Sakana No Nitsuke Recipe: Master the Art of Japanese Fish Stew

We’re diving into the heart of traditional Japanese cuisine today with a dish that’s as flavorful as it is steeped in history: Sakana no Nitsuke. This classic recipe involves simmering fish in a delightful blend of soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar, creating a savory-sweet glaze that’s utterly irresistible. It’s a testament to the beauty of simplicity in Japanese cooking, where each ingredient is chosen with care and purpose.

Sakana no Nitsuke isn’t just a meal; it’s a journey through Japan’s culinary landscape. Perfect for those looking to explore authentic flavors or add a new staple to their weeknight dinners, this dish promises to impress with its delicate balance of tastes. Let’s embark on this flavorful adventure together, shall we?


Now that we’ve marched through the tantalizing history and cultural significance of Sakana no Nitsuke, let’s gear up to bring this exquisite dish to your kitchen. We’ll start by lining up all the ingredients. Freshness and quality are key here, so let’s ensure we have everything we need to do this dish justice.

For the Fish

  • 4 fillets of a firm, white fish such as cod or halibut (about 6 oz each), skin on
  • Salt, for seasoning the fish
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

For the Nitsuke Sauce

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup of mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 1/4 cup of sake (Japanese rice wine)
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced

Required Tools and Equipment

Creating Sakana no Nitsuke, a beloved Japanese simmered fish dish, doesn’t just involve gathering the right ingredients; it also requires having the proper tools and equipment at hand for a flawless execution. Here’s what you’ll need for our journey into culinary perfection:

  • A Medium-Sized Saucepan or Pot: Essential for simmering the fish and the flavorful broth. Ideally, choose one with a heavy bottom for even heat distribution.
  • A Fish Spatula: This tool will be invaluable when you need to gently flip the fish, ensuring it stays intact and beautifully presented.
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons: Accuracy is key when mixing the broth ingredients. Precise measurements of soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar will guarantee the perfect balance of flavors.
  • A Sharp Knife and Cutting Board: For prepping the fish if it’s not already done and slicing the ginger. A sharp knife ensures clean cuts without damaging the fish’s delicate flesh.
  • A Skimmer or Slotted Spoon: This will be handy for removing any impurities that rise to the surface of the broth, keeping it clear and appetizing.
  • A Lid or Aluminum Foil: Essential for covering the saucepan or pot during the simmering process. This helps to maintain the right temperature and ensures the fish is cooked evenly.

Having these tools and equipment ready not only simplifies the cooking process but also enriches the experience, letting us immerse ourselves fully in the art of Japanese cuisine. With everything in place, we’re ready to dive into the detailed steps of preparing Sakana no Nitsuke, where precision and care bring out the deep, comforting flavors that define this dish.

Prep Work

Having set the stage with the right tools and a deep dive into what makes Sakana no Nitsuke so special, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to the core of our cooking adventure—preparing the fish and ingredients.

Cleaning the Fish

Starting with the freshest fish is crucial, but equally important is preparing it correctly. First, make sure your fish has been properly scaled. Holding the fish under cold running water, use a knife to gently remove any remaining scales. Next, using the same sharp knife, carefully slice open the belly of the fish and remove its innards. Rinse the cavity thoroughly to ensure there’s no residual blood or innards, as these can impart bitterness to your dish. Finally, make a few diagonal cuts along each side of the fish. These notches allow the savory sauce to penetrate deeply into the flesh during cooking, enriching the fish with flavor throughout.

Preparing the Ingredients

For Sakana no Nitsuke, the harmony of flavors comes from its simple, yet poignant sauce and the aromatics that accompany the fish. Let’s prepare what we’ll need:

  1. Soy Sauce: 1/4 cup
  2. Mirin: 1/4 cup, a sweet rice wine that adds a gentle sweetness
  3. Sake: 1/4 cup, to add depth and remove any fishy odor
  4. Sugar: 1 tablespoon, to balance the salty richness of the soy sauce
  5. Ginger: 1 tablespoon, thinly sliced to introduce a warm, zesty kick
  6. Green Onions: 2 stalks, chopped into 1-inch pieces for a burst of color and freshness

In a small bowl, thoroughly mix together the soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar until the sugar dissolves. This blend will serve as the braising liquid that imparts a deep, umami-packed flavor to the fish. The ginger and green onions will be added to the saucepan at the right moment to enhance and complete the dish with their aromatic qualities. Keep these prepared ingredients within arm’s reach as the cooking process unfolds quickly once it begins.

Cooking Instructions

Now that we’ve prepped our fresh fish and mixed our essential ingredients, let’s dive into the heart of Sakana no Nitsuke by cooking the sauce and the fish to perfection. Follow these step-by-step instructions to bring out the dish’s rich and comforting flavors.

Making the Nitsuke Sauce

To start, we need to prepare the Nitsuke sauce, which will infuse our fish with its signature taste. Here’s what to do:

  1. Combine Ingredients: In a small saucepan, mix 1/2 cup of soy sauce, 1/4 cup of mirin, 1/4 cup of sake, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. These measurements create a balanced blend of sweet and savory.
  2. Add Aromatics: Slice a piece of ginger (about an inch long) and add it to the saucepan along with a few slices of green onion. The ginger adds a refreshing zing, while the green onions introduce a mild, sharp flavor.
  3. Simmer: Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to ensure the sugar fully dissolves. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.
  4. Strain (Optional): For a smoother sauce, you can choose to strain out the ginger and green onions. However, leaving them in during the cooking process will continue to infuse the fish with their flavors.

Cooking the Fish

With the Nitsuke sauce ready, it’s time to cook the fish and bring everything together:

  1. Prepare Pan: In a skillet or a shallow pot, arrange the fish pieces. For best results, the fish should fit snugly in a single layer.
  2. Pour Sauce: Carefully pour the Nitsuke sauce over the fish. The sauce should come up to about half the height of the fish. This ensures that while the bottom half is poaching in the liquid, the top half is gently steamed, absorbing the aromas and flavors.
  3. Simmer: Cover the skillet or pot and simmer over medium-low heat. Depending on the thickness of your fish, this could take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the fish easily flakes with a fork but still retains its moistness.
  4. Baste: Halfway through the cooking time, baste the fish with the sauce. This not only adds more flavor but also gives the fish a beautiful glaze.
  5. Serve: Once the fish is cooked, carefully transfer each piece onto plates. Drizzle with the sauce from the pan and garnish with thinly sliced green onions for a fresh contrast to the rich sauce.

Assembling the Dish

After our fish has simmered gently in the flavorful Nitsuke sauce, absorbing all the lovely aromas and tastes from the soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, ginger, and green onions, we’re now at the exciting phase of assembling Sakana no Nitsuke for serving. This stage is where all elements come together, creating a dish that’s not only a feast for the palate but also for the eyes. Let’s walk through the final steps to present this traditional Japanese delight.

Preparing the Serving Plates

First, we’ll start with selecting the right plates. Opt for shallow bowls or plates that can contain the sauce without spilling. Warm them slightly in the oven if possible. A warm plate ensures that our dish remains at the perfect temperature for enjoying.

Arranging the Fish

Carefully remove the fish from the pan, taking care not to break the fillets. Use a wide spatula for this task to support the entire piece. Lay the fish neatly in the center of each plate. If you’ve cooked the fish with the skin on, make sure the skin side is up to showcase its delicate crispness.

Ladling the Sauce

Next, we’ll spoon the Nitsuke sauce over and around the fish, ensuring each piece is generously coated. If you’ve opted to strain the sauce, now is the time to pour it through a fine-mesh sieve for a silky, smooth finish. However, keeping the aromatics presents a more rustic and traditional appearance, imbuing the dish with texture and depth.

Adding the Garnishes

For the final touch, sprinkle freshly chopped green onions over the fish. The vibrant green not only adds a pop of color but also a fresh, crisp contrast to the rich, umami-laden sauce. If you have some ginger slices left, you can add a few on top for an extra zing.


Serve Sakana no Nitsuke immediately, accompanied by steamed rice and perhaps a side of pickled vegetables. The steamed rice is perfect for soaking up the extra sauce, ensuring that none of that deliciousness goes to waste.

Our Sakana no Nitsuke is now beautifully assembled and ready to be enjoyed. This dish represents a harmonious blend of flavors that speaks volumes of Japan’s rich culinary heritage. Each bite brings a warm, comforting sensation, making it a wonderful dish for family dinners or special occasions.

Serving Suggestions

After meticulously preparing Sakana no Nitsuke, a dish that beautifully embodies Japan’s culinary heritage, it’s essential to consider how to present and enjoy it to the fullest. The final presentation is not just about the appeal but about enhancing the dining experience with complementary elements that highlight the dish’s rich flavors. Here, we share our best serving suggestions to make your Sakana no Nitsuke a memorable meal.

Pair with Steamed Rice

The rich, flavorful Nitsuke sauce is the perfect complement to plain steamed rice. Serving the fish alongside a bowl of fluffy, freshly steamed rice helps to absorb the delicious sauce, providing a beautiful balance to the savory notes of the fish. This simple yet classic pair is a staple in Japanese cuisine for a reason.

Add a Side of Miso Soup

To round out the meal, consider preparing a simple miso soup. Its mild and soothing flavor profile contrasts nicely with the intensity of the Nitsuke sauce. A basic miso soup with tofu and seaweed can offer a comforting balance, making the meal more satisfying and complete.

Include a Seasonal Vegetable Side

Introducing a seasonal vegetable side dish can add freshness and a crisp texture to the meal. A quick sauté or simmer of seasonal greens, such as spinach or bok choy, lightly seasoned with garlic and sesame oil, can offer a refreshing counterpoint to the richness of the fish.

Consider Sake or Green Tea

For beverages, we suggest serving Sakana no Nitsuke with either a cold or slightly warmed sake, depending on the season, to complement the dish’s flavors. If you prefer a non-alcoholic option, green tea is a perfect choice. Its bitterness and slight astringency can cleanse the palate between bites of the savory fish.

Presentation Matters

Finally, take a moment to consider the visual presentation. Choose serving plates and bowls that contrast with the colors of the dish to make it visually striking. A clean, white plate can make the vibrant colors of the Nitsuke sauce and green onions pop, enhancing the overall dining experience. Garnish with extra slices of green onion or a sprinkle of sesame seeds for a touch of elegance and added flavor.

Following these serving suggestions, you can turn a simple home-cooked meal into an extraordinary dining experience that celebrates the flavors of Japan. Enjoy the process of bringing this dish to the table and the pleasure of sharing it with others.

Make-Ahead Tips and Storage

In the world of cooking, especially with dishes as nuanced as Sakana no Nitsuke, making the most of our time without sacrificing quality is crucial. Here, we share some valuable make-ahead tips and guidance on how to store this delightful dish, ensuring that it remains as delicious as when it was first prepared.

Preparing Nitsuke Sauce in Advance

One of the best time-saving tips we can offer is to prepare the Nitsuke sauce ahead of time. The sauce is the heart of this dish, infusing the fish with rich, savory flavors, and luckily, it stores beautifully.

  • How to Prepare: Simply follow the recipe steps for creating the Nitsuke sauce, and once it’s cooled down to room temperature, transfer it into an airtight container.
  • Storage: You can store the sauce in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 5 days or freeze it for up to a month. Freezing the sauce in ice cube trays and then transferring the cubes to a freezer bag allows for easy portioning.

Marinating the Fish

Sakana no Nitsuke involves marinating the fish in the flavorful sauce, which not only infuses it with taste but tenderizes it as well.

  • Marinating Time: If you’re planning ahead, marinate the fish in the sauce in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before cooking. However, for an even deeper flavor, you can marinate it overnight.
  • Tip: To prevent the fish from becoming too salty or over-marinated, check the flavor after the first few hours. If it’s to your liking, you can remove it from the marinade until you’re ready to cook.

Storage of the Cooked Dish

Preserving the quality of cooked Sakana no Nitsuke is possible with the right approach.

  • Refrigeration: Store the cooked Sakana no Nitsuke in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will keep well for up to 2 days. When ready to enjoy, gently reheat it over a low flame to maintain its texture and flavor.
  • Freezing: We generally recommend enjoying Sakana no Nitsuke fresh. However, if necessary, you can freeze it. Freeze in a tightly sealed container for up to a month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.


We’ve taken a deep dive into the world of Sakana no Nitsuke and uncovered the layers that make this dish not just a meal but an experience. It’s clear that with the right ingredients, a bit of patience, and a touch of love, we can bring a piece of traditional Japanese cuisine into our kitchens. Let’s not forget the joy of pairing our creation with the perfect sides and drinks to elevate the experience even further. And remember, the beauty of Sakana no Nitsuke isn’t just in its taste but in its presentation and the warmth it brings to our table. So here’s to making our next mealtime a little more special with this delightful dish. Cheers to good food and great memories!

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