Can’t you just taste it? The sweet sticky-salty gingery flakes of salmon cosied up with crunchy veg and gloriously starchy brown sushi rice? Wow. I don’t think I have ever used that many y’s in one sentence. This is a dish that invites not only the y’s but also the hows.
Healthy food really shouldn’t taste this good but, dear reader, it certainly does. And it is incredibly easy too. A bit of marinating, a flash of heat, some boiling (rice), some steaming (veg over the rice) and soko ni aru – there it is. Okay, so it is a few steps. But they are easy ones.
Teriyaki salmon – lusciously pinky-gold and fork-tender – is one of the most popular dishes on the menus of westernised Japanese restaurants. Chicken is first choice in the US, but to the fish-loving Japanese, salmon (and eel) is the perfect vehicle for this distinctive sauce and style of cooking.
It is my understanding that teriyaki as we in the West think of it – a sweet concoction of soy sauce, brown sugar and perhaps ginger – doesn’t exist in Japan, and probably originates from the islands now known collectively as Hawaii, where rather than brown sugar – surprise, surprise – pineapple juice is used. Have you ever tried it with pineapple? I haven’t, but it sounds lush.
Instead, teriyaki –a combination of teri meaning gloss and yaki meaning grilled or pan-fried – is usually a last minute slathering of equal parts mirin, sake and soy onto almost-cooked fish, meat or fowl. No added sugar, and no garlic or ginger – the latter of which might be grated on when serving. The flavourings are altogether subtler than we are used to in the West; flavourings serving to highlight the intrinsic taste of the protein used rather than be the flavour itself.
Traditionally teriyaki is cooked over the glowing, white-hot coals of a traditional iron hibachi. But for ease – and less mess – I have used a stovetop griddle. There are pros and cons with this method, but on balance I find it the best option for those of us in a cooler climate. You could bake it – about 15-20 minutes in a 200C/400F oven. The timing depends on the thickness of your fillets – UK portions tend to be quite a bit smaller than US portions. You could also pop it under a broiler/grill.
Even although the simpler Japanese version is authentic and delicious in its own right, there is no doubting that we here in the West love the burnished intensity of the sweet and salty imposter, with its notice-me gratings of ginger and crush of garlic.
I am no different to the majority in my preference of the saturated to the subtle, so my recipe is in no way authentic. And, since it is in no way authentic, I have taken the liberty of not only using dry sherry in place of sake but also a further liberty of tearing the thing up and plopping it – very un-Japaneselike – on cooked brown sushi rice. The better to eat with chopsticks, my dear. (I am childishly inelegant with chopsticks – you should see me tackle dumplings: I look like I am practising spearfishing.) If you are master of the chopstick by all means keep the fish in tact. But know that I am deeply jealous of your dark art.
The added vegetables make this an all-in dish, with the crispness of the pak choi and the starchy pop of edamame lending added texture, nutrition and taste to an already outstandingly healthy meal. Make enough to take to work the next day. You’ll be glad you did. Bonapeti!
PS Miss R is safely returned from the Honduran rainforest. Not only did she have a brilliant time and feel she was making a contribution to conserving the natural habitats and species of this welcoming country, she did so with nary a bug bite.Thanks so much to all who empathised and sympathised with my premature empty-nest syndrome. If only there were a vaccination for this, child-borne, malady:D
Last year: Blackcurrant and Raspberry Jam
Two years ago: Rocket Frittata and Some DInky Courgette-Parmesan Frittatas
Miss R’s Track of the week: Braids “In Kind”
Although not quite a bish bash bosh recipe, this is simplicity itself. At least for Japanese-style food. I have stipulated salmon here, but use pieces of boneless chicken thighs if you like. Or perhaps planks of firm tofu (one pack), marinated as for the fish. If doing the latter may I recommend first freezing the tofu. Upon defrosting – and wrapping in a tea towel and pressing between chopping boards – it takes up the marinade much more readily than if merely refrigerated. And, of course, change out the veg as you see fit. And embellish freely with extra fripperies such as togarashi for heat and ume plum seasoning for piercing sour. Also, I should just mention that brown sushi rice is best if soaked for 30 minutes and then cooked slowly for 35 minutes. Use basmati if you don’t have time for all of that, but Japanese short-grain rice is SO good here.
2 tbsp dark soy sauce (it is less salty than light) OR shoyu
1 tbsp dry sherry OR 1 tbsp mirin (more to taste)
2 tsp coconut palm sugar OR brown sugar (a smidge less if using mirin)
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp grated gingerroot
2 fillets of salmon (mine were about 120 grams each)
1 tsp wasabi paste – optional
Oil for griddling
200g (1 cup) brown sushi rice (this will make more than you need but it is tricky to cook less)
500ml (2 cups) water
4 heads small (baby) pak/bok choi, or to your liking – sliced
75g (1/2 cup) frozen, shelled edamame (green soy beans) – defrosted
2 spring onions/scallions – sliced
Toasted sesame oil – optional
Ume pickled plum seasoning (mmm)– optional
1. Mix together the first five ingredients (marinade) and pour them into a ceramic or glass dish; toss the salmon in the mix, dot on the wasabi if using, and cover. Leave to marinate for an hour or so, while you prepare the rice.
2. Make the rice according to packet directions, or see these directions from Japan Centre. When the water has been absorbed, lay the edamame and pak choi on the rice while you cook the fish. You could also steam the vegetables separately. We like the pak choi quite crunchy.
3. To cook the fish, heat the griddle pan, removing the fish from the marinade, shaking off and reserving the excess while the pan heats. Brush the fish with a little oil (or not, if you have a well-seasoned griddle pan) and lay on the medium-hot griddle pan for approximately three minutes on each side – longer if you have thick fillets. Baste with the excess reserved marinade as you griddle.
To serve, toss together the rice, vegetables and tear over the fish, finishing with the finely sliced fresh ginger and spring onion. I also like to stir in a few sprinkles of pickled ume juice and season with spicy togarashi. Otherwise, a squeeze of lime and some chilli flakes are excellent extra seasoning. You could also lay everything over the rice but we like it mixed together to ensure all flavours in every bite.