Grilled mackerel Japanese style

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


    as a starter

Appears in

Soho’s original and, for a long time, only Japanese restaurant was the imaginatively named Fuji on Brewer Street. It was never very good, being most memorable for the alarmingly realistic plastic replicas of their dishes in the window. Fuji has been closed for several years now, its site currently occupied by the excellent and fun Zilli Fish. The Japanese restaurant of preference was Ajimura, which entailed a sortie into Covent Garden. This was their stand-out dish, mackerel fillets glazed and grilled at the same time on a small Hibachi grill behind the bar. Mackerel is an excellent fish for grilling, its oily flesh ensuring that it doesn’t dry out.

Simon Hopkinson and I once ate rather a lot of this dish in a saké-soaked evening at Ajimura. At one point the chef responsible for the grill got rather bogged down helping in another section of the kitchen, and forgot two pieces of mackerel were sitting on the grill. Instead of the normal 5 minutes’ cooking, they had a good 15 minutes on the skin side. When the chef eventually returned he was all for throwing them away and starting again. Simon had been watching these mackerel getting crisper and crisper, and was convinced they would be even better than normal. He had to be physically restrained from climbing over the counter to ensure that he got to eat them. Anyway, eat them we did, and they were spectacular. In a recent article in the Independent, he gives a recipe for this dish, and I notice that the cooking time stated is 20 minutes.

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  • 2 large mackerel (ask your fishmonger to fillet them for you)
  • 3 tbsp Kikkoman soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine, sold in Chinese supermarkets as well as Japanese)
  • 2 tbsp saké


Mix the soy, mirin and saké together. Place the fish fillets in a shallow dish and pour this mixture over them. Marinate for half an hour, turning once.

Heat your overhead grill. Remove the fillets from the marinade and arrange in the grill pan, skin side down. Brush the flesh sides with a little of the marinade and place under the heat ensuring that the fish is as far away from the grill as possible. Cook for 4 minutes then turn the fillets over and give the skins a brushing of the marinade. They will now require about 8 minutes’ further cooking, with at least three more applications of the marinade. Look for crispy skin with, as Simon puts it, pockmarks and blisters.


Traditionally served with a small mound of grated daikon (white radish).

Try doing this recipe on a barbecue.