Japan Eats

Recipe: Aji no nanbanzuke (deep fried horse mackerel)

Deep fried and served in a soy and vinegar sauce, mackerel makes either a satisfying appetizer or a main course

Although Japanese often prepare mackerel at home, the silver and blue-skinned fish tends to be overshadowed by more popular varieties. Perhaps this is because mackerel has a reputation for being oily, or because it lacks the visual appeal of tuna or salmon.

The key to this dish is to remove the bones carefully. If you don’t want the bother, sardines can be used instead. Their bones are thin so you needn’t be nervous about it.

Powder the fillets with starch just before deep frying. It’s worth noting that any blue fish will taste good with the ginger and soy sauce. Here, it’s horse mackerel, but Pacific saury (sanma) would do just as well.

The marinade will soak into the batter, but it should retain enough texture to prevent it becoming soggy. The ginger is important as it balances out the flavor of the the fish.

Deep fried horse mackerel.

Deep fried horse mackerel

Ingredients (serves 2 – 3 people)

  • 150 – 200 g horse mackerel (filleted)
  • 50 g onion
  • 50 g carrot
  • 10 g ginger
  • 2 tablespoons of potato starch

Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of cold water
  • 1 tablespoon of sake
  • 1 tablespoon of mirin
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 piece of dried whole chilli pepper

Method

Fillet the fish

Fillet the fish

First, prepare the marinade for the horse mackerel. Remove the seeds inside the chilli pepper and slice into pieces 3 – 5 mm thick. Place the chilli in a bowl together with all of the other ingredients for the sauce.

Slice the onions into thin slices. Now slice the carrot into thin pieces.

Next, prepare the horse mackerel. If it hasn’t already been filleted, divide the fish into three slices. Cut each slice into a further 2 – 3 bite-sized pieces, being careful to remove the bones.

Put the bite-sized pieces of horse mackerel and the potato starch into a bag. Blow air into the bag so that it inflates like a balloon then shake so that the mackerel is completely coated in starch.

Coat in potato starch

Coat in potato starch

Heat a deep fry pan filled with vegetable oil to 170 degrees centigrade.

Remove the extra potato starch from the horse mackerel and deep fry for about 3 – 4 minutes. When they become crispy and have turned a light brown, retrieve and drain and a tray. Marinade them in the sauce while still hot.

Place the thinly sliced onion, carrot and ginger on the mackerel. Carefully mix the mackerel with the vegetables and serve.

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