Japanese Breakfast Salmon (塩鮭 – Shiozake)
Traditional Japanese breakfasts do tend to involve a lot of components, but none of them are complicated, and this Shiozake, or grilled salted salmon, is no exception. It was originally made by salting whole salmon to preserve it, but these days most people opt to cure salmon filets in brine. This is not only faster, but it also gives more control over how salty you want the salmon to be.
Why This Recipe Works?
- Applying salt directly to the salmon can result in some areas becoming saltier than others. By preparing a liquid brine, it ensures the salmon is evenly seasoned throughout.
- The brine also ensures the thin pieces of salmon stay moist and tender.
- Adding mirin to the brine adds umami to the salmon thanks to its high concentration of naturally occurring glutamate. It also adds a barely perceptible sweetness that balances out the salt without tasting overtly sweet.
Ingredients for Japanese Breakfast Salmon
- Salmon – Traditionally, salted salmon is made with a small species of salmon native to East Asia, but any kind of salmon can be used. You do want the salmon sliced fairly thinly so that it cooks through relatively quickly. The ideal thickness is about 3/4 of an inch (2cm), and you don’t want it to be any thicker than 1-inch (2.5cm).
- Salt – There’s no need to use fancy salty here. Table salt or kosher salt will work fine, but I recommend measuring the salt by weight, as different types of salt can have vastly different volumes due to the shape and size of their crystals. This could result in your brine ending up either too salty or not salty enough.
- Water – traditionally salted salmon was made by applying the salt directly to the salmon, but this can result in uneven salting, and the resulting fish tends to be much saltier. Dissolving the salt in water to make brine allows you to control the salinity of the salmon while ensuring it’s evenly seasoned.
- Mirin – Mirin does three things. First, the fermentation process by which mirin is made creates a high concentration of amino acids. This adds the taste of umami to the salted salmon. Mirin also has the ability to conceal odors. Finally, the mirin adds a balancing sweetness to the brine that prevents the salt from tasting too harsh.
How to Make Japanese Salted Salmon
To salt the salmon, you want to first make a brine by mixing the water, salt, and mirin together until the salt is fully dissolved. I usually do this in a storage container so I can drop the salmon in, cover it and store it in the fridge.
You want to let the salmon brine for at least twelve hours to ensure it’s uniformly seasoned, but don’t let it go for longer than a day; otherwise, the proteins will start to denature and make the salmon mushy.
When the salted salmon is cured, remove it from the brine and pat it dry using paper towels. Then you can grill it up to make breakfast salmon, or you can wrap it in plastic wrap and store it for a few days in the refrigerator or a few months in the freezer.
How to Cook Japanese Breakfast Salmon
Most Japanese kitchens have a small broiler under the stove to grill fish. You can grill the fish in a toaster oven (or a full-size oven) set to broil. Just put the fish on an oiled rack and set the rack on a sheet pan.
The other option is to pan-fry the salted salmon. To do this, you’ll want to preheat a frying pan over medium heat and add a small splash of oil.
Lay the salmon skin-side down into the pan and let it fry until it’s golden brown on the skin-side, and the salmon has turned opaque about a third of the way up the side. If the salmon looks like it’s browning too quickly, reduce the heat.
Flip the salmon over with a spatula and fry the second side until the salmon is cooked through. Depending on the shape of the salmon, you may need to use the spatula to press it down in parts to ensure the whole surface of the salmon is making good contact with the pan.
The salmon is done when it flakes easily and is opaque to the center. If you’re using an instant-read thermometer, check that it read an internal temperature of 140 degrees F (60 C).
How to Prepare Daikon Oroshi
Grated daikon or daikon oroshi(大根おろし) is a condiment that often accompanies grilled fish like this salted salmon. It’s made by grating daikon and then draining off excess water. It may sound simple, but there are a few essential things to know before you make it.
- Use the head-end of the daikon (the end towards the leaves). That’s because the top has a lower concentration of allyl isothiocyanate, which is the compound responsible for making radishes spicy. This will result in a milder result, and if you have good daikon, it may even be a little sweet.
- Grate the daikon just before you eat it. Daikon contains sulfur compounds that can make it stinky if it’s grated too far in advance.
- It’s best to peel it with a knife rather than a peeler. That’s because there’s a fibrous layer under the skin that can make your oroshi gritty if you grate it in. Using a knife, you can remove the skin in a thicker layer to ensure you get all of the fibrous bits.
- Drain the grated daikon, or it’s going to be watery. The best way to do this is to put the grated daikon into a tea strainer and press it lightly. You don’t want to overdo it and make it dry, but it also shouldn’t weep liquid onto your plate when you serve it.
Serve the daikon oroshi with the Japanese breakfast salmon. You can also drizzle some soy sauce or lemon juice onto the daikon if you like.
How to Make Japanese Breakfast?
Traditional Japanese meals follow the format of Ichiju Sansai (一汁三菜), which literally means “one soup three sides.” Japanese breakfasts are no different, and a full breakfast usually consists of plain rice, soup, protein, and a few side dishes. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Rice – Japanese eat short-grain rice, which has a higher amylopectin content than long-grain rice, making the grains stickier. Although there are some seasoned rice dishes in Japanese cuisine, the rice is almost always plain for breakfast. That’s why dishes like this salted salmon tend to be salty as they are meant to season the rice as you eat them together.
- Soup – Traditional Japanese meals are almost always accompanied by soup. Here are a few Japanese soup recipes that are perfect for a Japanese breakfast:
- Side Protein – Because Japan was an agrarian society until fairly recently, having enough protein for breakfast helped get farmers through the day. The protein can take the form of cured fish like salted salmon, eggs, or legumes. Aside from the salted salmon in this recipe, here are some other Japanese breakfast protein recipes:
- Side Veggies – The most common way to serve vegetables as a side dish for breakfast is in the form of pickles. However, many seasoned vegetable dishes can fill this role.
Also known as Japanese Breakfast Salmon, Shiozake (塩鮭 – salt salmon) is salmon that has been salted to preserve it. Before the widespread use of refrigeration, whole salmon were gutted and packed in salt to cure them. The resulting salmon would be so salty; it would first need to be soaked in water to reduce the salt content before it was used. These days, salted salmon comes in varying levels of salinity with salmon containing less than 3% being labeled as amajio (甘塩), salmon containing 3-6% being labeled as chukara (中辛), and salmon containing over 6% as karakuchi (辛口). This recipe makes
It comes in varying levels of salinity with the mildly salty ones. The brine for this recipe is about 2.3% salt. If you account for the extra mass of the salmon, the salinity drops to about 1.7%. It’s still reasonably salty, though, which makes it an excellent accompaniment for rice.
The salmon needs to be brined for about 12 hours to ensure it is evenly seasoned, so if you plan on making a Japanese breakfast, it’s important to start brining it the night before. Don’t let it brine for more than a day though; otherwise, the proteins will begin to denature, and the salmon will get mushy. If you want to prepare this more than a day in advance, I recommend removing the salmon from the brine after a day, patting it dry with paper towels, and then wrapping the salmon tightly with plastic wrap or in a zipper bag with the air pressed out.
Shiozake is a four-syllable word that can be pronounced
shi like sheet
o like order
za like zombie
ke like kept
But is also often pronounced:
shi like sheet
o like order
jya like john
ke like kept
Salted salmon is most commonly eaten as a side dish for Japanese breakfast, along with grated daikon radish, rice, and miso soup. However, it can also be packed into a bento box lunch. Because the salmon is well seasoned, it can also be used as a filling for onigiri or to make ochazuke (tea rice).
Once the salmon has been removed from the brine, it should keep for an additional three days in the refrigerator. You can also freeze it at this point, but keep in mind that freezing fish in a home freezer will change its texture due to the formation of large ice crystals in the fish as it freezes. Once it’s been cooked, it should be consumed within a day.
table salt (mounding 1/2 tablespoon table salt)
salmon (sliced into 2 thin filets)
daikon (3-4 inch piece)
Add the water, mirin, and salt to a container with a lid and stir until the salt is completely dissolved.
Place the salmon in the brine, cover, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.
When you’re ready to prepare the salmon, remove it from the brine and use paper towels to pat the fish dry.
You can grill the salmon in a toaster oven set to broil until the fish flakes easily, or you can pan-fry it.
If you are cooking the salted salmon on the stove, heat a frying pan over medium heat and add a small amount of oil. Place the salmon skin-side down and let it fry undisturbed until you can see the salmon turn opaque about 1/3 of the way up the side.
Carefully flip the salmon over and cook on the second side until it’s cooked through. You can test it with an instant-read thermometer (it should read 140 F), or you can flake it with a fork (it should flake easily and be opaque all the way through).
While the salmon is cooking, peel and grate the daikon. Drain the pulp in a strainer to remove excess water, and then plate the grated daikon with the salted salmon.