All About Salmon

All About Salmon


I was curious to see the reaction of fellow commuters as I stepped onto a Brooklyn-bound subway holding a clear plastic bag filled with 20 pounds of salmon parts. No one seemed to notice. Figures -- another reason why I love my hometown. But why was I holding that bag? On Monday I had the privilege to join the latest session of Mastering Fish the Japanese Way, a multi-part, hands-on seminar for chefs sponsored by the Gohan Society, a nonprofit group dedicated to educating culinary professionals about Japanese gastronomy. (Chefs out there interested in Japanese cuisine -- you need to know about the Gohan Society.) The remarkable Chef Toshio Suzuki walked us through how to prepare salmon, a fish as important in Japan as it is in America.

Chef Suzuki kicked off the seminar by demonstrating how to break a salmon using a technique called sanmai oroshi. He showed us how to split open the head, explaining how you cook with it, and virtually every other part of the fish. He passed around salmon dishes he prepared, including miso-marinated salmon, gills air-dried for 3 days then deep fried, squid with salmon kidney, fried cubes of skin, and more. (See the images below.) Not much raw salmon, though, because all salmon eaten raw (sashimi, sushi) must first be frozen first to kill internal parasites.

When we changed into our chefs coats and moved to a kitchen, Chef Suzuki and colleagues helped us learn how to break our own salmon into cookable parts. I left the seminar armed with a ton of new knowledge, and a gracious gift from the Gohan Society, the bag of fish. (Thank you, Gohan Society!)

So what can I share about preparing salmon from the seminar?

  • Yuan yaki is a traditional marinade made from soy sauce, sake, and mirin in equal parts (1:1:1). Marinate salmon fillet for 1 hour in yuan yaki, then grill or broil. Simple and delicious.
  • Miso zuke is miso-marinated salmon. The way I suggest to do this is to mix white savory miso with enough mirin to form it into a paste, and then pack the salmon fillets in it (first salt the salmon fillets overnight). After three days, take out the salmon, wipe off the miso, and grill or broil. The miso cures and transforms the fish, incredible.
  • Salted salmon. Before preparing salmon, first season it with salt and let it sit at room temperature for one hour to expel excess water and become denser. Do this if you're going to freeze the fish, too.
  • Salmon head. When I got back from the seminar I fired up my grill, and roasted the parts of the head (which I salted first) for me, my wife and a friend. Man, was that good! The bones and cartilage and collagen and God know what else inside the head imparted such incredible, tender, juicy flavor. If all you've ever eaten is salmon fillet, get yourself a head and grill it now (sans the gills, though).

Check out these pictures:

Posted by Harris Salat in Fish | Permalink | Comments (7) | Email | Print

Comments (7)

Very nice. One of these days, I would like to participate....small typo; "sanma oroshi" should have been "sanmai oroshi" 三枚おろし meaning "three sheets" (counting the bone, I guess)
Looks like fun. It's really too bad that so many Americans miss out on the "other parts" of fish, which can be incredibly delicious. Anyone who has tried grilled yellowtail collar, fish cheeks, or steamed monkfish liver knows what I'm talking about.
Your recipes and suggestions always inspire me;that and the fact that I love everything Japanese...when you grill your salmon or your fish in general..are u putting the fish directly onto the grates? I'm thinking I would lose half my fish that way...or do I invest in a fish-for-the-barbecue gizmo with two metal plates?
Thanks, Natalie, I appreciate it. I'm not into the fish baskets and other gizmos. Make sure your grate is thoroughly preheated, brushed and oiled. The salmon should be okay and turn without a problem. Let me know if that works out for you. Thanks, Harris
Ah, takes me back to a favorite dish my parents used to make -- steamed salmon fish heads. It's a Chinese preparation, but you mix bean paste, canola oil, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger together with the fish heads and steam the whole thing until done. Delicious topped with scallions.
I have a question about the shio nuki - did you sprinkle the salmon with salt or cover it completely? I've always salted for 10 minutes but that is with the salmon completely buried. I wonder if amount of salt determines the time? Did you sample the squid with salmon kidney? Sounds interesting. Thank you for posting this, Harris. As always, your food adventures are amazing.
Hi Marisa, I seasoned the salmon with salt on both sides, rather than pack it in salt (which, btw, was how my father salt-cured herring when I was a kid... good ole' Sol). I think the time is a function of curing the fish, rather than how much it's been salted; the fish I believe can only absorb a certain quantity of salt. Yes, the salmon kidney and squid was great, talk about play of textures and flavors! Thanks..... Harris

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