Fall is the season for mackerel pike. In traditional Japanese restaurants and homes across the nation, it’s quite common to find a complete silvery fish, from head to tail, plopped atop one’s plate.

As an American, I was very confused the first time I found myself faced with a full mackerel for a meal, and I wasn’t really sure where to start. I knew that the meat of the fish was buried in there somewhere, but I had no idea what to do with the rest of the innards. Growing bolder with each poke of my chopsticks, I took one bite of the mackerel’s bitter bowels and promptly decided against eating fish guts ever again. Although, looking back, I might have been a bit hasty with my decision. As it turns out, the consumption of mackerel viscera actually comes highly recommended for its large supply of beautifying vitamins! Looking at the highly touted health benefits of the mackerel’s digestive organs, these particular fish guts might be worth another go.

There are two types of people in this world: those who like to eat mackerel viscera and those who very much do not. For a country full of people who readily consume fermented soy beans and potentially poisonous puffer fish, the fact that many in Japan struggle to swallow a single serving of the fish’s inner organs speaks volumes, though the percentage of people who do like to eat them emphatically swear by the bitter flavor.

Apparently, food consumed by the mackerel pike only takes half an hour to an hour to digest before being excreted. This is much shorter than with other fish, meaning that the taste of the mackerel’s digestive tract is considerably less bitter than that of other sea dwellers. Still, relative palatability of these innards doesn’t mean that someone with an aversion to all viscera will magically appreciate the flavor of these particular intestines.

So what health and beauty incentives could possibly make it worth the struggle to swallow some fish guts?

The answer is namely skin health. The digestive organs of mackerel pike contain a large amount of retinol, as well as vitamins A, B, E, and other minerals. Retinol is key in the body’s production of collagen, which helps to keep the skin firm and springy while minimizing wrinkles. These things also improve the regeneration of skin cells and control oily secretions from one’s pores, meaning that mackerel pike is good for pimple control. And, to get a little more specific, the B2 vitamin found in these fish guts is known to improve the quality of not only one’s skin, but also their nails and hair.

So in short, eating the intestines of a mackerel pike can give a person glossy hair, beautiful nails, youthful skin, and a clear complexion! Looks like the only real downside is the taste, but a splash of lemon or other citrus fruit can help to counteract the bitterness. Just be sure to consume only the freshest fish. The quality of a mackerel’s viscera is said to decline quite rapidly, so look for fat fish with vivid color along the top ridge and clear skin around the eyes. This will give you the best taste for the most benefits.

Stay beautiful and enjoy your fish guts!

Source: Naver Matome (Japanese)
Image: Atelier of food