Mackerel Pike
Two fresh Mackerel Pike [Pacific Saury; Sanma (japanese), Cololabis saira]

Not actually a Mackerel, this highly elongated fish is related to Flying Fish and Needlefish. It often skims along the surface of the water, propelled by its submerged tail. It is found in the North Pacific, ranging from Korea to Alaska and as far south as the tip of Baja, Mexico. This fish can grow to 15 inches but the photo specimen was 12-1/2 inches long and weighed 6 ounces. Mackerel Pike is kosher. It is a highly commercial catch, but with a high reproductive rate is not considered threatened. IUCN Red Listed NE (Not Evaluated).

For real mackerels see the Mackerel Family page.

While it looks a lot like a mackerel, especially with the scaleless skin, color and the finlets aft of the dorsal and anal fins, it's taste and texture, it is not a mackerel. This fish is fairly mild compared to most mackerels, but with enough flavor and oil for a light Wine Pickle. The flesh is very tender when raw but becomes quite firm when cooked, whether fried, steamed or baked, so can be used in soups and stews.

This is an important autumn seasonal fish in Japan, where it is usually salted, grilled and served with condiments. Some prefer to grill with the bitter guts left in, the bitterness to be countered with condiments. It is similarly served in Korea. For use in sushi, it is usually lightly pickled in salt and vinegar, sometimes citrus vinegar, then served on sushi rice.

Scales:   You'll be hard pressed to find any scales on this fish, but apparently a hungry rabbi with sharp eyes did, because it is listed as kosher. You will notice some strange little glowing blue flecks that seem to appear from nowhere. No it's not wayward flakes Ti-D-Bowl or some other cleaning product, it's normal for these fish.

Skin:   As with other mackerels the skin is very thin and cannot be easily removed, and you need it to hold the tender flesh together anyway. Fried, the skin tends to bubble up rather than shrink.

Cleaning:   Clean the usual way, but remove and discard the head as this fish isn't used to make stock.

Yield:   A 5.9 oz fish will yield 3.6 oz of fillet (61%). That's skin-on but you don't want to try to skin it.

Fillet:   The flesh is very tender so treat it gently, avoid bending it, and use a very sharp knife to fillet:

  1. Remove the head, if not already done.
  2. make a cut across the tail on either side and make cuts on both sides of the anal fin at the bottom.
  3. Cut downward from the top all the way to the backbone for the full length. You'll get little guidance from fins since there aren't any in the front two thirds of the fish.
  4. Once you have the fillet free down to the backbone and from the tail to the body cavity, fold it over the ribs and peel it off with a little help from your filleting knife leaving all the ribs attached to the backbone.
  5. Cut off the pectoral (bottom) fins and make sure the anal and dorsal fins have been completely removed from he fillet.
  6. Check for any bones. You'll feel pinbones all along the centerline, but they'll be soft when cooked so don't bother pulling them.
  7. Don't attempt to remove the skin, you'll just break up the fillet.
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