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Jul 14, 2003 03:53 PM

mackerel in Japanese restaurants

  • c

Does anyone know what kind of mackerel (Saba) is served in Japanese restaurants? I love Saba, but know that King Mackerel is not good for pregnant women due to the high mercury levels. Just wondering if Saba is king, spanish, or another kind of mackerel?

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  1. I love saba also -- I cant really answer your question but I'm pretty sure that its not spanish mackerel because that is often also on the sushi menu.

    2 Replies
    1. re: belle

      Thanks all for your help. I guess the only "forbidden" mackerel for pregnant women is King and since it seems different kinds can be served I might be better off not having it at all. Or I should ask the restaurant where I go if the saba they serve is King or not. thanks!

      1. re: carolyn

        Noone would server King as Saba. Totally different fish.

        Both of the varieties that Mr. Koval and myself were debating are smaller and therefore a negligible risk for mercury.

    2. Saba is just plain old mackerel. Probably officially refgered to as Atlantic mackerel.

      They area small, usually 10-15" long and because they are small, probably pretty low in mercury and heavy metals. The higher up the food chain (read bigger) a fish is, the more concentrated the heavy metals.

      Sometimes if they are really small, 6-8" they are sometimes referred to as "tinker" mackerel, but I believe it is the same species.

      You are probably fine eating saba.


      1. Carolyn: Saba, the Japanese Mackerel species most often served as Sushi is a type of Mackerel, caught in the Pacific, primarily around Japan. The variety most preferred for Sushi, is called "Hon-Saba, Hiri-Saba or Seki-Saba", these fish are flatter then other types of Mackerel, served rarely fresh, as they must be very fresh to retain flavor, or most often slightly salted.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Irwin Koval

          On the east coast of the U.S., they just server Atlantic Mackerel.

          1. re: StriperGuy

            StriperGuy: I've been eating "Saba" at sushi restaurants all over the world. Never been served "East Coast Mackerel" as Saba. I've had "Tinker Mackerel" [young mackerel] in Boston and New York City in season, King Mackerel, many places, never regular full sized Mackerel. The Saba is a thinner structured fish, less oily, with lighter colored flesh, not as strong tasting as our east coast mackerel. For smoking, or cooking i'll take American every time. Even in Japan where there are over 30 kinds of Mackerel, only 3 types are considered Saba.

            1. re: Irwin Koval

              Just called Boston's best wholesale sushi fish provider "Sea to You." They said that the Saba that they sell for sushi is either local fresh caught Atlantic Mackerel, or, the very best is frozen, very fatty, Atlantic Mackerel from Norway.

              I have also linked to a site below that describes Atlantic Mackerel as being used for Sushi.


          2. re: Irwin Koval

            On the east coast of the U.S., they just serve Atlantic Mackerel.

          3. Ask. The chef should be able to tell you size of the fish.

            The sushi chefs at Hirozen in Los Angeles love Mackerel and prepare at least three distinct types, each with a different Japanese name: "mackerel," Spanish mackerel, and King mackerel. Each is served as a different preparation and looks different.

            No mackerel when you are pregnant? Bah humbug. Not looking forward to it...

            1. Most mackerels are extremely low in mercury. The King mackerel, which is high in mercury, is a giant fish that can grow as large as 5 feet long. Saba can be Scomber scombrus (Atlantic mackerel) or Scomber japonicus (Pacific mackerel, blue mackerel, chub mackerel). Saba and all other small mackerels are extremely healthy for us to eat because they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, selenium, and phosphatidylserine. The only family of fish that is even healthier for us to eat than small mackerels is the salmon/trout family, which, in addition to the nutrients found in mackerels, is also high in astaxanthin, a powerful carotenoid antioxidant that gives salmon and trout their pink/red color: