Saba nigiri

Not every New Englander likes the taste of mackerel. Too fishy, they'll say, shaking their heads.

And it is fishy, but sweet too. The Boston mackerel, as the Atlantic school is called, has more sweet, red meat than its Spanish and Pacific counterparts, and is popular in sashimi.

Across the pond, in Scandanavia, Swedes and Danes eat the fish canned with tomato sauce in sandwiches.

I prefer it fresh. With an oily fish, you don't want to wait long between boat and plate, or that delicate fishy flavor will strengthen unpleasantly. But when it's good, it's good—over a well packed heap of sushi rice, tinged a pale green with a good dose of wasabi, and chased down with a thin white strip of pickled ginger.

The best part is, you can make it at home.


Pick up one fresh mackerel, filleted, at your local fish market. Run your hands lengthwise over the fillets, feeling for any tiny bones that remain. Remove with tweezers and discard. When the fish is clean, salt the fleshy side of the cuts and leave them to sit for several hours. Mix together 1 cup Japanese rice vinegar and 2 tablespoons sugar. Put the vinegar mixture and fillets in a flat dish, making sure not to bend the fish too much as it will ruin the delicate sheen of the skin, and let marinate in the fridge for 4 to 5 hours. Remove and allow to dry; cut carefully and serve plain or over sushi rice, with fresh wasabi and soy sauce.

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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.