Grilled fish is something to be universally found across seafaring cultures across the globe, and Japan is no exception. Generally speaking, fish in Japan is eaten very close to its natural form, either raw (sushi, sashimi) or simply salted and grilled. Japanese cuisine, it is often said, values freshness over spices, preferring to let the natural flavors of the food shine.
It may therefore be surprising to see saikyo-yaki, especially before it is cooked, when it is immersed in a white, creamy looking sauce. Of course, this being Japanese food, that fish (usually a type of cod, or alternatively, salmon) is not in anything creamy whatsoever, but rather a white miso sauce. Not just white miso, but also sake (Japanese rice wine), mirin (another rice wine, but one for cooking, so it is a bit sweeter and less alcoholic), and a touch of sugar, all mixed up and giving the fish fillets a big, wet hug. The hug should last at least thirty minutes to allow for flavor absorption. Restaurants and households of course use the preparation routinely, but for those who are “time challenged,” there exists vacuum packs of saikyo-yaki in supermarkets, where the raw fish has been marinating — and being preserved — for a day or so.
Flavors imbued, it’s time to get grilling. With a relatively high sugar content in the sauce, it is important to slough off any excess sauce pre-grilling, or else the fish is liable to get burned before it is even fully cooked inside. That accomplished, into the fish grill — yes, most household is Japan have a “fish grill” that is gas powered and resides below the stove burners — or, if you prefer, on to the frying pan the fish goes.
That’s really all there is to it. The fish comes out miso flavored and just a bit sweet, with a little crispiness at the edges too. Grab some rice and make a meal of it!