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Warm Mackerel salad with cucumber and hoisin

By colm
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Grilled marinated mackerel with crunchy cucumbers, spring onions, and water chestnuts served with a spicy hoisin dressing.

warm mackerel salad

I gave up ordering food from Chinese takeaways a good few years back. Their use of msg as a flavour enhancer eventually turned me off them, it just makes everything taste the same. I reckon that if you did a blind taste test, closed your eyes, and tasted the sauces they make you wouldn’t be able to tell a black bean from a satay sauce

Like everything there are exceptions and I still pick up the phone to have the classic crispy duck with pancakes and plum sauce sent up to the house. I think it’s the textures that I like most about the dish. Crispy duck and vegetables smothered with the piquant plum sauce all wrapped up in soft pancakes.

Its not often that I could say that the local Chinese takeout served as an inspiration for a dish but It’s definitely the case with this salad. The cucumbers and spring onions that you wrap the pancakes around work really well with fish, but for some extra crunch I’ve added some bean sprouts, water chestnuts, and sesame seeds.

I also ditched the plum sauce in favour of hoisin, my favourite Chinese condiment. I love its thick, pungent, sweet, and spicy flavour. I had been putting hoisin in stir-fries and dipping spring rolls in it for years before looking it up to find out what was in it.

warm mackerel salad with cucumber and hoi sin

I was surprised to learn that it actually contains no plums but is made with roasted mashed soybeans. Along with sugar, sesame seeds, vinegar, garlic, and a little bit of red chilli for some added kick. If you don’t have any hoisin you could use oyster sauce it works well in this salad too.

I’ve used mackerel here in my salad. I love this tasty, cheap, and sustainable fish as you can probably tell by the number of recipes I have for it on the site already. Whenever you eat it you’re getting a boost for your immune system as well as plenty of omega 3. Isn’t it great the way some foods are good for you and tasty too! Just make sure your mackerel is really fresh and if your fishmonger doesn’t have any substitute sea bream or bass, both would work well in this salad.

Lately when I’m cooking fish at home under the grill is my favourite way to do it. Sometimes I’m just too lazy to get a pan out and all that entails. Cooking your fish like this will require little attention, just a little peek every now and again to see if it’s cooked. Line your roasting tray with some foil you’ll have no wash up afterwards either, and it will catch all that beautiful marinade from the fish as it cooks.

cooking mackerel

Or kill two birds with one stone and toast your sesame seeds as the fish cooks. Toasting sesame seeds really intensifies their rich nutty flavour, It always amazes me how such a small seed can provide such a big crunch. I love sprinkling them on salads like this to give a bit of a different texture or pressing them onto fish like salmon or trout before gently pan-frying or baking in the oven

Winters on the way if it’s not here already and you might think the time for making salads passed a couple of weeks ago. But give this one a try. You’ll love the crunchy textures and rich umami flavours. It works well as an appetizer or cook some rice to go along with it and have it for lunch or supper.

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warm mackerel salad

Warm Mackerel salad with cucumber and hoisin

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  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 24 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4



4 x 100g (3.5oz) mackerel fillets

for the marinade

  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons of sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce

for the dressing

  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of honey

for the salad

  • 8 spring onions
  • 1 cucumber
  • 110g (4oz) water chestnuts
  • 75g (3oz) bean sprouts
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds (toasted)
  • 1 small bunch of coriander.


  1. First make the marinade for the fish by mixing together the lime juice, zest, sesame oil, and soy.
  2. Next toast your sesame seeds under a hot grill till golden and set aside.
  3. Cut each mackerel fillet into 3 pieces. Make sure their approximately the same size so they cook evenly.Then place the mackerel in a bowl and pour over the marinade mixing well.
  4. While your fish is marinating you can prepare your salad vegetables. Top and tail the spring onions then slice them up diagonally.
  5. Next cut the cucumber into strips lengthwise, use a speed peeler to do this so they’re nice and thin.
  6. Lastly wash and dry the bean sprouts and water chestnuts.
  7. Mix all the salad ingredients in a bowl and then add some sprigs of coriander.
  8. To cook the fish place it on a roasting tray lined with foil and whack in under a hot grill for 3/5 minutes. The foil catches all the beautiful cooking liquor from the fish that we’re going to use to finish the dressing.
  9. The fish will take about 5 minutes to cook depending on the heat of your grill. Once its cooked drain it well on some paper towels and drain the marinade into a bowl
  10. To finish the dressing simply whisk the honey and hoisin into the marinade and add half the toasted sesame seeds.
  11. To finish the salad arrange the vegetables on 4 plates and place the fish on top. drizzle some of the dressing over the fish and sprinkle with the remaining sesame seeds.


alternative fish – seabass or seabream

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