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Served straight from the grill, yakizakana (literally, grilled fish) + a bowl of rice + a bowl of miso soup = the quintessential Japanese meal. The firm yet moist flesh topped with sizzling, crispy skin is Japanese soul food. And popping a piece of fish under the grill is really just as easy as that – once you have a couple of simple tricks up your sleeve.

Mackerel is a favourite, but for variation use the same method for salmon, cod, or whole horse mackerel or needlefish for equally delicious (and easily attained) results.

Grilled mackerel with daikon sunomono salad, rice, and pickles

Ingredients (per serving)

  • Fillet of mackerel
  • Sea salt
  • *Daikon oroshi (grated daikon radish) and/or slice of lemon for garnish (scroll past the recipe for instructions)
  • Shoyu (soy sauce) to taste


  1. Salt the fish. Set cuts of fish on a baking sheet or plate, and lightly dust both surfaces with salt. Cover with saran wrap, and allow fish to rest for at least 15 minutes in the fridge. This causes the fish to “leak” liquid that makes it smelly (especially fish such as mackerel).
  2. Pre-heat your oven. Set two racks in your oven – one high and close to the grill (so the top of the fish will be about 5 cm from the heat source) and one a level lower. Pre-heat your oven to “grill” (heat from the top) at high.
  3. Prepare your baking dish. To prevent fish from sticking, either use a baking pan with a rack, or prepare some aluminum foil lightly sprayed or rubbed with some vegetable oil. Mackerel requires very little to no oil, as it’s an oily fish.
  4. Prepare fish for grilling. Drain the smelly liquid and rinse the fish, pat it completely dry with paper towel and transfer to baking dish, skin side up.
  5. Grill skin side up on the top rack until the skin is crispy and brown, about 7 – 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish. Monitor it closely – the skin should become crispy and brown, but not totally burnt. Move it to a lower rack if it’s burning, but not cooking.
  6. Grill the fleshy side. Flip the fish and put it back in on the lower level rack. Continue to grill until cooked through. Generally, you’ll want to grill the fish at a ratio of 7:3 (skin side:flesh side)
  7. Serve. Flip one last time and blast the skin with a high temperature grill for one minute or so, until the skin is crisped, and serve with grated daikon or a slice of lemon, and soy sauce to taste.

How to make daikon oroshi

You know that stuff floating in your bowl of tempura dipping sauce? It’s daikon oroshi. Grated daikon radish is used to aid digestion and counteract greasiness of oily foods. Although the radish might have a sharp flavour, daikon oroshi is mild if prepared properly. You’ll need a special grater to do this, but they’re cheaply available. Look in Asian dollar stores or in Chinatown kitchen supply shops. They’re worth the two or three dollars.

  1. Use the blunt (top) end of the radish. The pointed end has a sharper flavor.
  2. Cut the daikon crosswise to find the outer layer, which holds a lot of the sharpness. Remove all of it with a vegetable peeler or knife.
  3. Grate the daikon and gently drain excess liquid. Use immediately.

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Evan's grilled mackerel - Photo credit: Robert Shaer (

The following was made by the UBC Japanese Home Cooking Class

Grilled Mackerel - Saba