Food

Too Porky, Beefy, Chickeny, and Vegetably

I don't know if anybody has ever said something was too porky or chickeny, but I hear that for saba (mackerel) quite commonly, it's "too fishy."

I for one love saba, and I love it battera sushi style which is another Portuguese influenced food (well just the name). The word “battera” is derived from the *Portuguese word “bateira” or “small boat”.

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A Portuguese Galleon doesn’t seem like a small boat (bateira), but this may have been what influenced the naming of battera sushi. Photographer: Matthew Laird Acred

*A couple of sources on the web cite (most likely taken from Sushi Encyclopedia) this as “batteria”, but in Portuguese that actually means “drum kit”. The correct spelling is “bateira”, and if you decide to copy’n’paste content, at least give a little credit to helping to set things straight, thanks.

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Battera sushi mold or “oshi waku” can be purchased through Rakuten (about $16)

Battera is mackerel, sushi rice, and kelp formed in a wooden box called an oshi wako, and I suppose it looks kind of like a boat although I just wouldn’t accuse it of looking too boaty. #boatymcboatface

Holy Mackerel

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Oshi sushi “Pressed Sushi”

The name “mackerel” is confusing because there are over thirty species of, and there isn’t just one.

The term for mackerel means “marked” or “spotted”, but if you want to make it more confusing, the naming convention by the Japanese make it even harder because fish are often named also according to age, region and even time of the season.

So here goes my attempt to spell out a couple of the more popular ones for sushi:

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Scomberomorus niphonius. Photo by China Zhoushan International

Scomberomorini (saba)

  • Japanese Spanish mackerel / Scomberomorus niphonius / Seer fish
    • Sagoshi (young)
    • Kan sawara (winter)
    • Sawara (spring)
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Trachurus Japonicus. Photography by Takuya Morihisa

Non-Scombrid Mackerels (aji)

  • Japanese horse mackerel / Trachurus Japonicus / Jack mackerel

You have to be a marine biologist to understand or properly be able to categorize all of this, so I’ve done all I could.

Not Just Battera

It’s not common at all to be able to eat fresh saba in the U.S. If you do have a chance to eat it raw, it’s only at a good sushi bar or in Japan. The majority of the saba you eat here is typically marinated and preserved in rice vinegar because mackerel spoils real quickly. The marinated mackerel is called shime-saba, and when it’s freshly marinated, it reigns at the top of my list for top neta (sushi toppings). Other ways other than nigirizushi are also sabazushi which is a type of bo-zushi. Think of it like a saba burrito/roll.

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In this pic you can see the layer of konbu (kelp) on top

Fishy Healthiness

Mackerel has an oily flesh packed with nutrients such as:

  • Lots of omega-3 fatty acids: you know you need those omega-3’s because your body can’t produce them, but you need them for cognitive functions like memory performance. The other benefits would be to reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Rich in monounsaturated fatty acids: I looked this one up, and it appears it helps reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood which lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid): The American Heart Association says that your body can’t produce them either like omega-3’s, but you need these too. Is that good enough reason?

The positives are that it’ll potentially help with heart disease, strokes, diabetes, blood pressure levels and wrestling tigers bare-handed.

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Saba shioyaki “grilled salted mackerel”: For all you weak sucks who can’t eat it marinated, so you have to have it grilled. I’m just messing with you because I also like it this way too. Just be sure to use grated daikon, lemon, and soy sauce.

For more information, you can read the articles/resources below:

  • “Mackerel Diet” by LiveStrong.com about tri-gliss-eeeer-rides and other things that sound like docosahexaenoic.
  • “Oily fish: mighty omega-3 or codswallop?” by NHS.uk, UK’s biggest health website.
  • “Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids” by the American Heart Association.
  • If you’re concerned about the varying levels of mercury or trying to maximize your Omega-3’s while being a friend to the environment/ocean, you can go to this website (seafood.edf.org) for more info.
  • “Omega-3 Fatty Acids” by University of Maryland Medical Center.

So, by now I hope you think “fishy” might be a good thing, and your diet will now consist of battera sushi next to your vegetably diet.

Where to Buy

This list is my recommendations on where to buy mackerel although I’m sure you can find it at most Asian grocery stores. I have listed mostly Japanese markets and one Korean market with locations everywhere:

  • H-Mart fresh and frozen saba.
  • Marukai really good battera, frozen, and fresh saba.
  • Mitsuwa good battera, frozen, and fresh saba.
  • Nijiya not sure about battera, but I’m sure they have frozen saba.
  • Seiwa most likely only frozen saba.
  • Tokyo Central not a fan of their battera, but they have fresh and frozen saba.

You’ll want to call ahead to confirm their selection/availability.