Mackerel [Saba]


Japanese Name and Pronunciation:

saba in Japanese


Mackerel, known as saba, is a staple fish in Japanese cuisine. It is valued for its rich flavor and oily texture, making it a versatile ingredient in various dishes.

Saba is said to be in season during the autumn and winter months. However, the actual peak season varies depending on the specific type of mackerel. The most commonly consumed type is chub mackerel, known as “masaba” in Japan. Masaba is at its best from late autumn to around February. During this period, masaba has the highest fat content and is highly sought after by seafood enthusiasts.

In addition to masaba, there is another type called blue mackerel, known as “gomasaba” in Japan. Gomasaba has less fat compared to masaba and its taste remains relatively consistent throughout the year. As a result, gomasaba can be enjoyed deliciously all year round. However, since masaba is often caught during the bountiful autumn and winter season, gomasaba is commonly considered to be in season during the summer.

The distinction in peak seasons between masaba and gomasaba allows for a diverse and continuous enjoyment of mackerel throughout the year, with masaba being favored in the autumn and winter, and gomasaba being enjoyed during the summer.

Saba can be enjoyed in various ways in Japanese cuisine. One popular preparation is as sashimi, where the fish is thinly sliced and served raw. Saba sashimi showcases its rich flavor and distinct oily texture, often accompanied by wasabi or grated ginger.

Grilling is another common method of enjoying saba. The fish is typically marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), and other seasonings before being grilled over charcoal or an open flame. Grilled saba has a smoky and savory taste, with a crispy skin and moist, flavorful meat.

Saba is also frequently used in simmered dishes, such as nizakana or miso-based stews. The robust flavor of saba pairs well with the savory broth and other ingredients, creating a hearty and comforting dish.

Another popular way to enjoy saba is in sushi or nigiri sushi. Saba nigiri features a slice of vinegared rice topped with a piece of marinated saba, often lightly seared or cured in vinegar. The combination of the vinegared rice and the flavorful fish creates a harmonious balance of tastes.

Saba, with its rich flavor and oily texture, offers a unique and satisfying dining experience. Its versatility in different cooking methods allows for a wide range of delicious preparations.

Mackerel Sushi [Saba]
Mackerel Sushi [Saba]
Marinade Mackerel Sushi [Shimesaba]
Marinade Mackerel Sushi [Shimesaba]