Pacific saury simmered with picked “umeboshi” plums 秋刀魚の梅煮

japanese cake

My wife pointed out that a package of frozen Pacific saury or ”Sanma” 秋刀魚 was in the freezer and had been there for some time. I must have bought it last autumn and it certainly required my immediate attention.   I have posted quite a few sanma dishes including classic “shio-yaki”, salted and then grilled 塩焼き, “kaba-yaki” 蒲焼, “fry” 秋刀魚のフライ, and “fried rolls” 秋刀魚の巻き揚げ. I thought I had not posted sanma cooked with “umeboshi” 梅干し pickled plum or 秋刀魚の梅煮 but, when I searched my blog, I apparently already posted it some time ago. It was 7 years ago and this time, I cooked it a bit differently, which is my excuse for posting this dish again. This was a weekend and the weather was glorious and the mosquitoes were on vacation somewhere else so we enjoyed this dish outside on the deck with cold sake.

For greens, I added blanched and trimmed green beans. I also included the “umeboshi” plum which was used in the cooking liquid.

This fish is known for its numerous fine bones. Since I cooked this bone in, it took some chopstick dexterity to remove the bone before eating. The tail portion was easy because the meat had contracted exposing the bone, but the belly potion was more difficult. I demonstrated my chopstick prowess but my wife took a direct hands-on (literally) approach. This was OK with me. I would rather have her remove all the bones even if she has to use her fingers rather than have me remove a bone she missed from her throat using a needle nose pliers (This actually happened many years ago). If the removal of fish bones with fingers lacks finesse, it is completely superseded by the needle nose pliers technique.


Pacific saury “sanma”, three, thawed (#2)

Umeboshi pickled plums, 4, (#1, these are last batch my mother made and sent to us several years ago)

Ginger, several slices

Sake 180ml

Water, enough to cover the fish (90-180ml)

Sugar 1tsp

Soy sauce, 1 tbs

Mirin, 1 tbs


Press the umeboshi to separate the stones and the meat. Then tear the meat into a few chunks

Wash and clean the surface of the sanma to make sure no scales remain (scales fall off easily and usually no scales remain)

Cut the head off behind the front fins, remove the dorsal and ventral fins, and cut into three pieces.

Squeeze out the innards and wash it with a running cold water.

Place the fish in a colander and pour hot water over it turning once (this will remove some fishiness and keep the skin from breaking easily during the cooking) (#3).

Put the water, sake, pickled plum, sugar  and slices of ginger in a sauce pan on medium-high flame (#4). If needed add more water so that the fish is covered.

Once it starts boiling, turn down the heat and put an “otsohis-buta” on top (#5), I used the pink silicon one.  One can use a parchment paper or aluminum foil, instead.

After 5-7 minutes, I removed the otoshibuta and added the soy sauce and mirin and put back the otoshibuta and a lid and cooked it for 20 minutes.

I let it cool down in the cooking liquid.

The pickled plums added a nice salty and slightly sour tastes and the reaming plum meat add refreshing note. We really like this dish. My wife said next time she would remove the bone with her fingers in the kitchen ahead of time rather than at the dinner table.

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