Thursday, 2 June 2011

Salt Grilled Mackerel (Saba) and Mizuna Cucumber Salad with Preserved Plum Dressing

Because it's spring, there are loads of salad greens popping up everywhere, and even though lettuce is great, I've been seduced by some of the more exotic ones that the salad stall(Wild Country Organics) at Pimlico Farmers' Market sells, like mizuna.

Mizuna is like rocket (or arugula) taste-wise, but milder. It even looks kind of like rocket don't you think? Although I've only had it in ramen/udon soups before, its slight mustardy pepperiness adds a nice zing to salads, just like rocket. Going with the Japanese theme, I made a dressing using preserved plum a la umeboshi, but the ones I used were Chinese ones my mum sent me, which are a less appealing brown/yellow colour instead of the pretty red umeboshi ones. Preserved plums, like all fermented foods, have probiotics which aid digestion and metabolism. I also made simply grilled (or broiled actually) mackerel (saba), which is the easiest easiest thing in the world to do with fresh mackerel, not to mention delicious and cheap.

Salt Grilled Mackerel (Saba)
serves 1 or 2
2 mackerel fillets (I got that from filleting 1 mackerel, but you could easily just buy ready-filleted fishes or get the fishmonger to do it for you)
coarse sea salt
pinch of white pepper
olive oil + a dash of sesame oil (optional)

1. Pat mackerel fillets dry with kitchen towels. Score the skin by lightly slashing the skin (if you forget, you'll get blistered skins. refer to the photo of my dish to see what I mean.)
2.Rub oil all over and sprinkle generously with sea salt and pepper.
3. If you have a grill, lucky you! If not, turn your oven to broil on a high setting and place your mackerel skin side up on a shallow tray, on the highest rack. Turn over 5 minutes later, by which the skin should be crispy and the flesh almost cooked, so let it broil for another 1-2 min on the other side.

Mizuna Cucumber Salad with Preserved Plum Dressing
serves 2-4
1 large handful of mizuna leaves
1/2 cucumber
2 preserved plums in vinegar (not the dry ones you snack on)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
unrefined cane sugar (or other unrefined sweeteners)
tamari naturally brewed soy sauce
The amounts of sugar and soy sauce depends on the type of preserved plums you get. There are umeboshi pickled with honey which are a lot sweeter, so need some saltiness to balance out the flavours. Mine are saltier, so I didn't even use any tamari but rather, about 2 tsp of sugar. Taste and decide for yourself, sorry no copying heh!

1. Pit the plums and mash them. Combine with the rice vinegar and tamari/sugar.
2. Slice the cucumber into ribbons by halving them, then running a vegetable peeler lengthwise, and then slicing the strips into halves again lengthwise.
3. Combine all. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over.

Mackerel is so rich in flavour, that you need nothing more than a healthy pinch of coarse sea salt with that delicious crispy skin and juicy flesh. The peppery mizuna leaves and cool cucumber salad dressed in that sharp tangy plum dressing gives that bit of contrast to the oily yumminess of the mackerel. You should knock yourself in the head if you're still paying a load for saba at Japanese restaurants.

This is part of Tasty Tuesday and Full Plate Thursday.


  1. Love the salad dressing you used .. very different :)

  2. I always order this fish in Japanese restaurant,now you gv the idea to do it at home,thank you for sharing.

  3. I love the look of the mackerel! Big fan of fatty fish big-time! And the crisp fresh salad on the side, perfect summer lunch!

    Talking about Saba. I just posted a "saba" thing in my blog too. It's actually an Italian ingredient too.

  4. Goodness! this is my hubby's favorite fish.I am so intrigue with your salad.Again, work of art and very delicious too.

  5. Hi Shu Hun,
    What a beautiful meal. It all looks so delicious and a great combination of flavor. I wish this was my dinner. Thanks for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and come by soon!

  6. Thank you! Yes, it was perfect for summer, and yup, now you know never order this in restaurants anymore haha! (:

  7. And I always thought Chinese preserved plums can only be used for Preserved Mustard Duck Soup and Teochew-style steamed fish! You sure are creative! Imagine stuffing it into an Onigiri!

    Yes, always felt ripped off by Jap restaurants for overcharging us with this cheap but deliciously oily fish! At the fine-dining Jap-French fusion place where I used to work, we smoked raw between 2 pans with apple/cherry wood, pan-fried it on order and served it with a balsamic reduction topped with deep fried julienned leeks, Japanese pickles on the side. Yums!