Japanese Simmered Fish (Sakana no Nitsuke)

Simmered fish with soy sauce

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  • Total: 40 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Servings: 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
356 Calories
2g Fat
21g Carbs
39g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 356
% 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 2%
Calcium 42mg 3%
Iron 3mg 15%
Potassium 933mg 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.


  • 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

  • Garnish:

    Sliced green onions or ginger

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

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

  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, releasing small debris and aroma.

  4. Drain the hot water.

  5. Immerse the fillets in cold water.

  6. Drain again and set aside.

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

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

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

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

  11. Add the tamari and ginger. 

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

  13. Remove the pan from the heat.

  14. Serve the filets in shallow individual dishes.

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

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

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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