Grilled Mackerel Rice Bowls are a longstanding favourite of mine. Bold smoky mackerel fillets with succulent flesh and crispy skin are served on a bed of rice with a portion of garlicky green beans on the side. A simple, slightly sweet soy and mirin sauce that cuts through the fattiness of the mackerel is drizzled on top.
Did you know that you should eat one portion of oily fish every week? My grilled Mackerel Rice bowl is a great way to get those healthy fats and proteins. Mackerel is also one of the more affordable and widely available fish.
If you're worried you don't have time to throw this dish together, don't be. You can get these delicious bowls of umami deliciousness on the table in under 30 minutes. There are a few simple steps and most can be done in the time it takes to cook the rice. The key is to do the shorter bits of prep while other ingredients cook. I have written the recipe in what I have found to be the most efficient order of things.
My inspiration for this dish comes from a Japanese dish I love called Unagi Donburi. This translates as 'eel on rice'. The soy and mirin sauce is very similar to Japanese eel sauce. Sadly, it's almost impossible to buy eel in the UK so I enjoy eel sauce with mackerel instead. I often say that if I could only eat one dish for the rest of my life it would be a grilled fish rice bowl with some garlicky green veg on the side.
4 reasons why you should make a Grilled Mackerel Rice Bowl:
- Healthy - mackerel is rich in omega 3, vitamin B12, vitamin D and protein.
- Affordable - mackerel tends to be cheaper than other types of fish like salmon, fresh tuna and seabass.
- Quick - because this dish takes up to 30 mins to make it is week-night friendly.
- Tasty - a grilled mackerel rice bowl is packed with flavour. Rich and smokey mackerel, garlicky green beans and the sweet, salty and tangy soy and mirin sauce.
- Mackerel fillets - these can be fresh or frozen. If you are using frozen mackerel fillets make sure they are fully defrosted first.
- Rice - I make this dish with sushi rice but basmati or jasmine rice will work well too. Use a packet of microwaveable pre-cooked rice if you want to save time.
- Green beans - Garlicky fried beans are tasty and simple to make but other green veggies like broccoli, spinach or pak choi will also taste great when tossed in garlic.
- Soy sauce - this is a key component of the sauce. Any standard light soy sauce will work well. Avoid using dark soy sauce because this will make the flavour of the sauce too strong. You can also use reduced salt soy sauce if you prefer.
- Mirin - adds a little acidity and sweetness to the sauce. You should be able to find it in most larger supermarkets as well as Asian grocery stores.
- Sugar - to sweeten the source. Feel free to use what you have in your cupboard. White and brown will both work.
- Garlic - the par-boiled green beans are quickly tossed in a frying pan with garlic to give them some additional flavour before the dish is served.
- Sesame seeds (optional) - I sprinkle these on the top of the dish before serving. They complement the flavours of the other ingredients and add an additional crunch.
How to make grilled mackerel rice bowls:
1. Prep the mackerel fillets
If you want crispy skin the mackerel fillets need to be as dry as possible.
Frozen mackerel: I recommend taking the fillets out of the freezer the night before, removing them from their packaging and placing them in the fridge on an uncovered plate or tray lined with kitchen paper. I find if they defrost in their packaging they often end up sitting in a little pool of water. This is game-over for crispy skin.
Fresh mackerel: the mackerel fillets should also be removed from their packaging 2 to 8 hours before cooking and placed on an uncovered tray or plate. Remove any excess moisture with kitchen paper before placing them in the fridge.
2. Par-boil the green beans
Put a pan of generously salted water on a medium heat, add the green beans when the water starts to simmer. The beans are ready when you can put a fork through them, but are still slightly underdone. This should take 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Cook the rice
Cook the rice according to packet instructions. You can prep the sauce and grill the mackerel while the rice cooks, but make sure you keep an eye on it and don't let it overcook.
4. Make the sauce
Place a saucepan on a low heat and add soy sauce, mirin, sugar and water. Stir the ingredients until they are combined. Take the pan off the heat and set aside when the sauce starts to thicken.
5. Grill the mackerel
Brush both sides of the mackerel fillets with oil and sprinkle fine sea salt onto the skin side. Place in the middle of the grill for a few minutes. Turn the fillets over so the skin side faces up as soon as the flesh turns opaque. Return to the middle of the grill until the skin starts to crisp. Move the fillets to the top of the grill for 1 to 2 minutes to get the skin extra crispy. Remove from the grill and set aside when done.
6. Fry the beans and garlic
Place a small frying pan on a medium/high heat and fry the beans and crushed garlic for a few minutes until the beans start to brown.
You can plate up while the beans are frying. Divide the rice between your bowls or plates. Pour on half of the sauce. Place the mackerel fillets and beans on top of the rice and pour on the remaining sauce. Garnish with sesame seeds (if using) and serve.
Top tips for a perfect Grilled Mackerel Rice Bowl:
- Remove as much moisture as you can - from the mackerel fillets with kitchen paper before you grill them. This is especially important if you are using frozen mackerel fillets. If the fillets are too wet the skin will not crisp.
- Watch the rice - you can make the sauce and grill the mackerel while the rice cooks but make sure you keep an eye on it and don't let it overcook.
- Cook the beans and rice in the same pan - remove the parboiled beans from the pan with tongs instead of draining them with a colander and use the water to cook the rice to save on washing up.
- Line the grill pan with foil - save clean-up time by placing a sheet of foil on top of the grill pan before adding the mackerel fillets.
- Speed things up - use a packet of pre-cooked microwaveable rice if you are in a hurry.