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Simmered Sardines with Pickled Plum (Ume-ni)
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
40 mins

Simmered Sardines with Pickled Plum is the dish that let you eat the entire body of the sardine including the bones.

Umeboshi (pickled plum) and sake in the simmering sauce eliminates the strong fishy smell of the sardines. It also makes the bones so tender that you can eat even the backbones.

Don't forget to see the section 'MEAL IDEAS' below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and this recipe that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.

Recipe Type: Appetiser, Main
Cuisine: Japanese
Keyword: Japanese fish recipe, sardine recipe
Serves: 3 -4 Servings
Author: Yumiko
Ingredients (tbsp=15ml, cup=250ml)
  • 12 sardines (about 750g / 1.7lb, note 1)
  • 20g / 0.7oz ginger thinly sliced
  • 20g / 0.7oz umeboshi , seed removed and torn into few smaller pieces (note 2)
  • 400ml / 13.5oz water
  • 90ml / 3.0oz rice vinegar
Simmering Sauce
  • 300ml / 10.1oz water
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp cooking sake
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 ½ tbsp sugar
Serving (optional)
  • Perilla leaves
Prepare Sardines (see the step-by-step photo in the post):
  1. Remove the head of the sardines by cutting it off from directly behind the gills.

  2. Place a sharp knife close to the edge of the belly and trim the belly tissue off (note 3). The trimming should end at the anus.
  3. Remove the guts by scraping them out of the cavity using the tip of the knife or use fingers (note 3).

  4. Rinse each sardine gently, cleaning the cavity where the guts were.
  1. Place the sardines in a shallow saucepan, without overlapping (note 4). Add the Pre-cooking ingredients to the pan and bring it to a boil.

  2. Reduce the heat to simmer and put a drop lid (otoshibuta) on. Cook for 15 minutes.

  3. Drain the vinegar water by holding the fish with the drop lid to keep the fish in the pan.

  1. Adjust the position of the sardines in the pan so that they are evenly spread without overlapping.
  2. Add the Simmering Sauce to the pan, scatter the ginger and the pickled plum pieces over the fish. Bring it to a boil.

  3. Reduce the heat to simmer and put a drop lid (otoshibuta) on. Cook for about 15 minutes until the liquid reduces and only a small amount of sauce remains.

  1. Place a perilla leaf on each serving plate, if using. Transfer 3-4 sardines onto each plate.

  2. Place the cooked ginger and umeboshi pieces on top of the pile of sardines.
Recipe Notes

1. After cleaning the sardines, they weighed about 500g / 1.1lb.

2. Umeboshi comes in different sizes, textures, colours, and flavours. Use large brown soft umeboshi (see the photo in the post) that do not have additional flavouring such as perilla and bonito flakes.

3. The belly part of the flesh is extremely fragile and can be torn easily. So, make a clean straight cut and remove the guts gently.

4. It is best to use a saucepan that sardines can be snuggly placed in without overlapping.

If the pan is too large, the sauce becomes too shallow and does not easily penetrate into the flesh of the fish. If the pan is too small, forcing you to pile up sardines, the sauce does not reach to the top of the pile.

5. Simmered Sardines with Pickled Plum keep 2-3 days in the fridge. They taste good even if they are served cold.

6. Nutrition per serving assuming 4 servings.

serving: 252g calories: 268kcal fat: 8g (12%) saturated fat: 2.3g (12%) trans fat: 0.0g polyunsaturated fat: 2.3g monounsaturated fat: 2.7g cholesterol: 91mg (30%) sodium: 972mg (41%) potassium: 798mg (23%) carbohydrates: 11g (4%) dietary fibre: 0.3g (1%) sugar: 8.5g protein: 31g vitamin a: 3.7% vitamin c: 4.6% calcium: 2.1% iron: 7.3%