soy sauce – three tablespoons
- Sugar – one tablespoon
- Mirin – two tablespoons
- Water – two tablespoons
First you fillet the saury by cutting it into four parts ( two fillets, which you cook, and the head and the spine, which you discard). This technique is called sanmai oraoshi in Japanese.
- Cut open the saury’s stomach and take out the guts
- Run the fish (the inside too!) under a cold water tap to clean it
- Pat off the excess moisture using kitchen paper
- Cut off the head
- Slice it open from the tail to the head along the spine
- Slice the other side too
- Cut the meaty part in half
- Mix the ingredients for the sauce (soy sauce, sugar, mirin and water) in a bowl
- Cover the fillets with flour
- Heat the pan and add the oil
- Sauté the fish, starting with the inside
- When it turns brown, turn it over and sauté the skin side
- When the fillets are cooked through, add the mixed sauce all at once
- Let the sauce boil until it covers both sides of the fillets and reduces
- Plate the fillets, or serve them as donburi (on deep bowls, over rice). Sprinkle with powdered sansyo pepper and serve.
Even if you don’t make donburi, I strongly recommend to serve this with white rice on the side. It’s not the same without it!