Make Ahead

Tea-smoked mackerel

January  7, 2010
3 Ratings
  • Serves 16-20
Author Notes

I love the convenience of having smoked fish whenever I want plus the fact that there are not many ways I like my mackerel. Smoked is one of them! Think of all the Omega-3 and 6 too! The beauty of this recipe is you can smoke the fish days ahead and leave it nicely wrapped up in some foil in the refigerator then bring it out when needed. You can also season it anyhow you desire – an extra sprinkling of coarsely ground black peppercorns, some cumin and coriander seeds….you are only limited by what you can conceive. In this case, I left mine plain :-) .

Four quick facts about Tea-smoking before we begin

1. It is a Chinese Technique, also known as wok-smoking
2. You don’t need a BBQ…you can do it perfectly on the stove-top
3. Traditionally, the ’smoke’ is created by mixing raw rice, sugar, Jasmine tea leaves and Star Anise and heating it up till smoking
4. It could result in a very smoky kitchen so ensure all windows are wide open and your extractor is on!

Kitchen Butterfly

What You'll Need
  • 4 Whole cleaned and gutted mackerel
  • 175 g raw, uncooked rice
  • 175 g brown (demerara) sugar
  • 175 g tea leaves or teabags
  • Optional flavourings for tea mix - star anise, cinnamon sticks, woody herbs, vanilla pods, citrus zest etc
  • Optional flavourings for fish: crushed black peppercorns, crushed coriander or cumin seeds, etc)
  1. Ensure the cooking area is well-ventilated. Keep doors and windows open, as best as possible so it does not get too smoky.
  2. Mix the rice, sugar and tea leaves together in a bowl. Line a wok with triple-folded (heavy-duty) kitchen foil and pour the mixture on top. If using any flavourings for the tea mix, add them now.
  3. Put the wok on the stove and cover tightly. Let heat up for 2 – 3 minutes on medium heat till it begins to smoke. The heat is important as you want the food to taste smoked and not charred so watch it.
  4. As soon as it starts smoking, remove the cover and place an oiled trivet/metal steaming basket above the smoking mixture. If you don’t have any of these, cover the smoking mixture with a double layer of foil onto which you’ve drizzled some oil.
  5. Salt the fish and season how you like (using crushed black peppercorns, crushed coriander or cumin seeds or any combination you like), then place on the steaming basket/foil. Replace the lid of the wok and leave to smoke for about 12 – 15 minutes.
  6. Take off the heat and set aside till it has stopped smoking. Then take off the lid. Dispose of very burnt rice mixture!
  7. If not using immediately, store wrapped in foil in the refrigerator.
  8. Perfect served with pancakes, some creme fraiche and chopped red chili peppers. And all done in the comfort of your home!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • QueenSashy
  • creamtea
  • Janneke Verheij
    Janneke Verheij
  • Kitchen Butterfly
    Kitchen Butterfly
  • dymnyno
I love food and I'm interested in making space for little-heard voices, as well as celebrating Nigerian cuisine in its entirety.

9 Reviews

Minnie December 1, 2013
I tried this and it was inedibly smoky tasting by the time the fish was cooked through. I started on medium, but the smoke began to smell like burnt charcoal, so I reduce the heat to medium low. What does "watch it" mean???
QueenSashy February 19, 2013
Love mackerel, and love the Chinese technique of tea smoking. I am dying to give this a try, but tea smoking is vetoed due to past incident with smoke detectors (alas, we have no windows in the kitchen). Did you get a lot of smoke?
creamtea February 18, 2013
KB you have outdone yourself in this contest! Picture 2 is beautiful.
Janneke V. January 14, 2010
This sounds like a fun experiment, I'm saving it for the first beautiful day when I can open all the windows and doors.
Kitchen B. January 9, 2010
I've also done this with tilapia and salmon fillets and chicken breast, Not yet tried - Duck breast! If using fillets, reduce smoking time
dymnyno January 7, 2010
I am definately doing this one when I get back to my mainland kitchen!! (maybe not with mackerel, though)
lastnightsdinner January 7, 2010
I love this technique. We have a Cameron's Indoor Smoker and have done this with salmon and other oily fish. Mackerel is one of my favorites.
WinnieAb January 7, 2010
This is intriguing and it sounds amazing!
Kitchen B. January 7, 2010