Pickled Mackerel on Puff Pastry Rafts



Sushi fans will probably be familiar with shime-saba (pickled raw mackerel). Traditionally, saba is marinated in a sweetened-vinegar mixture before serving raw as sashimi or sushi topping. I have never seen saba served raw unless it has been marinated first. Years ago, I was taught how to salt, and then marinate, a fresh-caught mackerel, but it was a time-consuming process and if not done properly, liable to cause digestive distress. With shime-saba so readily available in frozen form all year round these days, and at a reasonable cost, I couldn’t think of a good reason to keep doing it myself.

We like to eat shime-saba sliced and mixed with umeboshi (pickled plums), green shiso (perilla leaf), and myoga (ginger flower bud). I use this seasoning combination all the time with sardines and saury as well. Refer to my Sardines with Myoga post if you’d like to try the seasonings with cooked fish, rather than raw.

We always eat shime-saba with rice, so today I felt like doing something different with it. I placed the shime-saba mixture on top of a “raft” of baked puff pastry, making it look sort of European… (no? well, I thought so anyway)

Ingredients for two servings:

  • Shime-saba (pickled mackerel), frozen. Use two fillets if they come two halves to a pack like they usually do, unless the fillet is very large, like the one I used for this recipe.
  • soft, low-salt umeboshi (pickled plums), four large
  • fresh green shiso (perilla), 10 leaves
  • fresh myoga (ginger flower bud), one
  • frozen puff pastry, two rectangular sheets about 6″ x 3″ (Oh, it doesn’t matter. Cut circles out of the sheet if you want, or triangles or squares…)


Brush the the frozen puff pastry with egg wash and bake in a preheated 200 C (400 F) degree oven until puffed and golden brown. Remove from oven, and let cool to room temp. (Oh that’s right, I cut some slits into the puff pastry before baking it.)



The frozen fish should be thawed ahead of time in your refrigerator, but you can slice it as soon as it is less than rock hard (it may take up to one hour in the fridge). Slice the fish with a sharp knife into 1/4″~1/2″ cross sections. The slices will be different lengths because of the tapering of the fish from head to tail. If the fish is unusually wide, trim the thinner edge off and cut it separately to match the other slices as much as possible.

Remove the pits from the umeboshi and chop the fruit until it’s like a paste. Roll up the ten leaves of shiso together and chop them finely. Slice the myoga into long thin slices, and then chop it finely too.


Using clean fingers, mix the umeboshi, shiso, and myoga by rubbing them all together to make a gooey mass. Then add the shime-saba and toss it till it’s coated evenly with the seasonings. Arrange half of the fish mixture on top of one of the puff pastry “rafts.” Do the same with the remaining fish mixture and puff pastry. Serve immediately.


Something different.


2 Responses to “Pickled Mackerel on Puff Pastry Rafts”

  1. 1 Nitao, J

    I just recently ate shime saba as saba zushi at Izuju in Kyoto. It was great and your article on pickled sanma and saba caught my eye!

  2. Thanks for your comment! This shime saba mixture tastes great with rice too, but I like it best with toasted slices of French bread. : )

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