Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I can't believe it took me almost 9 years to set foot inside an H Mart, the Korean supermarket with locations in Fairfax, Gaithersburg, and my beloved Wheaton. H Mart is a wonderland of Asian foods and beyond that transforms the idea of perimeter shopping from boringly healthy discipline to an amazing adventure in meal planning: The first side offers all kinds of noodles, dumplings, and miso; the second side has the best array of fish, mystery fish, meats, and offals; the third side explodes with beautiful herbs, roots, and greens; and the fourth side is where you pay, but not too much.

I have been going to H Mart for a few months now, and I have discovered many sauces, spices, and vegetables that now have become staples in my house. But the food I now have to buy every single time I shop there is their lovely whole fresh mackerel. It is dirt cheap at about $2.50 per fish and grants a most delicious dinner that will make all of my family members perfectly happy. 

Your Meyers-Brigg Type determines whether you are drawn to or disgusted by this photo.

We usually buy three whole mackerels for a whole dinner. (The staff at H Mart will gut the fish for you if you're not up for gutting.) It might seem like a lot, but our toddler eats a whole one on his own without batting an eye, so we had to adapt. Since I have lately become an apostle of dry salting for meats and fish (do yourself a favor, get your hands on Molly Stevens's All About Roasting), I pat the mackerels dry and then salt them heavily inside and out. I let them stand on the counter for about 2030 minutes so that the salt has the time to extract and then seal in all of the flavors, and then I broil the fishes on a roasting pan for about 10 minutes, turning them once. I know they're ready when their skin blackens and puffs up to resemble a Neapolitan pizza crust. It's a kind of esoteric sign for me, I guess.

The result is a tender, fat, incredibly flavorful mackerel that will light up your dinner and that may also bring all neighborhood cats caroling outside your door. It's almost Christmas, so be nice to them.

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