Japanese Simmered Fish (Sakana no Nitsuke)

Japanese Simmered Fish (Sakana no Nitsuke)

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Total: 40 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
355 Calories
2g Fat
21g Carbs
39g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 355
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 2%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 149mg 50%
Sodium 983mg 43%
Total Carbohydrate 21g 8%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 16g
Protein 39g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 41mg 3%
Iron 3mg 15%
Potassium 928mg 20%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Sakana no nitsuke is a Japanese term that refers to fish (sakana) simmered (nitsuke) in a sauce. Some of the more common types of fish that are used in this very traditional and rustic dish include rockfish (mebaru), flounder (karei), mackerel (saba), and black cod (gindara). However, almost any type of fish with white flesh may be used in this recipe.

The simmering sauce for Japanese braised fish is often a combination of staple ingredients in Japanese cooking, which includes soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar. The flavor profile of the sauce is primarily soy, but depending on the chef, the sweetness varies. Aromatics such as ginger are more prevalent than garlic, which is historically less common in traditional Japanese cooking.

A special piece of equipment used when braising foods in Japanese cooking is a Japanese drop lid, called an otoshibuta, which can be made out of wood or metal. It helps to cook braised foods evenly, minimize burning, and prevents the fish from breaking apart. A drop lid is inexpensive but can also be made using simple materials.

Enjoy this grilled fish dish with steamed rice and vegetables or soup.

Ingredients

  • 4 pieces white fish fillets, approximately 3 to 4 ounces each (bones and skin left on the fish, if desired)

  • Boiled water

  • 1 1/4 cups sake

  • 5 tablespoons mirin (sweet cooking sake)

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 tablespoon tamari

  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

  • Sliced green onions, or ginger, for garnish, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Japanese simmered fish (sakana no nitsuke) ingredients

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  2. If the fish fillet will be cooked with the skin intact, score the skin.

    Score the fish fillet skin

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Clean the fish with the boiled water: Place the fish in an empty pot and slowly pour the hot water over it until it's covered. The fish will cook slightly.

    Fish fillets in a pot of water

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Drain the hot water.

    Fish fillets in a pot

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  5. Immerse the fillets in cold water.

    Fish fillets in a bowl of cold water

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  6. Drain again and set aside.

    Fish fillets on a plate

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  7. Combine the sake, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.

    Combine the sake, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  8. Add the fish fillets to the saucepan and cover them with a Japanese drop lid.

    Add the fish fillets to the saucepan with the sauce

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  9. Cook the fish for 10 minutes over medium-high heat.

    Cover the saucepan with a Japanese drop lid

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  10. Continue to cook the fish until the simmering sauce is reduced to half.

    Fish fillets in a saucepan with sauce

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  11. Add the tamari and ginger. 

    Add the tamari and ginger to the saucepan with the fish fillets

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  12. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes, or until the simmering sauce has thickened.

    Fish fillets in a saucepan with thickened sauce

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  13. Remove the pan from the heat.

    Fish fillets in a saucepan removed from heat

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  14. Serve the fillets in shallow individual dishes.

    Serve the fillets in shallow individual dishes

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  15. Pour some of the simmering sauce over the fish.

    Pour some of the simmering sauce over the fish

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  16. Garnish with sliced green onions or fresh ginger, if desired.

    Japanese simmered fish (sakana no nitsuke), garnish with sliced green onions or fresh ginger

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

How to Make a Japanese Drop Lid

If you do not have a drop lid, you can fashion your own using aluminum foil. Cut a piece of foil that is the same size as the diameter of the outside of the pot, and then fold in the edges so the foil will fit inside the pot. Using a chopstick, make a few holes in the center of the makeshift lid.

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