During the course of watching anime and, in some strange fascination, constantly paying attention to all the delicious food that pops up, one particular salmon dish never fails to catch my eye. Frequently seen accompanying traditional Japanese meals, it’s taken me a long time to really figure out what this sauceless and simple dish is exactly… But, after a bit of searching and a nice dose of luck, I stumbled upon shiojake, or salted salmon.
Though shown in anime as primarily an accompaniment to a traditional meal, I have found shiojake to be a very versatile fish dish, perfect for everything thing from a bento lunch to shredded and put into a sushi roll!
About the recipe:
Shiojake literally means salted (shio) salmon (jake). And, that’s pretty much all it is! This is a very simple, versatile, and delicious fish dish that can be used as the protein component for everything from traditional Japanese breakfasts, bento lunches, or even in a maki for a special sushi dinner.
Since salt is the primary ingredient in this dish (other than the salmon!), it’s important to keep in mind the amount of salt used…. something I learned firsthand the first time I made shiojake: it was so salty I could barely eat it! Since that time, I have adjusted the recipe to suit my tastes, so you may also have to do a little trial and error to make it perfect just for you. This is why I give a small range for the salt amount in the recipe below. Keep in mind that it’s pretty easy to over salt the fish, and since it cures in the fridge for several days, I have found that less salt is often more.
That said, be aware that the amount of salt can also vary depending on how thick your pieces of fish are. Also, do not let the salmon cure for more than 3 days or it may become too salty. Shiojake also freezes very well: just wrap it up and pop it into the freezer raw after it’s finished curing… when desired, simply defrost and cook as directed!
About the ingredients:
Sea salt is salt made from the evaporation of seawater. It’s often thought to be more flavourful than regular table salt, which is perfect for a dish that does not rely on any other seasonings. If you don’t have sea salt, I have used kosher salt to great effect.
Salmon fillets are the cut of choice for this dish, and anything from coho and sockeye to atlantic and pink will do nicely. Just ensure it is fresh! Before cutting the fish into portions, gently and carefully debone the fish using tweezers, trying not to bruise or mangle the meat. If you wish to eat the salmon skin, I recommend scaling the fish. To cut the fish, cut crosswise at a diagonal. The thickness is up to you, but I generally cut it into anywhere from 4 – 6 pieces.
Shiojake (Salted Salmon)
Makes 4 servings
- 1 lb salmon, deboned, scaled, and sliced into portions at an angle
- 1 tbsp sake (optional)
- 1 – 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1. Arrange the salmon on a plate in a single layer and sprinkle sake over the fish. Let sit for 5 minutes. Pat the salmon dry.
2. Sprinkle sea salt over the salmon on all sides, adding slightly more salt on top of the skin. Place into a paper towel lined dish in a single layer, and cover with another layer of paper towels. (Stack the fish in 2 layers separated by paper towels if needed)
Cover and let rest in the fridge for 3 days.
3. To cook the salmon, place in a single layer on a rimmed tray covered with parchment paper. Broil until cooked through and the skin begins to brown and bubble, about 5 – 6 minutes.
Serve with rice for any meal, in a bento, or in maki sushi. Goes well with finely grated daikon, lemon wedges, and/or miso soup.