Miso Mackerel with Spicy Mustard Salad

Miso Braised Mackerel

The past week has been one filled with excitement, sleep deprivation and sadness. Excitement, because I got to go down to Austin for SxSW and Techmunch, where I spoke to a room filled with eager food bloggers about how to keep your blog from crashing as it grows. For anyone who’s been to Austin during SxSW, you know what an amazing environment it is for meeting new people and developing new ideas.

But the evening I arrived in Austin (just 2 days after I’d left Tokyo) the enthusiasm I’d had was quickly replaced with other feelings, when I got word from a friend in Tokyo that they’d had a VERY big earthquake. Traditional news outlets revealed nothing about the quake for almost an hour after it happend, so I turned to Twitter, and was horrified by the messages and photos being sent from cellphones all over Japan.

As images of my homeland being shaken and washed away began flooding the news, and the true scope of the devastation became apparent, I was overcome with an almost unbearable sense of sadness. Thankfully my family and friends are all safe and accounted for, but I don’t think there’s a single person on Earth that hasn’t been traumatized by images of the death and destruction.

The show of support from around the world, and the solidarity and resilience shown amongst the people of Japan have been the one bright spot amongst all of this, and it makes me proud to be Japanese. If any good can come of this, I hope that it serves to kickstart the nation and get it out of the rut it’s been in for 20 years now.

In that spirit of new beginnings, I created this fresh take on a classic Japanese dish: サバの味噌に (saba no miso ni), which literally means “mackerel simmered in miso”. Mackerel is an oily fish, so it benefits from a long braise, and if you cook it long enough, the bones become so soft you can eat the whole thing. The ginger and garlic help stave off the funk that mackerel can have, and the miso and mirin turn into a sweet and savory glaze that’s delicious over hot rice. To update it a bit, I’ve paired this with a crisp salad of tamed onions and celery that gives the tender braised mackerel a textural contrast as well as a tart and spicy kick that compliments the miso.

This recipe will be going into a charity cookbook called Peko Peko: A Charity Cookbook for Japan that I’m working on with Stacie from One Hungry Mama and Rachael from La Fuji Mama. It’s going to be full of awesome Japanese recipes contributed by rockstar bloggers and photos taken by yours truly. We are currently looking for sponsors to help cover the printing costs, so if you work for, or know of a company that would be interested in sponsoring the book please send us an email at info [at] pekopekocookbook [dot] com.

Miso Braised Mackeral with Spicy Mustard Salad

Enough for 4 when served with rice
1/3 cup mirin
1/3 cup sake
1″ length of ginger julienned
1 shallot thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic smashed
1 cup water
1/4 cup red or white miso
2 pounds mackerel cut into large pieces

1/2 sweet onion sliced thin on a mandoline
2 stalks celery sliced thin
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon Japanese hot mustard (karashi)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (halve if using regular salt)

In a pressure cooker, bring the mirin and sake to a boil along with the ginger, shallots and garlic. Boil for 2 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Add the water and miso and stir to dissolve the miso. Add the mackerel, then seal and lock the lid. If your pressure cooker has settings set it for the highest pressure. Bring the pressure cooker up to pressure over medium high heat, then turn down the heat as low as you can while maintaining pressure and cook for 45 minutes. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can simmer this in a pot with a lid for about 2 1/2 hours.

While the mackerel is cooking use a mandoline to slice the onion and celery very thin, then put them in a large bowl of ice water. Change the water 2 times every 20 minutes (for a total of a 1 hour soak). This will take the harsh edge off both the celery and the onion and it will also make the vegetables more crispy. Whisk the vinegar, mustard, sugar and salt in a small bowl to make the dressing.

When the mackerel is done, follow the pressure cooker directions to release the steam. The bones should be soft enough to eat. If they’re not, you can add some more water if needed, reattach the lid and continue to cook another 10-15 minutes.

Drain the onions and celery and use a paper or a salad spinner to remove as much water as possible from them. Pour on the mustard dressing then toss to coat. To serve, just put down a bed of salad, and top with the braised mackerel and serve with a side of rice.

  • http://theindolentcook.blogspot.com/ the indolent cook

    I am just staring at that mackerel… it looks so absolutely droolworthy.
    My heart goes out to those affected by the earthquake and I would be interested in purchasing that charity cookbook when it’s done. Keep us posted!

  • Boulder Locavore

    What has happened in Japan, and the ongoing concerns, is really unfathomable. The spirit of those rallying to come to their aid is really heartening. I’m participating in the Online Bake Sale for Japan on March 30, another grass roots support effort in the food blogging community. I’m glad we all can come together and combine resources toward such aid. Your cookbook will be a beautiful and bittersweet endeavor as well.

  • http://www.spinachtiger.com Spinachtiger

    Gorgeous post. Taking a fish I’m not so fond of and making it beautiful and appealing.

  • http://www.spinachtiger.com Spinachtiger

    Gorgeous post. Taking a fish I’m not so fond of and making it beautiful and appealing.

  • http://www.withaglass.com Sissi

    I am so sorry to discover your wonderful blog in such a sad moment… This dish looks like delicious comfort food. I have to wait Tuesday to check if any mackerels are available at my fishmonger’s.
    I am looking forward to buy the book and, most of all, I hope it will be shipped to Europe.

  • http://www.dreamofcakes.net Eftychia

    In my country Cyprus, we all pray for a quick recovery from all that happened in Japan after the earthquake. I have faith in the people of Japan that will do anything possible to prevent a bigger disaster. Thank you for not loosing your hope, and continue sharing with us all these delicious recipes.

  • lisaiscooking

    Great to see you in Austin, and this miso braise looks fantastic! You’re right that everyone has been completely taken aback by the images from Japan. Many of the food bloggers at the event where you spoke and several others are joining together for an Austin bake sale for Japan on April 2–there are several bakes sales planned in other cities that day too. It’s a chance to contribute and involve the city in some small way. Best of luck with the cookbook!

  • http://twitter.com/foodalogue Joan Nova

    Marc – I’m happy to read that your family and friends have been spared the travesty that befell so many of their countrymen. It’s been awful to watch. I can’t even imagine what it’s been like for you.

    Great recipe and I look forward to hearing more about the cookbook.

  • S.R. Campbell

    Thank you for your creativeness, your recipes, your pictures. I pray for all of Japan, & all . Keep on. Love & peace,

  • http://twitter.com/KitchenM Em

    I made something similar not too long ago. But I used Sanma instead. :)
    I’m so glad to hear that your friends and family are okay in Japan. Let’s pray for no more disasters.

  • http://twitter.com/kitchenwench Ellie

    Looks sensational – I’m a huge fan of mackerel but I’ve never cooked it with miso before! Also – good luck with the cookbook, can’t wait to see how it turns out!

  • Anonymous

    That looks amazing but I’m kinda afraid of mackerel. I’ve never cooked it, but this pic’s make me wanna try.

  • http://cognitiveleeks.wordpress.com Christine

    I’m glad all of your loved ones are safe, but I understand, as when Katrina hit the Gulf coast, we hurt for ALL of our people.

    I don’t have a pressure cooker- can I still make this? It sounds like it would be great with some pickles too!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Yep, you can make it without a pressure cooker, just triple the cooking time.

  • http://smalltownoven.wordpress.com/ Sharlene

    So glad to hear that all your loved ones are safe and sound though many families cannot say the same. The cookbook sounds like a wonderful idea and I would love to own one as soon as it’s out, especially if this mackerel is in it. Looks divine!

  • Anna Y Ng

    I’m glad to hear that your family and friends are safe and I cannot wait until your charity cookbook is in print. :)

  • http://www.athoughtforfood.net Brian @ A Thought For Food

    This is such a wonderful recipe and I’m so honored to be taking part in the cookbook as well. Will have mine posted soon.

  • http://grumblingsfromagreedygirl.blogspot.com/ Amy Berman

    Mmmm sounds great–healthy, tasty, and easy! Will try it out, thanks!!

  • http://www.flanboyanteats.com Bren

    i love mackerel, though the 1st time i had it as sashimi, i got really, really sick. but that was almost 8 years ago. the earthquake and tsunami are indeed sad and i’m glad bloggers are uniting and doing something. can’t wait to see the book you all come up with!

  • http://www.honeyfromrock.blogspot.com Claudia

    An awesome dish for such a good cause. The first I heard of the earthquake was the sound of Tsunami sirens going off, as I was about to turn in for the night. Instead I turned on my computer and saw what had happened. Heartbreaking.

  • http://breadetbutter.wordpress.com/ Su-yin

    I love mackerel, never thought of using it with miso though. Great recipe, definitely something I’m going to try making.

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  • Sissi

    Thank you for this wonderful, and yet such a simple recipe. I have already made it twice and I think I’ll forget (at least for some time) all the other ways of preparing mackerel… After my first attempt I decided to remove the bigger bones (I don’t have a pressure cooker and even after four hours the bones were still too tough to eat…). It was very good with wild garlic leaves sprinkled on top (this is their high season in Switzerland). I have just bought some Japanese mustard, so the mustard salad is on my list too!

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  • Ernest

    Marc, I’m trying to venture into the miso world. Which one would you recommend as a starting point, Red, white, yellow? I really don’t what an arsenal of misos, I’d prefer something more versatile.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Yellow is the most versatile. Red has a stronger taste and is typically more salty, white gas a milder taste and is typically sweeter. When you choose one, read the ingredient label, as many sold in the US have dashi, corn syrup or even MSG added,

      • Ernest

        Thanks Marc, yes I did notice the dashi and msg when I was shopping. The only one that didn’t have additives was red miso. I’ll look for a white miso and just mix them on the fly.

        • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

          For this recipe, red works better anyway as mackerel tends to have a strong flavor.


I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!

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