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Also called “saba” in Japan, mackerel is a smaller, milder cousin of the tuna. The fish themselves are sleek and shiny and the flesh is light.

An oily fish, mackerel’s high fat content gives it a rich flavor and makes it especially tasty when grilled over flame. Vinegared mackerel is also popular on nigiri or in sashimi. This preparation is associated with Kyoto-style sushi, where the vinegar helped preserve the fish as it was transported inland from the seaside areas where it was caught. This was necessary before refrigeration because mackerel spoils relatively fast — the vinegar would ensure it remained safe and edible when it finally arrived in Kyoto.

Because mackerel’s eaten throughout the world — especially in traditionally seafaring communities — there’s almost endless varieties of ways to prepare it. One aspect of preparation that’s common regardless of where you are in the world is that it’s usually eaten as fresh as possible to prevent spoiling. Otherwise, when not fresh or vinegared, it’s often cured, smoked, or canned.

Like other fatty fish, mackerel is high in omega-3 fatty acids and good for heart health. It’s also high in protein, minerals like the electrolytes magnesium, potassium, and sodium, vitamin D, and a few vitamin Bs, among other nutrients.

You can get fresh mackerel in Uwajimaya’s seafood department and can often find mackerel sushi in our food court or pre-packaged refrigerated food sections.