Salmon Ochazuke (鮭茶漬け)
Salmon Ochazuke (鮭茶漬け) is a delicious Japanese comfort food that can be put together from leftovers in a matter of minutes. Growing up, I usually had it as a light breakfast or afternoon snack, but it’s a dish enjoyed by children and grownups alike for its magical ability to comfort the stomach.
This is probably why ochazuke often shows up on Izakaya menus. Izakayas are the Japanese version of tapas bars with an eclectic menu of bar snacks and an equally long menu of drinks to go with them. Most places have a few versions of ochazuke that show up on the last page of the menu to close out a long night of eating and drinking.
Why This Recipe Works?
- The best part of ochazuke is that it’s a quick fix, so don’t overthink it, and feel free to make substitutions with what you have. I’ll explain more in the next section on ingredients.
- By washing the rice with boiling water, you reheat it while removing excess starch from the surface of the rice, so the tea doesn’t get too viscous.
- The key to choosing toppings for Ochazuke is to pick a salty ingredient (in this case, salmon), a texture ingredient (rice crackers), and an aromatic ingredient (mitsuba). With this framework, you can create a nearly infinite variety of Ochazuke from leftovers and bits and bobs from your fridge.
Ingredients to make Salmon Ochazuke
- Rice – In Japan, we typically only consume short grain rice, so if you want to make a traditional Ochazuke, you will need to use Japanese short-grain rice. That being said, there’s nothing about Ochazuke that requires the stickiness of short-grain rice, so if long-grain rice is all you have, that will work just fine. The rice needs to be cooked, and because Ochazuke is usually eaten as a quick breakfast or snack, it’s typically made using leftover rice.
- Tea – Ochazuke is typically made with either green tea (sencha) or roasted green tea (hōjicha), but most East Asian-style teas such as genmaicha, oolong, mugicha, or oksusu-cha will work. Although it runs contrary to the name, ochazuke is also frequently made using dashi stock.
- Salty topping – I’ve used my Japanese breakfast salmon for this recipe, but you can use any leftover cooked salmon. Ochazuke can also be made with any salty topping such as shiokonbu, mentaiko, or umeboshi. I’ve even used ingredients such as lox or cured ham (like prosciutto). Basically, any ingredient that will release salt and umami into the tea as it soaks will work.
- Texture topping – Because the rice gets soft in the hot tea, it’s nice to have contrasting textures in Ochazuke so that it doesn’t get monotonous. The most common addition is a tiny rice cracker called arare, which are about the size of peppercorns. If you can’t find them, regular salted rice crackers can be chopped up with a knife to make something similar. You could also add some chopped-up crunchy pickles such as crispy ume, or shibazuke.
- Aroma topping – Because some of the ingredients in Ochazuke can be a bit fishy, it’s great to add an aromatic component. Because my salmon isn’t too strong, I’ve used a mild herb called mitsuba, which has a flavor somewhere between carrot leaves and celery. Wasabi, shiso, kinome, nori, and scallions are other traditional aromatic toppings. I also like topping Ochazuke with citrus zest such as Meyer lemon or yuzu. There’s no limit to what you can add here, though, and I’ve done versions in the past with other herbs like basil or cilantro.
How to Make Salmon Ochazuke
Making Ochazuke is as simple as rinsing and reheating the rice, garnishing it with various toppings, and then pouring hot tea over it. Here’s how I make my Salmon Ochazuke.
I usually start by brewing a pot of tea.
For the rice, I start by rinsing it with boiling water and then straining it. This removes the excess starch on the surface of the rice, which will cloud the tea.
Then you can flake the salmon on top, removing any bones as you work your way through it. If you are using my breakfast salmon, it’s not super salty, so you may find you want to add a bit more salt. In my case, I usually eat Ochazuke with pickles, so the level of salt works for me.
Then you can add the other toppings such as the black sesame seeds, mitsuba, and rice crackers.
Because the rice will go mushy pretty quickly once you pour the tea over it, I usually pour on the tea at the table when I’m ready to eat it.
Rice Bowl & Teapot
The hand-painted rice bowl and teapot, as well as the flower-shaped sauce plate and chopstick rest shown in the photos are available on Musubi Kiln. They have a fantastic selection of classic and modern Japanese ceramics and tableware, and they ship worldwide. You can get 5% off your order by using coupon code “NORECIPES” at checkout. It doesn’t cost you extra, but we get a small commission on every purchase made, which helps keep this website running and new recipes flowing.
Other Rice Recipes
Ochazuke (お茶漬け) literally means “soaked in tea” in Japanese, and it’s the name for a class of rice porridge that’s typically made by topping rice with various condiments and then pouring tea over it. The name changes slightly depending on what the main toppings are. For example, norichazuke(のり茶漬け) is topped with nori, umechazuke (梅茶漬け) is topped with umeboshi, and sakechazuke (鮭茶漬け) is topped with salted salmon.
Although it’s spelled sakechazuke, it’s usually pronounced shakechazuke and is a 5-syllable name that’s pronounced as follows:
sha like shock
ke like kept
cha like chalk
zu like zoo
ke like kept
This Ochazuke can easily be made vegan by using a vegan-friendly salted food such as umeboshi or salted konbu in place of the salmon.
Brew a pot of our favorite Japanese tea
Put the rice in a bowl and pour hot water over it. Stir to break up any clumps and release any excess starch on the surface of the rice.
Strain the rice and dump the water. Put the rice back into the bowl and then crumble the salted salmon on top.
Top with garnishes such as crumbled rice crackers, sesame seeds, and mitsuba.
Serve the Salmon Ochazuke with a pot of tea to pour over the rice at the table.