This classic Japanese recipe using a homemade miso sauce is classic for a reason - it's sophisticated enough for a weekend dinner party and simple enough for a great weeknight meal. Let's make some miso marinated fish!
I've been hearing about the miso marinated black cod at Nobu Matsuhisa's restaurant in New York for decades. Japanese restaurants around the world have long served this dish, and with the popularity of Nobu's variation, it became the go-to fancy meal for so many.
Black cod is a fatty white fish - more similar to chilean sea bass than traditional Atlantic cod. So many people who can't find the black cod they need to follow the original recipe, opt for another fatty fish like salmon as a substitute. European sea bass is widely available in Portugal and I have found using it in this recipe produces fantastic results at a fraction of the restaurant price.
What you'll need to make this recipe:
- 3-4 white fish fillets of your choice (I made this with European sea bass)
- 3 tablespoons white miso paste
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons sriracha
(Precise measurements and instructions included in the printable recipe card below.)
To begin, mix all marinade ingredients in a shallow dish. Use a wire whisk or fork to combine well.
Dry your fish fillets well with a paper towel. Move the fillets to the shallow dish of marinade. Coat each fillet on both sides with the marinade, then cover tightly with plastic wrap or lay parchment paper over the soaking fillets and refrigerate for 8-12 hours.
Sometimes I am able to marinate for a full 24 hours, but usually I make the marinade in the morning and soak the fish all day before dinner.
When you're ready to prepare the fillets, remove from the refrigerator and allow the fillets to come up to room temperature for about 15 minutes. Remove fillets from the marinade and let some of the excess miso mixture drip off of the pieces of fish. You want to keep the flavor in the fish, but remove any extra marinade that may burn.
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add neutral oil to the pan and sear on each side for 4 minutes. Sear skin side down first if skin side is your presentation side. The sugars in the marinade will cause the fish to caramelize, which brings delicious flavor. But left unattended, those sugars will go from caramelized to burnt in just a minute. So keep an eye on the fish as it sears.
When cooked through and crisped on both sides, remove from the pan to a serving platter. Finally, serve the miso-marinated fish with steamed white or brown rice and sauteed vegetables.
FAQ's for miso marinated fish:
Traditionally, fatty fish like salmon and black cod are used in a long-marinade version of this dish. No doubt, that is delicious. But for many of us, a full 72 hour marinade process isn't practical. I have found this marinade and process works well with European sea bass, sea bream, even cod. These fish are leaner and don't have the level of omega-3 fatty acids of salmon and black cod, but they are delicious and widely available and create a restaurant-quality meal.
Miso is a traditional Japanese fermented paste made of soybeans, grain, salt and a type of fungus that all leads to a super-savory flavor. If you've ever tried miso soup, you know what I'm talking about. There are three main types of miso. For this recipe, I used shiro miso, which is also called white miso, and it's my first choice for this recipe. I like to think of it as your starter miso. Mild enough to suit every palate, a little sweet, but still packing a savory umami punch.
Red miso is the second main type of miso and it falls on the opposite end of the spectrum. Fermented much longer than white miso, it's pungent and salty and perfect for heartier meals. Awase miso is a mix of white and red miso, so it would be a great option in this recipe if you want your miso marinade a little stronger.
Fresh fish is always a great option, but so is frozen fish, which is often caught and frozen quickly - proving to be fresher than the fish at many grocery market fish counters. If using frozen fish, allow the fish to thaw in the refrigerator overnight, preferably on a rack so excess water can drain before marinating in the miso mixture.
Simple steamed white or brown rice is delicious, along with fresh ginger scallion sauce. I'm also fond of garlic brown rice and quinoa, which takes so well to the miso fish. Baby bok choy sauteed with a little soy sauce and sesame oil is my go-to green vegetable for this fish dish, but broccoli or snow peas would work just as well.
To store, transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
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