Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pan-fried Japanese-style Mackerel

Before I lived in Denmark, I thought mackerel was used only in Asian cuisines, but it turns out the Danes and much of Scandinavia eat it as well.  (I also thought badminton was only popular in Asia, but it turns out the Danes are pretty good at that too.) I routinely bought the Danish smoked mackerel and ate it with Thai sticky rice and hot sauce. Hubby thought it was a strange combo at first, but he was easily converted. In turn, he introduced me to a product called Makrel Guf, which is mackerel in a tomato sauce not unlike Chef Boyardee tomato sauce. I know it sounds totally unappetizing, but spread atop Danish rye bread with a healthy squirt of mayonnaise, it was really quite tasty. It's been years since I've had it, and I do get a craving for it every once in a while. Maybe my in-laws would be so kind as to bring us a few cans the next time they visit?  

Mackerel is one of my favorite fish.  Some people don't like it due to the strong flavor, but that's exactly why I like it. Serving it to the kid can be an iffy proposition, but turns out, he liked it!  Yay!

This dish is flavorful (good way to get the kids to eat fish) and fast (hey, it's not French!).  I spread a miso mixture over the fish and pan fried it (great grilled too).  The only thing you need to be careful of is not to overcook this fish.  There's not much worse than overcooked mackerel. For an average filet, it only needs about 4 or 5 minutes, tops.   If you're not a fan of mackerel or can't get it where you are, try substituting with salmon.

Pan-fried Japanese-style Mackerel
Serves 2.5 people
  • 2 mackerel filets 
  • 1 tbs yellow miso
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbs mirin
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • lemon or lime wedges for serving
  • finely sliced green onion for garnish
Make the paste by combining the miso, sugar, mirin and ginger.  Rub it on the meaty side of the fish.  All that's left to do is pan fry the fish in a fairly hot pan with a little oil.  Start with the skin side down, then flip it for the last minute or so.  That's it!  Serve with Japanese rice and a (pickled) vegetable of your choice and/or a nice salad.


Wandering Chopsticks said...

Can mackerel get overcooked? One of my favorite dishes is a VNese braised mackerel in tomato sauce. Braising definitely takes more than 5 minutes and I still think it tastes great. I like it simply grilled with salt too.

pigpigscorner said...

This looks and sounds really delicious. Not a big fan of mackerel after being traumatised by my fiance's baked mackerel. A tad to fishy for me. But I enjoy eating smoked ones though.

Manggy said...

Ah, you know me, I am a fish lover through and through :) We do get mackerel in tomato sauce (a la sardines) in the Philippines too, but I didn't like it quite as much as the sardines because I thought the metallic flavor was more pronounced. I'll see how I fare with fresh. This looks awesome- the caramelization just takes me over the edge :)

Dee said...

WC, braising might do something different to the fish. I've never done the technique myself (maybe I should try soon?). But when grilling or pan-frying the filets, I think if they are cooked too long, it can become dry. The same thing with salmon.

Pigpigscorner, I was traumatized by raw mackerel. Will not go near that. Once the weather gets better, I'm going to try smoking it.

Dee said...

manggy, I know what you mean about the metallic flavor. Some fish have that and I think it's more about the brand than the kind of fish because the makrel guf doesn't taste metallic.

I was very happy with the caramelization. Luckily I have well seasoned cast iron that can do it quickly with minimal stickage.

Selba said...

A great recipe! I usually soak the mackerel into tamarind first before I fry it then add only a pinch of salt :)

Lars said...

Hehe Makrel Guf versus fried mackerel japanese style ... a classic show down :-)

I know the Makrel Guf and the japanese fried one here looks great, so i'll have to try that soon, so i'll be able to cast my vote...

Dee said...

Selba, interesting about the tamarind. I'm going to try that.

Lars, it's funny the Danish flavors I miss. The last time your parents brought makrel guf, we had the cans sitting for months, then all of a sudden we eat them in short order. I've got a jar of pickled herring in the fridge, which I plan to use for karry sild. I'm waiting to crack it open because I have no one who will eat it with me. I might need to wait until Bedstemor and Bedstefar get here for that.

Paula said...

Oh my gosh, you lived in Denmark?! Cool! I've always been fascinated with living abroad, but alas, for now I'll have to settle for simply enjoying the food of other nations.

This sounds terrrrrrific! I've only had canned mackeral (and I liked it, is that a bad thing?), and I don't think I've ever seen it sold fresh. I'll have to keep a look out. I think my oldest girl would enjoy this, especially with the sticky rice. That paste you made sounds delish; I'm going to try it on salmon and other fish. YUM!

Dee said...

Paula, yes, I lived there for over 2.5 years while hubby was in school and I was also lucky enough to work at a nice restaurant in Copenhagen so I got a lot of exposure to Danish food. I joke that it's my second specialty after Thai food :-)

There's nothing wrong with canned mackerel. Every food has its use and I use canned foods, whether beans or fish, a lot. I'm a big fan of canned sardines, anchovies, kippers, and of course makrel guf!

BTW, I got the mackerel at Uwajimaya. It was vacuumed-packed and frozen from Norway. But salmon is a very good alternative and closer to home.

Anonymous said...

Your dish sounds like it would taste similar to Japanese-style eel over ricI love mackeral. And sardines wouldn't be a bad substitute.

Dee said...

Diana, it is similar to the eel, but not as sweet. The miso gives it a real savory taste. I wish we could get eel more readily here in the States. Smoked eel is another thing I miss about DK.

J-Man said...

Just tried this recipe and I loved it, its very similar to what we used to get at GUU our favourite Japanese restaurant in Vancouver.

Thanks so much

dp said...

J-man, I love it when people let me know how something turns out. Thank you!

It's pretty simple, huh? That tends to be the best kind of food.