Chub Mackerel


I will begin by introducing the Mackerel, a fish that lives in the pelagic foundation of the ocean. The pelagic birds and fish spend months at a time at sea in isolation, returning to land only for breeding.

Many sushi chefs confuse “true mackerels”, the family of Scrombrini, with other Mackerel family species, such as Spanish Mackerel, or horse Mackerel used in sushi. The domestic Japanese mackerel used in sushi is a blue Chub Mackerel, and sometimes named Ma Saba salt, made with salt and vinegar, or Seki Saba, no salt no vinegar. Depending on where it comes from and how its made, it is very similar to its kin, chub mackerel but these fish are the “sister tribe” of the true mackerels.

Saba is one of the best winter fish, at the start of the winter the mackerel migrate to overwintering areas where the water is cold. They require so much oxygen for their vital processes that when the water is warm (hence its oxygen content low) they must keep swimming constantly, to bring sufficient flow of water to their gill filaments, or else they die. They survive with limited food supplies make normal activity or even survival difficult or near impossible.

When caught, under poor cold chain management, it’s fast acting stomach enzymes quickly digest the stomach wall, leading to rapid internal spoilage. Under similar conditions, the high fat content of the flesh is quickly oxidized, adversely affecting the taste and quality of the flesh. So the handling of saba is very important, as with all fresh fish.

Particularly saba, their skin is snake-like, the scales are small, the skin feels velvety. The scales of the mackerel are so small that its skin feels soft to the touch; indeed they are hardly to be seen on the belly with the naked eye, but those about the pectoral fins and on the shoulders are somewhat larger. It peels back, (see photo) it is elastic, resilient, it helps protect the fish’s meat during the marination process, preventing it from drying out or oxidizing.

In scientific research, Saba has two important peptides and antioxidant properties isolated from the skin protein, said to be used as food additives and as pharmaceutical agents.

An exceptional fish, it is sweet, dense, rich in taste and not too fatty, intense flavours, our favourite blue fish in the winter.