All About Salmon

All About Salmon

Join the latest session of Mastering Fish the Japanese Way, a seminar sponsored by the Gohan Society and led by Chef Toshio Suzuki. Learn about salmon preparation techniques, traditional marinades like yuan yaki and miso zuke, and the importance of freezing salmon for raw consumption. Explore the process of breaking down a fish using the sanmai oroshi technique and discover the delicious potential of salmon parts like the head, skin, and gills.

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).