Homemade Japanese salted salmon (塩鮭 Shiojake) with crispy skin. This is a really straightforward recipe. Enjoy the flavorful salmon in rice balls, bento or as a wholesome accompaniment to traditional Japanese breakfast.
It’s been almost a week since we came back from Taiwan and my family is finally back to our regular routine. After a long vacation, my family and I always miss eating simple Japanese food, like Hot Tofu (Yudofu) and this Salted Salmon (shiojake 塩鮭).
If you have been to Japan, you probably had tried or seen traditional Japanese breakfast similar to the picture below, which features Salted Salmon (Shiojake), rice, miso soup (I made Tonjiru), a vegetable side dish, and some egg (I made Tamagoyaki).
Easy Japanese Salted Salmon (Shiojake)
Salted Salmon or Shiojake is a popular way to enjoy salmon in Japan. Aside from traditional Japanese breakfasts, we also enjoy the delicious fish in bento boxes or as a filling for onigiri, Japanese Rice Balls. Salted salmon is so versatile that I also use it in fried rice, Ochazuke (a simple rice dish in green tea) and rice porridge.
I used to buy prepared salted salmon from a Japanese supermarket for convenience. You just need to pop them in the toaster oven for 25 min and they’re ready to eat. However, the supermarket ones can be a bit salty. Since my children love salted salmon and its crispy skin, one day I decided to start making my own. It was ridiculously easy that I had never gone back to the prepared salted salmon from the supermarket.
How to Prepare Japanese Salted Salmon
To make Japanese salted salmon, all you need is fresh quality salmon, sake and the right amount of salt.
The salmon is first marinade with sake and let rest for 10 minutes. Before salting, you want to make sure to pat the salmon surface dry with paper towels. Then sprinkle sea salt liberally on all sides including the skin. The salting process not only helps to remove any fishy taste, it also plays a role in enhancing umami and firming up the flesh of salmon. We will then wrap the fillets in a few layers in an air-tight container before keeping them chilled in the refrigerator for at least 2 days. After this, they will be ready to be broiled in the oven, grilled or pan-fried. The fish will come out tender with a flavorful crispy skin. When ready to enjoy, have a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice to perk it up. It is really that straightforward.
You can make a larger batch of salted salmon at once and keep them frozen to enjoy at a later time. It is truly one of the wonderful way to enjoy this rustic fish dish.
Before my trip to Taiwan, I made some of the salted salmon again knowing that I’d miss simple home cooked food. I hope you will give this recipe a try. Make sure you have good Japanese premium short-grain rice to go with this. Hmm… it is nice to be home!
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Japanese Salted Salmon (Shiojake/Shiozake)
- 1.1 lb skin-on salmon fillet (½ inch thickness; I've used both firmer Sockeye or fatter Atlantic salmon for this recipe)
- 1 Tbsp sake
- 5 tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt) (5% of salmon weight)
- Gather all the ingredients. Quickly rinse the salmon under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Slice the salmon diagonally if it’s not pre-sliced.
To Prepare Salmon
- Evenly distribute sake on the salmon and coat well. Set aside for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, pat dry the salmon with a paper towel.
- First, sprinkle and apply some kosher salt on the skin first.
- Then sprinkle the remaining salt on both sides of the fillets. If you have leftover salt, use it on the skin.
- Line the bottom of an air-tight container with a paper towel. This will absorb excess moisture from the fish.
- Place the fillets in the container in a single layer and lay a sheet of paper towel on top of the fillets.
- Then put the 2nd layer of the fillets on top of paper towel and lay another sheet of paper towel on top. Cover with lid and keep in the refrigerator for at least 2 days.
- This is after 2 days. You will see moisture on the salmon skin.
- Gently pat dry the fillets with a paper towel to get rid of any excess moisture.
- If you don’t plan on cooking the salmon right away, after drying the fillets with a paper towel, wrap the individual pieces with plastic wrap and place them in a freezer bag to freeze. You can store the salmon in the freezer for up to 1 month. Remember to defrost completely before cooking.
To Broil (Recommended)
- Preheat the broiler* with a rack placed about 6" (15 cm) away from the top heating element (in the center of the oven) for 5 minutes. When broiling, you don't control the temperature in the oven; instead, you control the distance between the broiler and the surface of the food. It's similar to using hotter and cooler zones on your grill. *Broiler setting: Low (450ºF/232ºC), Medium (500ºF/260ºC), and High (550ºF/288ºC). I usually use medium or high.
- Line a baking sheet with foil for easy cleaning. Place the salmon on the foil, skin side up (for crispy skin!). Broil the salmon at medium (500ºF) or high (550ºF) for 8-10 minutes. Please remember the cooking time varies depending on the thickness of the fish and the distance between the broiler and the food. Japanese salted salmon is cooked till well done (more dry and flaky). You do not need to flip it.
To Bake (Optional)
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (218ºC) with a rack placed in the center and bake the salmon on parchment paper for 10-12 minutes. Japanese salted salmon is cooked till well done (more dry and flaky).