Shime Saba (Japanese pickled Mackerel)

12 May

Shime Saba is vinegar-pickled mackerel, a classic dish from Japan.  It is first cured in salt then washed with rice vinegar.   Mackerel does not keep well.  If it’s not consumed within the first several hours after being caught, it will deteriorate quickly.  Therefore, the Japanese pickle it before serving as sushi.


  • 1 fresh mackerel, cleaned, and filleted, with skin on
  • 1 tablespoon salt (I used sea salt)
  • 1 cup of rice vinegar, enough to cover the fish fillet


  1. Clean and fillet the fish. Remove the remaining bones with a tweezer.
  2. Sprinkle salt on both side of the fillet in a glass bowl for 1 hr.
  3. Pat away salt and and dry the fish with paper towel.
  4. Place the fish in a ziploc bag and pour enough vinegar the cover the fish.  Let it marinate for 25 minutes.
  5. Peel off the skin from the mackerel.  *Start by rubbing the corner of the fish fillet to peel off the skin.
  6. Then place the fish on a cutting board and slice the fish diagonally into ½ inch-wide
    pieces. Serve shime saba with grated ginger, wasabi and lemon juice.

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15 responses to “Shime Saba (Japanese pickled Mackerel)

  1. angrywayne (@angrywayne)

    February 23, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    This is great. Thanks. Where did you learn this technique?

  2. thejanechannel

    February 25, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Thanks! My friend caught a lot of mackerels on one of his fishing trip. He learned the technique from his fishing friends. We did some research online, experimented and this gave the best results.

  3. angrywayne (@angrywayne)

    February 26, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    So, I used your technique and recipe for the mackerel as described here and my clients loved the salad I paired it with. Thanks a million. Also, my wife loves saba, it’s here favorite, so you just made my life a little easier 😉

    • thejanechannel

      February 27, 2012 at 1:04 pm

      You’re so welcome Wayne!! I’m so glad you and your wife like it! 😀

  4. Terry

    February 28, 2012 at 11:00 pm


    You don’t scale mackerels because they don’t have scales. I didn’t go mackerel fishing this year.



    • thejanechannel

      March 1, 2012 at 9:39 pm

      Thanks for catching that, Terry. It is fixed now! 🙂

      How come you’re not fishing this year?

  5. Susan

    August 15, 2012 at 6:49 am

    Lovely post, and such an exciting blog! Thrilled to have found you.

  6. Jacopo

    August 16, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Shime Saba is my favorite treat when eating sushi. My parents live on an island of the coast of Maine and we’ve always caught plenty of mackerel but always just grilled them. I’m looking forward to trying this. Does this need to be eaten right away or can this keep for a while in the refrigerator? Thanks!!
    P.S. I think there’s a typo on step #2 (fillet instead of second salt).

    • thejanechannel

      August 23, 2012 at 3:09 pm

      I’ve seen it for sale in Japanese supermarkets, so it can be kept for a while. But I eat mine right away after pickling just to be safe. 🙂
      Thanks for catching the typo. It is corrected now. 🙂

  7. David Pittle

    June 30, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    I have found it vacuum packed and frozen in Japanese grocery stores. I am going to try that tonight with the second file. (The first one will not last the night. LOL)

  8. Dan

    June 16, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Sounds tasty! Do steps 2 and 4 need to be done while the fish is refrigerated? Or should it be left in the kitchen?

    • thejanechannel

      June 17, 2014 at 9:01 pm

      I did not put the fish in the fridge in Step 2 and 4.


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