Salmon teriyaki along with Beef Teriyaki have long been a staple in American Japanese restaurants, so it may come as a surprise to many that these are not traditional Japanese dishes. Ask for salmon teriyaki at a restaurant in Tokyo, and you’ll probably be met by a blank stare followed by a profuse apology. If you’re lucky, you might find a shop making yellowtail teriyaki, but in general, teriyaki goes with “chikin” like steak goes with beef.
That said being, there’s nothing wrong with food that’s not authentic. The migration of food along with it’s adaptation using local ingredients to suit local tastes has been happening for as long as humans have roamed the Earth. America’s favorite condiment started out as a fermented fish sauce called kê-chiap in southern China. As it travelled to Indonesia, it became a sweet soy sauce called kecap manis, while a journey to the US through Britain created what we now know as ketchup.
While the use of salmon in salmon teriyaki may be new, teriyaki sauce has been around for hundreds of years. Teriyaki is composed of two words: teri means “shiny” and refers to the lacquered appearance of the thick sauce, yaki means “grilled”, referring to the preparation. While many cooks in Japan these days opt to pan-fry their teriyaki, a shiny sauce is a must. That’s why I don’t add any ginger, garlic, scallions, or anything else that would cloud the sauce. It’s thickened by the sugar and soy sauce caramelizing, which lends the sauce a much more complex flavor than the simple list of ingredients would imply.
I like the smoky flavor that grilling imparts, which is why I grill my salmon teriyaki. By starting the salmon off on the grill and finishing it on the stove with the sauce, it ensures your salmon is moist and tender, while absorbing all the great flavors of the sauce.
- 2 1” thick salmon steaks
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 4 tablespoons sake
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- Lay your salmon steaks flat and remove the spine by running a knife along one side of the ribs from the top of the salmon to the bottom. Repeat for the other side, and then discard the bones. Rub all four pieces of the salmon with the oil, then lightly salt.
- If you are using a grill, get it nice and hot. Grill the steaks until they’ve got some good grill marks and no longer stick to the grill (about 3 minutes), then flip and grill until they are almost done (another 2 minutes).
- If you are using a broiler, move the oven rack to the top position and preheat it on “broil”. Put a wire rack on a baking sheet and lay the salmon steaks on the rack. Broil on one side until it takes on some color, then flip and broil the second side until the salmon is almost cooked through.
- To make the sauce, add the sugar, sake and soy sauce to a frying pan large enough to hold all four pieces of salmon. Heat over high heat until the bubbles get very large and the mixture is thick. Add the salmon steaks and coat in the sauce, turning a few times to coat evenly and cook the salmon through.
- Serve the salmon teriyaki over hot rice drizzled with the remaining sauce.
Yield: 4 servings
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.