Horse Mackerel in Japanese Cuisine
Horse mackerel or aji is a very familiar fish to the Japanese, given that it is available across Japan throughout the year. It tastes good no matter how it’s prepared, to the extent that some people say its name comes from the Japanese word aji, which means ‘flavour’.
Aji-no-tataki or horse mackerel tartare-style is a signature recipe. Raw horse mackerel is finely chopped up and served with finely chopped spring onions, ginger, or other garnishes, which help mask the fishy smell. And horse mackerel is also available in dried form. The fish are slit open, spread out, treated with salt and dried in the open air. The dried fish is often grilled, making for a typical Japanese breakfast dish.
A number of regions have their own recipes for this fish. In Miyazaki prefecture, Kyushu, the fish is grilled and mashed, and then grilled again with miso paste and served in a cold stock prepared from smoked bonito, producing a dish known as hiya-jiru. In the Izu Islands, they have a dish called kusaya, in which horse mackerel are opened up and soaked in a fermented liquid, and then dried. The dried fish is then grilled. But you need to be careful about your neighbours when you do this, because the fish has a very pungent smell.