Miso Saba

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, not so long ago (as in, two weeks ago to be more exact), I promised to bring you cookies. The events that occurred thereafter are to blame for my failure to deliver those seriously terrific cookies, which will lamentably have to wait. I went to Dallas, Texas over the winter holidays, for no other reason than the fact that Pat’s immediate family lives there. While the trip was actually more animated and entertaining than imagined, there was one particular event that detained me from coming home to my kitchen to cook and photograph all that I love for the world to see. Obviously, of course, amongst a heap of other things.

Ever watch that movie The Terminal? The one with Tom Hanks? Well, I was Tom Hanks and this was not a movie. After irresponsibly missing our flight home, we were put on standby for what felt like an eternity. Seriously, our flight was supposed to leave on the 28th and we then proceeded to “live” in the airport until late New Year’s Day. Well, not quite “live,” – seeing as we did have the luxury of being picked up late at night to sleep at Pat’s parents’ house after an entire disappointing day of waiting hopefully for any flight out of there – but spend 9-hours a day for four grueling days. Pat’s mom even packed us amazing banh mi sandwiches every morning, which I joked that we needed to ration in case we decide to trade sandwiches for burgers or drinks with our new temporarily permanent neighbor, Burger King. At that point, I was only half kidding. Anyway, we made it home (albeit with arduous efforts) to bring in the New Year with renewed resolutions and better recipes, this being the indisputable “happily ever after.”

What better way to bring in 2011 than with some fish! I often find myself making the same resolutions at the end or beginning of every year: be a better person, do well in school, eat better, be a good person, better myself, work out more, eat healthy. The redundance and ambiguity of my resolutions always set me up to fail. Plus, somehow I manage to equate eating better or healthy with eating salads all the time. It’s no fun and it sets my craving for sugar and junk food on high. Like I said, it leads me to failure and no one wants to be a failure, especially not me!

I figured fish (that isn’t deep fried like all the ones I had in Dallas) is my unthreatening first step to succeeding. Although I typically like having butterfish (or Black Cod) prepared this way, I think saba (mackerel) is wonderful marinated in miso. Especially with all its full-bodied flavors. Just make sure not to overcook them otherwise the filets will turn tough and significantly less enjoyable. No one wants an unpleasant meal, even with all the salad-eating resolutions. I think I might just achieve my own resolutions – even if only for the month of January!

Miso Saba (Saba no Miso ni)


4 filets of Mackerel
1 cup water
6 tbspn sake
6 tbspn sugar
12 tbspn miso (white miso paste)*
2 in piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced or grated
green onion, thinly sliced for garnish


Remove bones from fish and cut filets in half (optional).
Mix the ginger, water, sugar, and 9 tbspns of miso together in a large pan over medium heat.

Once it comes to simmer, add mackerel filets to the pan.
Lower the heat and simmer the fish for another 10 to 12 minutes, occasionally spooning the sauce over the fish.
Add the last 3 tablespoons of miso paste at the end and stir well into the sauce. Turn off the heat and serve the filets with its sauce & garnish with rice.

*can be found in most Asian grocery stores.


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