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.
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!
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- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- Serve with a lemon wedge, grated daikon and soy sauce.