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Someone once told me that eating this dish was “like eating candy… only made of fish.” The broth of this nimono preparation is reduced at the end of cooking, coating the moist fish in a sweet, thick glaze. This preparation is especially suited to mackerel, although you can use any light, tender fish. Don’t let mackerel’s “fishy” smell deter you from trying it – adding sake and ginger to the broth counteracts the odour and provides a balance to the sweetness of the sugar.

Simmered black cod

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 filets, black cod (or other light fish like mackerel, cod, or snapper)
  • Basic nizakana stock:
    • 4 Tbsp (or more) water
    • 2 Tbsp each of sake, sugar, mirin, soy sauce
    • 3 – 4mm slice of ginger
  • 1 parchment paper “snowflake”
  • Julienned ginger to garnish


  1. Prepare all of your ingredients and the parchment paper “snowflake”. This recipe is much easier to do if your ingredients are ready to go. Measure out the water, sake and sugar, peel and slice one piece of ginger, and while you’re at it, julienne a bit of it for the garnish.
  2. Heat the simmering liquid. In a shallow saucepan (with a tight-fitting lid – you’ll need it later) bring nizakana stock ingredients to a boil over medium heat. This won’t take long.
  3. Prepare and add the fish. While waiting for the stock to boil, rinse the fish under cool water and, score an “X” or a few slices through the skin with a sharp knife (this allows the fish to absorb more of the flavour of the stock). Be careful not to cut right to the edges of the skin. Once the stock is boiling, add fish and slice of ginger.
  4. Cover with the “snowflake” and simmer. Cover the fish with the parchment paper snowflake, making sure that the edges are in the simmering liquid. Close the lid, and simmer for about 10 – 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish.
  5. Monitor the fish and sauce carefully. 2 – 3 times during the simmering process, open the lid, remove parchment paper, spoon the flavourful simmering liquid over the fish, and cover again with the snowflake before closing the lid. The liquid should reduce over the cooking period to a glossy and thick glaze, but you may need to add a tablespoon of water to the stock during the cooking process if this is happening too quickly, or remove the lid and allow for more evaporation, if it’s too liquid. Aim to have the fish and sauce ready at the same time.
  6. Carefully remove and plate the fish. It will be tender, so be sure to use a wide spatula that will support the entire piece of fish on its way to the plate. Serve with a generous spoonful of the nizakana glaze and garnish with julienned ginger.

Good to Know

The edges of the parchment paper snowflake should touch the simmering liquid, drawing the hot broth up over the fish, cooking and flavouring it from the top as well as the bottom. To cut the snowflake, trace the edge of your frying pan and cut a circle just smaller than its circumference – it should just fit the inside of your pan. Then, fold it into quarters or eighths and cut 3 or 4 notches out of each edge – just like in grade-school!

(This recipe was modified thanks to user FEEDback on a similar recipe: Sakanano Misoni)

Reader ParticipATE-tion:

Check out what readers have made using the above recipe.

Erika’s mackerel in process

…and the beautiful results!

The following was made by UBC’s Japanese Home Cooking Class

Black Cod – delectable!