Simple, satisfying and light on your tummy. Before a wider range of Japanese food became popular fare, there were not many places you could frequent to have the variety of Japanese food that is available today. I remember eating a similar rice dish over a business lunch when I first started working. I can recall the taste – fresh slices of salmon steamed perfectly. I remember its presentation – in a Japanese square shaped, bamboo steamer basket with little pearls of shoyu ikura (soy sauce flavoured salmon caviar) that were sprinkled over overlapping slices of coral coloured salmon. Naturally, I don’t remember what transpired over the business lunch and worse, I don’t even remember who was there. Food on the other hand always leaves an indelible mark – be it good or bad. No rice cooker? I have included instructions to wash and cook short grained rice on a stove top.

Salmon On Rice

Prep: 15 minutes 
Cook: 22 minutes (includes cooking rice separately and then steaming salmon over cooked rice)
Inactive: 30 minutes
Level: Moderately easy
Serves: 2 persons
Oven Temperature:
Can recipe be doubled? Yes
Make ahead? No

Ingredients

2/3 cup short-grained rice/Japanese rice
2/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons water
1″ to 2″ (2.5 to 5cm) square of kombu (a variety of dried Japanese seaweed/kelp)*
1/4 teaspoon salt
14.1 oz (400g) salmon fillet
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sugar
To garnish
3.5 oz (100g) Ikura Shoyu**
1 bag of Japanese shredded seasoned seaweed OR Korean roasted & seasoned seaweed (laver)***
* Scroll down to ‘Tips’ to find out more and how to prepare for use. Omit if you do not want to buy this.
** Salmon roe that has been marinated/preserved in soy sauce and sake and/or mirin (Japanese cooking rice wine that is sweetened). Refer to my cover photograph. Substitute with salmon caviar drizzled with a tiny bit of soy sauce and sprinkled with a little sugar.
*** Scroll down to ‘Tips’ to find out the difference and where to buy them. 

Method

Preparing rice for cooking

1. Wash the rice by rubbing the rice grains with your palms and fingers to remove as much of the rice starch as possible. Rinse and repeat until the water is relatively clear. You might have to wash and rinse 4 to 5 times, even for rice that might come from a bag with the print “No wash required” on its packaging.
2. Once the water is relatively clear, drain rice and transfer to your cooking pot.
3. Add 2/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons of water, the kombu and let it sit for 30 minutes. Do not skip this step as it is all part of the cooking process. After soaking for 30 minutes, add the 1/4 teaspoon salt.

On the stovetop
1. Cover the pot and bring it to boil on high heat. Watch the pot as it will boil over very quickly (~ 2 minutes).
2. Once it comes to a boil, remove the cover, stir quickly, reduce the heat to very low and cover again. Let it simmer away for 10 minutes. Some people will advise that the kombu be removed once the rice water comes to a boil but I don’t. I don’t taste a real difference so why bother?
3. Remove the cover. There should be no visible layer of water. Turn off the heat but leave the pot over the burner.

4. Before replacing the pot cover, drape a tea towel over the pot and replace the pot cover. Let it sit over the stove for another 7 minutes.

5. Taste the rice. If it needs more cooking, drizzle 1 Tablespoon of water over the rice. Cover with the tea towel and lid and let it sit for an additional 5 – 10 minutes.
6. When rice is cooked, remove the kombu. It is edible but rather bland. You can pep it up with soy sauce or cut into strips and add to salads or soups. Scroll down to ‘What’s Coming Up Next?’ to find out how I use it in a salad.
7. Use a silicon spatula or a wooden spoon (dipped in water first to prevent sticking) to fluff up the rice before using.

In the rice cooker
1. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your rice cooker.
2. Once the rice is cooked in the rice cooker, taste the rice. If it needs more cooking, drizzle 1 Tablespoon of water over the rice. Cover and let it sit for an additional 10 minutes.
3. When rice is cooked, remove the kombu. It is edible but rather bland. You can pep it up with soy sauce or cut into strips and add to salads or soups. Scroll down to ‘What’s Coming Up Next?’ to find out how I use it in a salad.
4. Fluff rice with a silicon spatula or a wooden spoon (dipped in water first to prevent sticking) and continue to keep on ‘warm’ mode until required.

Preparing the salmon
1. Remove any bones from the salmon fillet and then remove the skin and discard.
2. Slice the fillet into 2″ (5cm) lengths and 1/4″ (0.64cm) thick slices.
3. 10 minutes before you are ready to cook the salmon, marinade it with the sugar and salt.

Assembling and steaming salmon on rice
1. If you do not have a steamer, the picture below shows you my improvisation. You can use a steamer basket which I did or a trivet or an inverted heatproof vessel (plate/saucer/shallow bowl).


2. Fill the pot with water. I would say enough water to almost reach the base of the steamer basket/trivet/inverted plate heatproof vessel. Cover the pot.
3. Before you start, choose heatproof bowls that will fit into your improvised steamer. There is very little water inside the pot so do not bring the water to boil until you are ready to steam the rice+salmon or you risk boiling down the water even before you are ready to steam. If that happens, top with water and reboil before putting in the bowl of rice+salmon.
4. When rice and salmon is ready for steaming, bring the water to boil on high.
5. Divide the hot rice into 2 bowls, creating a nice round mound in the centre.
5. Divide the salmon into 2 portions. Using one portion of salmon, overlap the slices over the rice.

6. When the water boils (double check that there is sufficient water in the pot), steam the first bowl of rice+salmon. It will steam super fast as the fish has been sliced thinly. Mine was done in 2 to 4 minutes. It depends on how hot your rice was when you layered the salmon and how efficient your pot is at conducting and retaining heat.
7. How can you tell if it is cooked? After 1 to 2 minutes, not only will the salmon have turned opaque, you will start to see little areas of white on the fish slices  – look at the bottom circumference of the bowl of rice/salmon pictured below. Once you spot this, pierce the fish with a skewer, toothpick or knife. If it skewers through without resistance, it is cooked. Alternatively, lift up a slice of fish gently to look at the bottom. It should be cooked through. Remove immediately from the steamer and set aside.

8. Top up water in pot if needed (I did not need to) and set the next bowl into the steamer. Repeat steaming process above.

Garnishing
1. Nestle a generous spoonful of ikura shoyu/salmon caviar on the salmon and finish off with the seasoned seaweed. Leave more seasoned seaweed and ikura shoyu/salmon caviar out on the dining table for diners to help themselves as they definitely will be doing so. Enjoy immediately.

Tips

(1) Kombu (a variety of dried Japanese seaweed/kelp)

-What is kombu?

This is not meant to be eaten as is. More often than not, it has to be rehydrated. It is a used to flavour dishes such as stews, rice, soups, sauces, etc to give it a umami flavour. A flavour that has been attributed to glutamate (one of many amino acids). You might be familiar with the artificially produced MSG? Monosodium glutamates is by the way synthesised from food. Glutamate is actually found naturally in virtually all food in varying degrees. Think cheeses, mushrooms, tomatoes, bacon. So now you know why some food taste extra yummy.

-How to prepare and where to buy?
To use kombu, do not wash. Wipe gently with a dry towel to remove any grit or sand. The white powder on it is a promise of flavour. Do not wipe it off. You can find kombu locally in most supermarkets. Look under the Japanese food aisle. Otherwise, look for it at Japanese or Asian grocery store. I store my kombu in the refrigerator.

(2) Japanese shredded seasoned seaweed (to the right of image below)

I bought this from a Japanese grocery store. It also sold at better stocked supermarkets and Asian grocery stores. On the reverse of the bag I bought, it is labelled as ‘Takaokaya Mominori’. ‘Takaokaya’ is the name of the company. ‘Mominori’ means shredded seaweed. I bought ‘seasoned seaweed’. It is seasoned primarily with sugar, soy sauce, shrimp, bonito (tuna), kelp and mirin. It is delicious on its own but is primarily used to top rice dishes, salads, cold and hot noodle dishes, tofu… Before buying, check to see that you are buying ‘seasoned’ seaweed and not the ‘plain’ seaweed which is really bland. The front of the packaging should have clear labelling indicating that what you are buying is ‘seasoned’ seaweed.  Alternatively, check the ingredient list on the reverse. Store in an airtight container.

(3) Korean roasted & seasoned seaweed laver (to the left of image above)
I bought this from a Korean grocery store. It also sold at better stocked supermarkets and Asian grocery stores. There will be clear pictures and english labelling on the front and/or back of the packaging. This Korean style seasoned seaweed is as tasty as the Japanese version. Seasoning ingredients include sugar and almost always sesame oil. It has a much more crackly and crispy texture as it is probably brushed with oil before roasting. It is a little oily. I use it as an accompaniment to rice or just to snack on. Store in an airtight container.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

To complete our healthy meal of Salmon On Rice, we must have our vegetables. Continuing with our Japanese inspired theme, this is a Tomato Cucumber and Seaweed Salad. Here is where you can use up the kombu that was used to flavour the rice. The salad is light and clearly Asian in taste. I use ginger in it!

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