Sanma Shioyaki (Salt-Grilled Pacific Saury) さんま塩焼き

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Sanma Shioyaki (Salt-Grilled Pacific Saury) Recipe |

Sanma or Pacific Saury is one of the most well-known seasonal fish representing autumn in Japanese cuisine.  It’s usually salted and grilled whole even with intestines intact, and served with grated daikon and soy sauce to intensify the flavor of the fish.  The Japanese enjoy the combination of the bitter intestine flavor with fresh grated daikon soy sauce.  The kanji characters used in the Japanese names of the Sanma (秋刀魚) mean “autumn sword fish” in reference to sanma season and its body shape resembling a knife or a sword.

Sanma Shioyaki (Salt-Grilled Pacific Saury) Recipe |

If you can grill sanma over charcoal, the smokiness adds another layer of flavor to the dish.  However, I like using my oven toaster to grill my fish because it’s simple and easy to clean up.  You can use an oven or a broiler, but please adjust the cooking time accordingly.  I will be sharing another Sanma dish next week before the sanma season is over.  This time I wasn’t scared to show fish head picture.  Do you remember my post that I was concerned about publishing because I thought it’s scary looking?  Well I received very positive responses last time from majority of readers who are used to fish heads so I am more confident this time to share the photos today.  I hope I didn’t scare you this time…  Have a great week everyone!

Sanma Shioyaki III

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Sanma Shioyaki (Salt-Grilled Pacific Saury)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 1
  • 1 pacific saury (Sanma)
  • ½ Tbsp. sake
  • Sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp. grated daikon (squeeze water out)
  • ½ - 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 lemon wedge (optional)
  1. Cut the fish in half diagonally (to fit in my toaster oven). Place the fish vertically on the cutting board and insert knife in the stomach side from top to bottom. Wash and get rid of gut thoroughly in cold water. Wipe the entire fish dry with paper towels. Sanma is usually eaten with intestine so it’s up to you if you want to remove it or not.
  2. In a bowl, sprinkle sake and leave it for 5 minutes. Meanwhile preheat toaster oven to 400F (204C). Line the grill pan with aluminum foil. I usually make the foil wrinkles first then line the pan so the fish skin won’t get stuck to the aluminum foil. You can also spray oil to prevent sticking to the foil.
  3. After 5 minutes, wipe the fish with paper towels and sprinkle both sides of the fish with salt (Note: salt the fish right before grilling).
  4. Put the fish on the foil and grill until the surface is blistered and brown a bit, about 6-8 minutes. Inside of the fish should almost be cooked (white color).
  5. Flip the fish carefully making sure the fish skin is intact and not attached to the foil. Grill the other side until nicely broiled, about 3 minutes.
  6. Serve with a lemon wedge, grated daikon and soy sauce.
Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.


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  1. Aiko


    • Aiko-san, コメントありがとうございます!お酢とは初めて知りました!是非次回やってみます!実験楽しみ~!
      Aiko told us another method: applying vinegar with a brush on the foil so the skin won’t stick to the foil. I have to try this next time!

  2. Nami, if you didn’t talk about the head and scariness, I wouldn’t even notice there is a head 😉 Your sanma looks so delicious, I wish I could taste this fish one day (I would even try the intestines). I think cutting the fish in two and presenting it in this way was an extraordinary aesthetic trick! You are so creative and you are definitely a very skilled food photographer.
    I’m looking forward to see another sanma recipe!

  3. I love fish and I’ve been wanting to make a whole fish but I’m a bit intimidated. Your photos along with instructions make it seem a bit less scary for this fish. I’m wondering if daikon is called something different as well. There is a lot of asian produce here and I see things that are from Japan, but I’ve never seen anything labeled daikon.

    • I grew up seeing fish head so it doesn’t bother me and usually I’m not even aware if there is a head or not. Haha. Daikon is called Japanese radish or Oriental radish. I’ve seen similar ones in Indian, Chinese, and Korean market before. Some high end supermarkets carry them too.

  4. LOL, you didn’t scare me, but you would scare my hubby and kids 😉 Actually, I adore salted and smoked fish, so I can imagine how delicious this must be! And I love finding something unique and extraordinary each time I visit…that’s why I love your blog! xo

  5. I’ve never tried this fish before. The preparation looks very simple. Although eating the intestines doesn’t sound appealing to me however I’ve never tried them before. Do you enjoy eating them?

    Thank you for going into such detail about this type of fish. Very informative!

    • My mom grilled the whole fish, so it didn’t bother me it was there. But I usually avoided that area and eat other parts. 😉 I usually take it out for my cooking.

    • One of the similar fish in Japan is called Saba Shioyaki (Salt-Grilled Mackerel). You are right – it’s similar type of fish (we call it blue fish). Sanma in season has fat and really juicy whereas mackerel can be a bit dry texture sometimes…. I think? :-)

  6. I aways discover new things I didnt know, in your posts. That fish is unknown to me.
    smoking ll defenetly give some unique flavoures to the fish, but I agree that the easier a dish to prepare is, the more time u ll safe and the more u can cook! =D

  7. I never tried this kind of fish, but sure look tempting and tasty..perfecly crunchy!:) I love your method, and options that you gave us..very nice photos! Thanks for sharing, Nami and have a wonderful week ahead!!!

  8. hi nami, should have written to you earlier. I’ve already made sushi 2 times, thanks for your tips and post on how to cook sushi rice. I will send you a mail later to show you my attempted sushis and also some questions to ask you. You can have a look at my latest post on some kuihs which i practice on some sushi rolling. YOu really hv many wonderful
    recipes on your blog!

  9. Nami,

    This is another one of my favourite dishes at Japanese restaurants, the other similar one is saba shioyaki. I really like the delicate saltiness and you’re right about grilling it over charcoal to get the effect because the Japanese restaurants in Malaysia does that.

    I can eat this everyday and the last time I had this dish in a Japanese restaurant, I said I was going to learn this recipe and now, I know that I’m just going to come to your blog. There is so much of sanma in our fresh fish markets and to think I have never cooked it before at home! Shame but it will change and I want to blog about it too :) Thanks for reminding.

    • I remember you mentioned about Saba Shioyaki as your favorite on my Saba Misoni post. I thought of you when I decided to do Shioyaki. I was afraid this recipe is too easy to call it “recipe” but I’m glad I shared it. My husband said it’s a common fish in Taiwan too, so I was hoping my Asian readers would like this post. :-) I have a feeling that you will use charcol to cook this at home! I will ask my husband to cook this over BBQ grill next time.

  10. The steps and photos that accompany this recipe are really excellent. You took out the intimidation factor of preparing and working with a whole fish. Looks delicious too! Love the salt grilling technique. I will definitely give it a try. Have a great week Nami.

  11. Looks nice. Eating fish with intestine reminds me of a mistake I made once. I bought fish that was intended to be used for fish bait, and I cooked and ate it with the gut, intestines etc, everything inside. It wasn’t unpleasant to eat just the thought of it:) Your looks more appetising:)

  12. This is a new fish for me. I don’t think I’ve seen this type of fish fresh. If I can find the frozen type in Asian markets, are they OK to use? Thanks for sharing this Japanese recipe! =)

  13. I really enjoyed learning about this seasonal fish from your post. It looks a little like herring, which is also often served very salty. On the topic of fish head, well kind of, I have been meaning to post my Dad’s steak tartare recipe but I’m scared that a pile of raw meat won’t go down so well… Anyway, really enjoying learning about Japanese flavours from your posts.

    • Oh I would love to see your dad’s steak tartare! Just one day of scary food (well I don’t think it’s scary though), post it please! 😉

  14. Beautifully grilled fish here! This sanma fish looks quite similar to shishamo but bigger and longer.
    Today I learn two new helpful tips! Tks Nami and Aiko! 😀
    Have a great week ahead!

  15. It is very unique, how you cut the fish in half…to show the top half, and the bottom half!
    When I leave the head on the fish, I usually bake it whole. This is totally very visual, and presented properly, in the style that is is supposed to be…I trust you on that one, Nami:DDD
    I love salted fish, and the way you made it is superb, as with all your amazing dishes!

  16. I like my fish in nice, neat little filets, but I’m always open to new ideas and flavors. However, with a fish allergy, I don’t get to have any of it any more. I’m glad you made YOUR traditional fall dish and – as always – your pictures are stunning!

  17. Fish is always a challenge to take pictures of (in my opinion) but yours came out really nice and appetizing. I love the golden brownish color — perfectly done, Nami! Good job my friend. :)

  18. Nami, this resembles the fish which we call Galongong and is a favorite of mine… especially with vinegar. Ray is right, it’s a bit challenging to take a picture of a fish dish but yours is done artistically. Great post as always Nami!

  19. Nami before I say anything …. the picture of fish is breathtaking awesome………..
    I have to admit here that I get scared with fish cooked whole specially the head and eyes.
    I know it may sound funny but it feels as if it is looking at me…LOL
    But my husband loves fish head, he will love this one.

  20. I think I can eat a whole one just by myself with some rice. On a different note: have you ever had fried smelt? My mom use to fry the whole fish and we just snacked on it. I haven’t had it for so long…will have to look for them.

  21. Oj, I think I’d find the idea of eating the “guts” rather off-putting so I’d definitely be taking them out. It looks great though – do you eat the skin? I’ve never been a huge fan of fish skin myself. I prefer to use it as a handy “natural” way of keeping flavour locked inside next to the flesh, like herbs and spices, until ready to peel back and eat.

    • I also take guts off for kids, but I “can” eat it too. :-) Yes skin is good part. It’s broiled so perfectly that it is crunchy and oily..and when you eat with the flesh, oh that’s so delicious! Japanese put grated daikon with soy sauce on top to eat it, so it’s very refreshing rather than fishy or oily, etc. It might be an acquired taste. :-)

      • My sister’s husband used to say that the skin, tail and head of fish was the absolute best part. He came originally from a small village in China and was always talking about the merits of these parts – how they’re the most filled with taste and nutrition! Do you also eat something like salmon skin? That seems a lot thicker so I’m not sure if it’s still eaten like “thinner” skins like your dish above. I should give it a try – I’ll eat anything if it’s “crunchy and oily” – two of my favourite food qualities 😀

        • Yes we eat salmon skin! I won’t eat it if it has some spots where it’s not crispy. It has to be crispy and crunchy. We put it in sushi rolls, put it in salad, etc. I wasn’t into it when I was younger but now I can appreciate it more. :-)

  22. Nami, Ahhh so that’s how you utilize this type of fish! I’ve been eying theme whenever we go to my favorite Korean Super Market, but don’t know how to fix them since it’s not something I grew up eating. This recipe is certainly easy and I should give it a try! Hope you have a wonderful week!

  23. Susie

    I think my mom has made this before although I am not sure how she prepared it. It looks fantastic fish head and all lol. I’ll have to keep this in mind for when she comes back home. :)

  24. Intestines intact, eh? Oh goodie!! :) This looks great Nami and reminds me of Sissi’s salted (and I believe grilled) horse mackerel. This is the true meaning of eating whole foods – I find it very refreshing and healthful.

  25. Nami, Hurray for showing the fish head. I don,t mind as long as the head par is not in my plate lol. this is such a simple recipe, I just adore it. Like the daikon…looking for more uses for pickled daikon (hint hint). OK so scrapping my wafu next tome for yours 😉

    • I use Canon T2i with 50mm f1.4 lens and Tamron 60mm f2.0 macro lens for most of the pictures featured on the website. Thank you for your compliment. :-)

  26. I don’t understand why people would think it’s scary looking…it’s fish! It’s supposed to look like fish, not skinned cut-up rubber. I’m glad you got positive responses. I’ve had this fish before; in fact it’s my mom’s favorite fish! Sooo many little bones though.

  27. well… u not scary me nami, as u know we have all kind of fish dish like this at Indonesia… hehe he
    So it’s a normal thing fr us, in fact u makes me mouth watering 😀
    I ever see this kind of fish when I watch japanese movie or drama, I though “that is a dish”? just a fish without any garnish in a plate?” haha ha
    I know know what is that, and this dish will makes me want more! serve with warm rice, right? 😉

  28. ah no wonder they r selling the sanma fish now in Jusco cos it’s in season . now i know wat do with the fish then :) . they r selling it cheap too .

  29. jayson

    this fish is VERY good. the only bad thing about cooking it is the smell. i couldn’t believe how strong this fish smells during (and after) cooking. but the taste is worth it! has anyone tried scoring the fish on its sides before cooking?

    • Hi Jayson! I guess I’m really used to cooking fish that I didn’t even feel bothered by the smell at all (haha!).

      About scoring the skin of fish, I actually did for one of the fish but it didn’t look good enough for photo shoot.. 😉 If you don’t cut the fish in half like I did above, it’s probably better to score. :-)

  30. Charlie Sommers

    I also cook my sanma with lots of salt in a small toaster oven. We are blessed with many Asian Markets in our local area (Nashville, Tennessee) and can buy frozen fish the year round and don’t have to wait for autumn to enjoy sanma. Even though my wife of fifty years is Japanese she makes me take out the guts. A few times I have been unable to get daikon and have used american radishes, after grating they are pink rather than white and are a little more peppery than a daikon but are quite tasty.

    I tried to take a shortcut a few times and grate the daikon in a blender. The result was very unsatisfactory, an oroshi is necessary!

    • Hi Charlie! Thank you so much for your feedback. I enjoyed reading your comment. I’m surprised to see you have a nice Asian market that sells sanma in TN! The pink American radish must be pretty to look at but I can imagine it’s a bit peppery. And thanks for trying the blender too – now I know there is no shortcut. Thank you so much for your comment! :)

  31. Meng

    I really enjoy your recipes and thanks so much for sharing. One feedback on this recipe though: I was looking where the soy sauce was used, after a while then I realized it is for the daikon. Perhaps you could state that so that it is clear.

  32. Rena

    Thank you for this recipe.. I am going to try it tonight.. Just wondering if I dont have sake, I can substitute it for anything else?

    • Hi Rena! I hope you enjoy! If you don’t have sake, then how about white wine (dry sherry)? It’s basically to remove “fishy” smell. If you have any other method in your cuisine to remove fish smell, that works too. :)