But, in my view, good things can and should be said and gone over more than once – good ideas bear reinforcing. And salmon is usually a good idea – and, in just about any way you can eat it, it’s incredibly healthy and good for you, too!
And this, salmon served sashimi-style (I say ‘style’ here because I can’t claim any sort of authenticity) is something of a staple at Chez Veronika, in particular when we can’t decide what to have for lunch or dinner – the deep-frozen slab of salmon makes its grand entrance from the freezer, there is a quick cold-water bath defrost, and within minutes there is a gorgeous, salivaiton-inducing meal on the table.
If you’ve never had sashimi, and are wary of raw fish, you can always start slowly with gravad lax or cold-smoked salmon here, but trust me – the raw fish has a sweeter, juicier flavor that is unparalleled – and if you are already eating it cold-smoked or salted, then the texture really is the same and takes no getting used to.
Since there is no cooking involved here, it’s all in the presentation and what you serve it with, but there are a few tips which make life much easier if you want to do this the way I do – from the freezer.
- To defrost deep-frozen salmon, fill a bowl with cold-to-barely-lukewarm water (not even close to finger-warm), and place the plastic bag with slice of frozen salmon in the water. Squeeze the air out by submerging the bag while keeping the opening above water, and clip or tie it shut. Let fish rest for 20-30 minutes to defrost safely.
- If the fish is not fully (but mostly) defrosted when you slice it, do not worry – it will finish thawing quickly on the plate, and a tiny touch of frost only makes the slicing it into thin slivers easier.
- Use a very, very sharp knife if you want to avoid messy ragged cuts. And besides, sharper knives are both easier to use, and far, far safer – there is less chance of the knife slipping and you cutting yourself with it.
- Once fish is defrosted sufficiently, remove it from bag, pat it dry, and then slice it into neat pieces. I like to start on the belly side and make a few cuts along it (along the length of salmon-that-was, cutting pieces off the side of your fillet slice), to cut up the fatty bits into thin strips, and then rotate the piece and slice it across, resulting in something like this:
Once your salmon is cut up, pop it in the fridge unless it has to thaw more, in which case set it aside, and prepare the rest – I generally slice up a cucumber, mix a bit of wasabi powder with boiled water to make fresh wasabi, and mix the dipping sauce at the table. Pickled ginger and Swedish fish roe can be bought in most supermarkets and kept in the fridge if this is something you like to do often. We do.
What you need to feed 2 hungry people:
- 300-400g salmon fillet, skin-on (skin makes it easier to slice and usually also means it’s fresher and has better texture)
- 1.5dl sushi rice, cooked according to instructions
- 50ml seasoned sushi vinegar OR 50ml rice vinegar + 1 teaspoon salt + 1 teaspoon sugar
- Soy sauce of your choice (I like Kikkoman, but a mix of any light soy sauce with a dash of dark soy sauce does the trick too)
- Toasted sesame oil
- 1 heaping teaspoon wasabi powder + ~2 teaspoons boiled water (enough to make a paste) OR a tube of prepared wasabi
- 15cm section of cucumber, washed and sliced (I do not peel but you can if you want)
- 2 tablespoons ABBA caviar or whatever brined fish roe you’ve got on hand or can get. If you have a good Oriental supermarket, you can probably get your hands on brined, frozen flying fish roe which is the traditional Japanese accompanement as I understand it.
- As much pickled ginger as your ginger-hungry selves want
- Chili flakes or fresh grated ginger root juice (entirely optional)
What to do:
- Defrost (if needed) and slice up your salmon.
- Cut up your cucumber.
- Mix the wasabi (unless using paste).
- Cook the sushi rice according to your package directions, then stir in seasoned vinegar (which can be made by mixing rice vinegar with salt and sugar until it’s dissolved), cover with a towel-wrapped lid and let stand 5 minutes.
- In the meantime, make dipping sauce by mixing a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce with a teaspoon of sesame oil and a little bit of wasabi or chili flakes if you are so inclined. You can also jazz the dipping sauce up with a little bit of juice from grated ginger if you really want to give it a kick.
- Heap it all onto your plates, grab your chopsticks, and go at it!
The entire process takes about half an hour start to finish (excluding defrosting), and I tend to keep all the ingredients around on hand, so this is a really quick way to serve a gorgeous and healthy lunch or dinner with minimal, and I mean – minimal effort. Pair it with a green Japanese sencha tea or a good Chinese green tea (I hope that doesn’t offend the purists!), or a crisp white wine, and you are golden.
In all honesty, this does not need the added appeal of style-appropriate dishes – heck, if someone offered it to me on a random paper plate with a fork, I’d eat it – but to make this preparation really shine, pretty presentation does help (like with anything, eh!). So, if you own a beautiful set of Asian dishes, this is the excuse you’ve been waiting for to drag them out and use them. And if you don’t own one but want one – they are inexpensive to get at Oriental supermarkets, or online if you are really nowhere near one. And in my biased view, the presentation those give it is really worth the bother!
This, minus the rice, can also be served in half or third-portions as a starter at a dinner party. I haven’t tried it myself, but I imagine it’d go over really well with anyone who doesn’t hate raw fish (and isn’t allergic).