I had a little birthday party today. It was a small, cosy affair with just the birthday girl, two of her buddies and me.
Everyone at the party loves fish, so I made a fish dish, saba shioyaki. The fillets, grilled and seasoned sparingly with sea salt, turned out beautifully although it was only my second time DIYing saba shioyaki.
When I made my first attempt last night, I didn't feel too confident. Mum always said fresh is best but the mackerel I had were frozen and shipped all the way from Norway. I was also afraid my little toaster oven might not be hot enough for a charred and crisp outside whilst keeping the inside juicy and moist.
After I thawed the frozen fish, my confidence sapped further. The fish skin looked OK-ish, not shiny and glossy like fresh fish. And the fillets were limb and soggy. Good, fresh fish should be firm and dry, and the thawed mackerel was anything but. I thought it was going to be a waste of time, effort and money, and I would have to think of an alternative for the birthday bash.
As it turned out, all my fears were unnecessary.
My trusty little toaster oven rose to the task admirably and didn't fail me. It was so hot the fish skin puffed up impressively with two big blisters as it was being grilled. The small blister deflated outside the oven but you can see the big one in the photo.
Despite being soggy when it was raw, the fish was surprisingly compact and juicy after it was grilled. Maybe it was soggy with oil instead of water? Nothing watery came out of the fish at all, not even one drop.
To minimize the moisture lost, I thawed the mackerel slowly, grilled the cut side first, and made sure it wasn't overcooked. Taste wise, it was very flavourful and fresh with no hint of its humble, frozen origins.
On the whole, I was very pleased with my homemade saba shioyaki. The birthday girl and her buddies – all fish experts – also gave their hearty approval. Here's a photo of Mel, who turned three today, eyeing my plate after gobbling up her share:
The four-legged fish experts were all clambering for more mackerel 'cause they had only a tiny, tiny morsel each. From the tail end where there was less fat, and without salt. Cats really shouldn't eat mackerel (or tuna) at all unless there's vitamin E added. Otherwise, they may die from yellow fat disease because of undigested fish oil accumulated in the body. But I think a tiny piece at a birthday party is OK. Happy Birthday, Mel! You're a big girl now, 28 in human years. Yay!