Grilled Sanma! #SundaySupper

First, let me welcome you to my second-ever Sunday Supper!

HI!!!! *waves* !!

This week, we are sharing our favorite Summer BBQ Party recipes, and there are so many tasty recipes here, so grab a cuppa and maybe a few tissues and prepare to salivate your way to the final lick of your fork!

Recently, my family and I took a trip to Japan to meet the rest of my family and to allow my extended family to meet my husband and girls for the first time – they all loved it! We all cherished the time we had together, since it had been over a decade since my last visit, and enjoyed eating pretty much everything! But one dish stood out to us. FISH. It’s just an expensive fare in the United States and the variety here is not always satisfying to someone like me, who grew up on such a diverse choice in fish.


One fish that I feel is very Japanese and homey at the same time, is Sanma. In the United States it is called both Pike Mackerel and Pacific Saury. The Japanese name means, “Autumn Knife Fish” as it is usually a fish that makes its appearance in the Fall and they are long, silvery fish whose bodies resemble knives, cutting through the water. Sanma is very much a Pacific Ocean fish, found in the seas around Japan, off the northeast coast of Russia, across the Bering Sea to the Gulf of Alaska and as far southward as Mexico. Grilled Sanma is something that I enjoyed often as a young child and that my husband and children instantly loved as soon as they ate their first bites during our visit to Japan!

Sanma is considered everyday fare and what was bought and prepared for meals in the lean days before payday. It is a very inexpensive fish, even here in California, two dollars will buy a minimum of six sanma which is more than enough to make a nice meal for our family. Oily and sweet when in season, sanma is simply grilled whole, with the head, tail and guts in-tact, in most households. The guts lend a bittersweet taste to the meat of the fish that some Japanese people enjoy; my family opts to remove the guts before grilling.

As you know, Japanese people eat fish raw for sushi and sashimi since the fish is incredibly fresh – but sushi and sashimi is not your typical weeknight fish preparation. Simply sprinkling fish with salt and grilling it is the most common preparation of nearly any fish, it is called Shioyakishio means salt and yaki means grilled. Luckily for us, the Asian market in town just happened to have fresh-caught Sanma and we bought A LOT of this fish to be frozen for future meals and to grill to our hearts content over the remainder of the summer!

Mei really enjoys eating the eyes, especially since her great-grandmother told her that it would make her smarter – the entire head is edible, although it has the bittersweet taste that the guts lend to the fish, so it is an acquired taste for some. The skin becomes blistery and crunchy, which is my favorite part, then you can pull away the meat on one side of the fish, then grab the tail fin or the head then swiftly and deftly pull the skeleton away from the rest of the body, leaving a luscious meal behind on your plate. This is very much a hands-on meal for our family and we pair it with miso soup, a simple bowl of rice, and some sort of crisp, fresh vegetable -often fresh cucumber. Grated daikon radish is a popular garnish as is soy sauce or a squeeze of lemon, and kimchii can be very tasty with it, if you have a spicy tooth like my husband does!

This makes for a quick weeknight meal and it’s sure to satisfy! But don’t forget to see what everyone else is bringing to our Summer BBQ Party!


  • One sanma (Pacific Saury/Pike Makerel) per person, even my 2 year old -Emily, will eat a whole fish by herself!!
  • Coarse Salt (kosher, sea)
  • 1/2 TBS Sake, per fish
  • Soy Sauce
  • Optional garnishes: kimchi, grated daikon (water squeezed out after grating)

Place fish vertically on the cutting board, take a sharp knife and cut diagonal slits, parallel to one another, in intervals along the body of the fish from the fill to the tail – this will allow the fish to cook more quickly and evenly, eliminating the need to flip them as they cook.

Remove the guts if preferred, then rinse each fish under cold water.

In a wide, shallow bowl that will hold each fish unbent, sprinkle sake over each fish, turning to coat in the sake and let it sit in the sake for five minutes. Meanwhile, turn the grill up to high (400F).

Then sprinkle coarse salt over the surfaces of each fish, wrap each fish in a paper towel that will absorb excess water that is released from the rise. Let the fish sit, wrapped for twenty minutes. Then blot the fish with another paper towel, sprinkle with coarse salt to ensure crispy skin at the end of cooking.

Set the fish, so they are not touching on a length of aluminum foil, that is either crinkled or sprayed lightly with oil to prevent the fish skin from sticking to it. Then lift the aluminum foil “sheet” with the fish carefully onto the grill.

Grill the fish over a strong heat, without a flame for 8-10 minutes. The skin should be blistery and browned and the meat inside should be white. Once the eyes turn white, that signals that the fish is done.

Plate the fish so that the head is to the left then top with your choice of garnish on top and enjoy hot!




Sides and Accompaniments

Main Dishes


Go on.... Say Something!

%d bloggers like this: