Without this bowl of rice with salmon and ikura, my fall season cannot start. I feel so excited to see local king salmon and ikura in a farmers market. Salmon is the Seattle’s favorite fish as well as it is the most familiar fish for Japanese cuisine.
In Japan, salmon is basically sold in three ways: sashimi grade, raw fillet, and salted salmon.
- Sashimi grade is fresh frozen for consuming uncooked like sashimi or sushi.
- A raw fillet is the same style as here, unprocessed fresh salmon fillet for Western dishes such as salmon meuniere and baked salmon.
- Salted salmon is the Japanese favorite, called shio-zake or shio-jake. A fillet is coated with salt and rested. It is specifically for grilling. It is salty, so we eat with rice as breakfast, in the bento, or in a rice ball. This includes miso, soy, or sakekasu marinated fish.
Fishermen started salted salmon for preservation. However salting has other benefits too: enhancing umami, firming up the flesh, and removing the fishy smell, caused by osmosis pressure.
You can choose the level of saltiness in a grocery store, lightly-salted, medium-salted, and heavily-salted.
When I moved to Seattle, I was annoyed to travel to an Asian grocery store to buy just salted salmon. Since you can reach good local salmon in any grocery store or a farmers market in Seattle, why not make my own salted salmon?
- I tried 5 % salt of the weight of a salmon fillet for 3 hours first.
No. A surface was too salty, but inside has no taste.
- 5 % for 6 hours
It was getting close, but I felt the thickest part of fillet doesn’t have as good umami as the outside of fillet.
- 5% for 12 hours
It was perfect! I tasted a salted salmon that I had been eating over 20 years in Japan.
Salting salmon is fairly easy. Weigh a salmon fillet and 5 % salt of the weight of salmon fillet.
Rub salt on the whole surface of salmon.
Wrap a salmon fillet with a kitchen paper and place on a plate. Loosely wrap with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours. Kitchen paper absorbs the moisture coming out from a fillet.
I have to say salting time would vary depends on the thickness of a fillet. I used a king salmon here. If your fillet is very thin, I would shorten the resting time.
In the kitchen in Japan, there is a fish grill installed under the stove top where we have the oven in the US kitchen. The fish grill is a drawer with a wire rack in the middle and the heat source from top and bottom. You can cook fish from both sides heat, only from bottom, or from top. It is like an oven and broiler, but a fish grill really small, so temperature rises quickly and it can hold really high temperature.
Here I use the broiler with high setting for salted salmon. Position the salmon skin side down about 6 inches from the heat source. Broil about 8 minutes and flip the fillet to crisp up the skin for a minute.
Once it cools, flake the salmon.
For the rice, I cooked with sake, mirin, salt and kombu in a rice cooker.
If you don’t have a rice cooker, use a pot with a lid. Rice and water raitio is 1:1 by volume.
Once it comes to boil, turn the heat down to low and put a lid on.
Simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it steam for another 10 minutes.
When rice is ready, remove a kombu.
Fluff with a rice scoop.
Take a half of rice in a bowl, and add toasted sesame seeds and mix lightly. Fill a plate or bowl with the rice.
Now arrange toppings on the rice.
Sprinkle chopped stems of mitsuba (Japanese parsley) place salmon, mitsuba leaves, and ikura.
- ½ pound salmon fillet
- 0.4 oz kosher salt (5 % of the weight of a salmon fillet)
- 2 cups Japanese rice (Use a cup attached to a rice cooker)
- ½ tablespoon sake
- ½ table spoon mirin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ea kombu (about 2" x 3")
- ½ tablespoon sesame seeds
- 5 tablespoons ikura
- ⅓ bunches mitsuba (separate leaves and stems, and chop stems)
- Rub salt on the whole surface of a salmon. wrap with a kitchen paper on the plate. Loosely wrap with a plastic wrap. Let is rest for 12 hours.
- Cook rice. Rinse the rice until the water become clear. Drain the rice thoroughly with a strainer for 15 minutes. Place the rice in a inner pot of a rice cooker. Add sake, mirin, and salt. Pour the water by the gradation for 2 cups of rice. Place a kombu on rice. Start a rice cooker.
- Cook the salmon. Preheat the broiler with high setting. Take out the fillet from refrigerator unwrap. Place the fillet on a rack with a baking pan. Position the salmon skin side down about 6 inches from the heat source and broil for about 8 minutes. Flip the fillet to crisp up the skin. When it cools a little, flake the salmon.
- When rice is ready, let it steam 10 more minutes in a rice cooker. Discard a kombu. Fluff with a rice scoop. Take a half of rice in a bowl and mix in sesame seeds. Fill a plate with rice.
- Arrange the toppings over rice. Sprinkle chopped stems of mitsuba. arrange salmon, mitsuba leaves, and ikura randomly.
I like having this dish with a toasted green tea.
If you want to try authentic Japanese salted salmon, I would recommend you to try Shake-kojima in Daitabashi, Suginami, in Tokyo. They specialize in grilled salted salmon. They have the BEST salted salmon I’ve ever had. This restaurant locates in the next station from my university. I went there for lunch (they are open for lunch once a week when I was a student) as a reward for finishing a semester.