[Australian Spotted Mackerel; Scomberomorus munroi | Japanese Spanish Mackerel; Scomberomorus niphonius]
These two West Pacific fish are often confused and can be considered interchangeable. The Japanese is found along the coasts of Japan down to Hong Kong, and is the most important mackerel in the Japanese market. The Australian is found all around Australia, but mostly in the north, around the southern islands of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The Australian can grow to 41 inches and 24 pounds, while the Japanese can grow to 39 inches and 15 pounds. The photo specimen was 9 inches and 2-3/4 ounces, purchased from an Asian market in Los Angeles for 2015 US $1.99 / pound. The Australian is IUCN Red Listed as NT (Near Threatened), while the Japanese is Red Listed as DD (Data Deficient).
More on the Mackerel Family
These fish are usually eaten pan fried, broiled or baked. For small fish, as in the photo, pan frying with a light dusting of rice flour works very well, either pan dressed or as fillets. Flavor is moderately strong.
These instructions apply to small fish as in the photo. Much larger fish may have to be handled a little differently.
Buying: This fish shows up in the Asian markets here in Los Angeles, usually small frozen fish.
Scales: Supposedly, mackerels have enough scales to be kosher. Perhaps you have to be a hungry rabbi with sharp eyes to find them, because I never have.
Cleaning: Cut the belly from vent to chin. Cut off the head the usual way, cutting shallowly below the pectoral fins. Pull off the head and most of the guts will come with it. Scrape the inside of the body cavity down to the backbone.
Filleting Make a cut on both sides of the dorsal fins for the full length, and also the anal fins from body cavity to tail. Pull these narrow strips away from the fish. Cut off the tail. Use your fingers to pry the flesh from the bones. Trim off the thin belly flap. On a fish this small there are no centerline pin bones to worry about.
Skin: Don't even try to skin this fish. The skin may be tender, but it's all that's holding the fillet together. It has little shrink in cooking and does not have a strong or "off" flavor.
Stock: This mackerel is considered too oily and too strong in taste to make a usable fish stock.
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