This tin of mackerel fillets was discovered in 99 Ranch, one of a chain of Asian markets in California. It was about $2. I consumed it atop a bed of instant tapioca noodles, which came with a dehydrated vegetable seasoning packet and a sachet of XO sauce.
Tinned fish usually comes in some kind of sauce, even if it’s just some salt and olive oil. Often they are packed in something quite strong like tomato sauce or mustard. This adds flavor and removes some small steps in hasty food preparation, and makes fish taste better after sitting in a metal can for a long time. Tom yum or tom yam is a Thai soup similar to Chinese hot and sour soup. According to the box, this tin contains the essentials of tom yum: chilis, lime leaves, lemongrass, coconut milk, and other ingredients.
Opening the tin produces a slightly fishy odor, which seems fairly reasonable given the contents. It also has a slightly metallic odor. This could be the smell of the tin itself, which does not seem like a good thing. But it could also be the scent of the flavorings to my nose. I’ve had tom yum before and haven’t ever found the scent to be metallic.
I’m not very familiar with tinned mackerel, and I don’t have much to compare it to. The fish itself had a higher density and bite than the sardines I’m used to, lending to an impression that I was eating an older fish, but it wasn’t unpleasant. The taste of the fish was mild, not too fishy, but somewhat metallic. Without the metal, it would have been enjoyable. The fish had some skin on it, but it didn’t get in the way, and the fillets were completely boneless.
The sauce is somewhat rich (owing to the coconut milk), slightly mealy, and pale orange. It had a few leaves of either lemongrass or lime in it, which was a nice touch, and probably helped the flavor. The spiciness was mild and crept up mostly as an aftertaste, and was nicely balanced. Next time, I’d put in some additional chili sauce.
Eating straight out of the tin was a mixed experience, owing to the metallic taste. This indicates something of a sloppy tinning process, or inferior ingredients. The former is a great way to potentially introduce BPAs or some other chemicals into your bloodstream, or worse. I really wanted to like it more, but didn’t hate it.
Mixed in with the tapioca noodles and some of the XO sauce, it was a decently filling lunch. The metallic taste was no longer detectable, and the bite of the fish went well with the firm noodles.
“Mackerel Fillets in Tom Yam Sauce” was produced in Thailand, and it cost around $2. The same manufacturer also produces a version with green curry.