Fresh Pacific Saury Prepared with a Home Kitchen Knife (Sashimi and Cured with Vinegar)

Fresh Pacific Saury Prepared with a Home Kitchen Knife (Sashimi and Cured with Vinegar)

I thought through the steps for prepping Pacific saury (sanma) so that even people who are a bit scared of working with fish can do it easily. If you get tired of salted-grilled Pacific saury, I recommend eating it as sashimi or cured in vinegar.

Ingredients: 1 serving, 1 piece

Pacific saury (sashimi grade)
1 serving, 1 fish
to taste
as needed


1. Cut into the fish around its neck, just above the side fin, until the knife blade hits the backbone.
2. Cut into the belly from the lower part of the fish to below the side fin.
3. If you break the fish's neck by bending it towards the belly, the head and guts should be removable together. Rinse out any residue.
4. Fillet the right side first. Place the fish with the belly facing you and the tail facing left. Cut into the fish from the lower part, all the way to the other side above the backbone. Slice above the bone to the tail.
5. Next, place the tail to the right and slice the fish from the tail to the head end as shown here.
6. Let's tackle the left side next! With the back edge facing you, make a cut about 4cm (just eyeball this) in starting from the tail end, pushing the blade through the other side. Then cut through the fish as shown in the Step 7 photo.
8. Turn the fish over, hold it down and cut through the fish over the backbone. Once you get used to it you can do this all in one go.
9. Once the fish is filleted, slice out the main bones. Start by holding the knife with the blade facing upwards, and make a cut from the middle of the fish in between the flesh and the bones.
10. Next, hold your knife the normal way and slice out the backbone.
11. Once the backbone has been removed, salt the fillets generously, put into a tray or similar, and leave in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to firm up. When moisture comes out of the fish, rinse the fillets off under running water to remove the salt, and pat dry with paper towels. The traditional method is to rinse the fish in vinegar or sake, but using water doesn't make a big difference in the taste.
12. Next, immerse the fish in vinegar and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes. Wipe the vinegar off very well, and peel off the skin with your hands! You can start from the head end or the tail end. If you start from the tail end, it's easier if you make a 1cm or so cut first! The skin rips easily so go gently.
13. There are some small bones left in the flesh. Slice the fillets diagonally as if to cut through these tiny bones. You may feel the bones when you are slicing, but you won't really feel them when you eat the fish! If the bones really bother you I recommend curing the fish in vinegar (Step 15).
14. Line up the sliced fish on a plate and serve. I cured the fish with salt and vinegar, but this is not to add flavor; it's to get rid of any parasites and bacteria and to firm up the fish so that is has a more pleasing texture. You won't really taste the vinegar or salt, so you can eat this like sashimi.
15. If you want to cure the fish with vinegar some more, add sugar to the vinegar in Step 12 and leave the fish to marinate for 3 hours. The result is vinegar-cured fish that has a sour flavor. If you leave the fish in salt for a longer time in Step 11 the fish will be 'cooked' through (it will turn white), but it won't taste as good.
16. The photo shows one serving of vinegar-cured Pacific saury that was on sale. It cost 70 yen.

Story Behind this Recipe

I learned how to cure the fish in vinegar from a master chef who works at a restaurant on the shores of Lake Kameyama in Kimitsu, Chiba Prefecture.
The way of filleting the fish is my original idea. I thought it up for people who aren't good at the traditional way of filleting a fish.