This must be one of the most ubiquitous Japanese dishes, found everywhere from sushi chains to the finest Japanese restaurants. In my view, it’s also one of the most delicious ways of cooking salmon and is perfect for a weekday meal. Typically, we eat this with Japanese rice, miso soup and some greens, either stir fried or a green salad with a Japanese dressing.
This time however, to accompany the salmon, we had some lovely baby squash at home, so I cooked it in Japanese “home style” (where you simmer the chopped squash in a dashi flavoured broth and finish off with roasted sesame seeds). We complete the meal with some Japanese brown rice and the soup. If you need to eat one virtuous meal during the week, make it this one.
I first cooked salmon teriyaki many years ago, when I adapted the teriyaki marinade recipe from Delia Smith’s Winter Collection cookbook which was meant for beef teriyaki. I liked the fact that the sauce wasn’t too sweet, which is often a problem when you eat it in restaurants. Smith adds some grated ginger to her marinade which is lovely for beef, but too overpowering for salmon in my opinion.
Subsequently, I acquired Japanese cookbooks by authors like Harumi, and noticed that the marinade was a lot simpler and didn’t have anything other than the standard trinity of soy, sake, mirin with some sugar. I have experimented with various recipes, including some that add garlic and grated onion, which I found too potent and fiddly to work with. I do however like the addition of a dash of garlic and onion powders.
In terms of cooking method, some recipes suggest using the teriyaki sauce more as a final glaze, whilst others suggest marinating the fish for 15-20 minutes and then cooking it. The problem with the former is that flavour of the sauce doesn’t permeate through the fish, whilst with the latter, it’s impossible to obtain a crispy skin after the skin has been soaked in the marinade.
The solution? Make the marinade in a shallow dish, and place the salmon flesh side down so that the skin is above the liquid line. It’s win-win.
For the teriyaki marinade
Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a shallow dish which can fit the salmon pieces in one layer.
Check the salmon for any fine bones by running your finger along it, and check the skin for any scales.
Place the salmon flesh side down in the marinade and try to avoid getting the skin wet. Leave to marinate for 15-20 minutes.
When you are ready to cook, heat a heavy frying pan (I use a anodised aluminium pan, having done away with all non-stick ones a while back) with the oil.
Take the salmon out of the marinade (retain marinade), and pat the skin dry with a paper towel. Then run the blunt edge of a knife against the skin, against the direction of the scales. That will remove any bits of moisture clinging to the skin.
Place the fish skin side down in the pan. As soon as the skin touches the pan, the fish it will start curling immediately. Keep the fish flat, by pressing firmly with a fish slice or spatula for a few seconds before adding the next piece.
Leave the fish to fish to cook undisturbed for 3-5 minutes on a medium high heat. In this time, the skin will become crisp and won’t stick to the pan.
Flip the pieces over, and cook the flesh side on a high heat for 1 minute. Add the retained marinade to the pan. The sauce will sizzle and spit a fair bit, due to the alcohol and sugar in it, so take care.
The sauce will reduce quickly, and if you like the salmon on the undercooked side (recommended), take out the fish after 1 minute and place skin side down on a serving platter.
Stir the cornflour mixture and add to the sauce in the pan to thicken the sauce slightly. It should be the consistency of double cream.
Remove immediately, and drizzle the sauce over the fish and sprinkle the spring onion. Serve immediately.
This is an excellent all-purpose teriyaki marinade which you can use for chicken, beef or other oily fish.
Follow up comment - I was reminded by a friend who read the post, that the salmon can also be grilled in the oven. Preheat grill on highest setting. Place the salmon skin side down on a foil lined and oiled baking tray, and place on the highest shelf in the oven. Bake for about 4-6 minutes (timing will vary depending on the heat and distance from grill). The flesh should be browning at the edges. This wouldn't yield a crisp skin, but the flesh side will be browned and delicious.