Mackerel Sushi [Saba]

saba sushi

Japanese Name and Pronunciation:

saba in Japanese


Mackerel, known as saba, is a popular choice for nigiri sushi in Japanese cuisine. It is valued for its rich flavor and distinctive oily texture, which sets it apart from other sushi ingredients.

The peak season for the most commonly consumed type of mackerel, known as “masaba” in Japan, is from late autumn to around February. During this period, masaba has the highest fat content and is exceptionally delicious.

When it comes to mackerel nigiri sushi, Shimesaba (marinated mackerel) is the common choice. However, raw mackerel nigiri sushi is also a culinary delight. Yet, achieving the ability to enjoy mackerel raw requires the highest quality and freshness of the fish, as well as the advanced skills of a sushi chef.

The sliced saba is delicately placed on top of each mound of sushi rice. Sometimes, a touch of wasabi (Japanese horseradish) may be placed between the fish and rice to enhance the flavor.

Raw saba nigiri sushi is typically served with soy sauce and is often accompanied by pickled ginger (gari) on the side. Diners can dip the sushi into the soy sauce before eating, being mindful not to overpower the delicate flavor of the fish. The pickled ginger is often used as a palate cleanser between bites.

The taste of raw saba is distinctive, with a rich and flavorful profile. It has a pronounced umami flavor with a hint of natural sweetness. The texture of raw saba is oily and slightly firm, providing a unique and enjoyable mouthfeel.

Raw saba nigiri sushi showcases the natural qualities of the fish and highlights the artistry of sushi chefs. It is appreciated by sushi enthusiasts for its bold flavor and satisfying texture.

While the availability of sushi restaurants offering raw mackerel nigiri sushi may be limited, if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend trying it.

Ingredients for This Dish

Mackerel [Saba]
White Rice
Pure Rice Vinegar [Junmai-su]
Soy Sauce [Shoyu]