Saba mackerel with miso (saba miso-ni)
Frankly I like my saba mackeral (horse mackerel) grilled with some oil and coarse unrefined salt, dripped with freshly squeezed lime and eaten with a hot bowl of rice. But since that's too common, here's saba mackeral cooked with miso. The Chinese version uses fish slices and daojang (Chinese bean paste) and tastes better, IMHO.
Saba mackeral has tripled in price in the last 8 years. Recipes House was the only place selling it then, about RM10 per kg for the frozen fish, and a friend found that the fish were being sold at about RM6 in Miri so I told the good people at Hong Seng, and they brought the fish in and sold them at RM8 per kg. Now, the fish is sold at RM29 per kg, a jump of RM21 in 8 years. That works out to nearly RM3 increase every year. Btw, our local mackerel and saba mac are very different. Our local mackerels, the ikan kayu, tastes just like its name, 'wood fish', because there isn't much oil in it unlike saba mackerel, which is from cold waters, usually Canadian waters.
Many people dislike saba mackeral because of the fishy smell. It is rather fishy, but it's also tasty and easy to clean--no scales or hard bones to cut. The fish thaws fast because it is so oily and you don't need to wait for it to fully thaw (we only get frozen saba mac here) or it gets mushy. Clean it when it's about half thawed. If you really hate the fishy smell, maybe sanma is a better fish for you. I love sanma fish. It is more delicate than saba mac, and is slightly cheaper at RM27 per kg. Sanma, like saba, is best grilled with oil and salt. Oh, yum.
But back to saba in miso paste. You can use any miso but since I have white (which actually is creamy color), brown (the regular miso for soups) and red miso (dark brown), I used a bit of all but more of the dark. I'm so thankful to Tina for telling me to store my miso in glass jars in the freezer compartment where they can keep longer plus they don't freeze so I can use the pastes immediately. I've also found that belachan doesn't freeze in the freezer too so I toast and mix the belachan with some lime juice and keep it in the freezer for use anytime. Btw, my friend R sent me a mail on home tips and the one I love most is the one that teaches you to keep your clean sheets folded in its pillowcase. No more looking for the matching pillows! Am I the only one who never thought of that??
Saba Mackeral With Miso
2 saba mackeral (about 400 to 500 g)
3 T miso (red or brown or mixture)
1 T light soy sauce
1 T mirin
2 T sake
1 cup water
1 1/2 T fine sugar
3 cm fresh ginger
Prep: Fillet the fish. You can leave one side with bones on. Cut each fillet into 8 cm chunks. Cut two thick slices of ginger, then cut the remaining ginger into very thin strips for garnishing.
1. Put the ginger slices, sake, mirin, soy sauce, sugar and water into a pot or frying pan big enough to hold the fish slices in one layer. When the sauce boils, let it boil 2 minutes, then add the fish, skin-side up in one layer. When sauce boils again, reduce fire to medium low, put the lid on. I used a frying pan and a lid from another pot to give a tight fit.
2. Once in a while, baste the fish with the sauce and shake the pan or move the fish gently to prevent them from sticking to the pan. Cook for 10 minutes.
3. Carefully pour out some of the liquid into a bowl, add the miso to the liquid and whisk until the miso is well-blended. Add the miso liquid back into the pan and continue to baste the fish with it.
4. After another 5 minutes, the liquid should be thick. If it isn't, lift out the fish onto a serving plate and increase the heat so that the sauce thickens. Pour the sauce over the fish, top it with the ginger strips and serve with hot plain rice.