Winter is the season of both aozakana (literally, blue fish) and nabe (Japanese ‘hotpot’). Saba (mackerel) is a very unusual addition to nabe, and this includes black pepper! This is actually a family recipe from Paku’s house. (Yuzu was Peko’s addition) We both felt that while this was an unheard of recipe, including Western ingredients, it is completely ‘Japanese’.
This is another quick, easy and healthy dish, and in addition to being mighty tasty it is a complete novelty!
With a squeeze of yuzu and washed down with doburoku sake (another winter season favorite), this makes one heck of a dinner! Sure to warm the heart (and body) and lift the spirits!
Ingredients: saba (mackerel) fillets, udon noodles, greens (kikuna/shungiku is preferred but spinach is a fine substitute), shitake mushrooms, carrot, daikon radish, *mitsuba (Japanese wild parsley), yuzu (lemon or other citrus is an acceptable substitute), kombu (dried kelp), ginger and shoyu.
Saba: With fish boning tweezers or other similar tool, remove any remaining bones in the saba fillets. Cut into bite-sized pieces and marinade in shoyu and grated ginger for 15-30 minutes.
Dashi (stock): water, kombu, ginger, soy sauce. Simmer covered for like 15-30 minutes, while preparing the veggies.
Veggies: Chop the veggies to your liking. (Paku says to cut the daikon thin because it adds a lot of taste to the dashi, but you don’t want to cook it more than like 5 minutes.) Start with shitake, then carrots. Add the black pepper corns. Simmer for like 5 minutes then the fish and daikon. Greens go in last and according to Peko should not be over cooked, just al dente, if that even.
Yuzu: (or other citrus) quarter the yuzu. Slice some of the peel into thin strips for garnish.
Serve: Squeeze on the yuzu.
This is round one.
Udon; round two.
An excellent and filling finish to nabe is rice or udon. We went with udon. For round two, boil the udon until completely done (this isn’t nikomi udon) and serve in the same bowl. Ladle on more soup, garnish with yuzu peel and serve.
Lots of veggies and greens make this a healthy meal.
(kikuna in the center and mitsuba on the right)
Yuzu has a very delicate, yet VERY strong flavor. It is not bitter or astringent. Yuzu is more like a ‘food’ than a ‘flavoring,’ if you know what I mean. (Peko)
Black Pepper (just regular Western style pepper)
Tweezing out the remaining bones from the mackerel fillet.
Marinade the mackerel
Simmering the dashi
Simmering the veggies and fish
Greens at the end
Served with doburoku sake
Doburoku is a very thick, almost chewy ‘home brewed’ sake
doburoku is sweet, but don’t be fooled, it packs not a punch, but a wallop!
Peko is crazy for yuzu, so he squeezed some into the doburoku too! Yum!!
Round two, add the udon!
Udon – detail
All done. Paku put it a lot of pepper, but it was not overpowering.
Doburoku (濁酒) and nigorizake (濁り酒), often translated as ‘home brewed sake’ and ‘cloudy sake’, respectively, are unfiltered sake. Varieties abound, from dry to sweet and from ‘chewy’ to just ‘thick’. And, they all pack a wallop!
We had this domuroku (どむろく), from Nagano Prefecture, and we suspect that ’domuroku’ means ’doburoku’ in the Nagano dialect.