Mackerel meatball soup 鯖のつみれ汁

japanese cake

My wife really likes mackerel simmered in miso sauce or “Saba-no-misoni” 鯖の味噌煮. So,  every time we see fresh whole Spanish mackerel for sale at the near-by Whole Foods store, we get it to make this dish. This time we got two good sized mackerels. I had them gutted with heads off. I filleted them myself. If I do this myself, I can save more fish meat and I can scrape any remaining meat from the bone using a spoon. I also removed the meat from the tip of the tails since it is too narrow to make into “misoni”. Using these scraps, I made fish meatball soup or “saba-no-tsumire-jiru” 鯖のつみれ汁. This was a lunch on one weekend. In addition to the fish meatball soup (lower left), I served blanched rapini with scrambled eggs (upper left), mackerel simmered in miso sauce with broccoli (upper right), and butter and soy sauce rice (lower right).

I made clear soup with mackerel meatballs, silken tofu and sliced scallion and added (frozen) yuzu zests just before serving.

Ingredients: (the amount is for two servings from the recipe I saw on line as a reference. The amount of mackerel I used was less than indicated in the recipe and, as usual, I did not precisely measure quantities. I also made minor modification.)

For the meatballs:

Mackerel, skimmed from backbone or filet with skin removed (160 gram or 5.6oz)

Salt, scan pinch

Sake or water 1 tbs

Miso and potato starch, 1/2 tbs each

Sesame oil, 1 tsp

Scallion, 1/2 finely chopped

Ginger root, skin removed and finely chopped, 1/2 tsp

For broth:

Japanese dashi broth, 3 cups (I used my usual “dashi pack” with bonito and kelp).

Light colored soy sauce, 1 tbs

Scallion, 1 stalk, thinly sliced on bias.

Silken tofu 1/4 block, cut into bite-size cubes

Yuzu zest (I used frozen ones)


Using a chef’s knife, mince the fish meat and mix in all the ingredients for the meatballs.

Mix well (see below). Adjust the liquid (either sake or water, I used sake) to make the consistency (not too firm and no too soft, it has to stay together when cooked in broth but you want it to make soft tender meatball).

Bring the broth to a gentle simmer and using two teaspoons first dipped in the broth to prevent sticking, make small balls (or quenelles) and gently drop it into the broth (below) and let it cook through (a few minutes).

When the meatballs are cooked, season the broth with light colored soy sauce. Taste and if you need more saltiness, either add more soy sauce or add salt if you do not want the broth to become too dark.

Add the tofu and the scallion. When the tofu warms up, serve in a bowl and garnish with the Yuzu zest.

For a starch side, I served a variation of butter and soy sauce rice. Since I only had cold leftover rice, I first melted butter in a non-stick frying pan, added the cold rice and fried it to warm it up. Then I added a small amount of soy sauce to finish. I garnished with nori.

I have posted that the substitute for “Nanohana” 菜の花 in the U.S. is either rapini or broccolini. I like rapini since it has a slight bitterness similar to Nanohana. To complete the spring theme (color-wise) I added the bright yellow of scrambled eggs seasoned with sugar and salt. The rapini was blanched, cooled in cold water, drained and dressed with a mixture of Japanese mustard, sugar and soy sauce or “Karashi-jouyu” 辛子醤油.

Of course, we had to test some of the mackerel in miso. I served it with blanched broccoli for color.

Although I served this with only a small amount of rice, this was quite filling for us. The soup and fish balls were really good with ginger and yuzu flavors coming through but not at all “fishy”.

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