Nitsuke (煮付け) is a traditional Japanese dish with stewed vegetables and fish. In this version we use Ora King Salmon, gobo root, daikon, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, snow peas, lotus root and sato imo potato. All of the ingredients are simmered in a soy-dashi broth with sake and mirin. The result is a symphony of flavors and textures best eaten with some chopsticks and a steaming hot bowl of rice.
Salmon Nitsuke (煮付け)
Nitsuke was one of the first things that popped into my head when I was thinking about my seven days of salmon. I’m still working on dishes using Ora King Salmon from Crowd Cow. During my career I was always partial to Loch Duarte salmon, but I’m sold on this King salmon from New Zealand which is just as good. I decided to start with cold dishes first then progress into the hot stuff. Fortunately, I am blessed that my kids love fish and seafood. This dish was also perfectly timed because we have had some cold nights. There is something about hot pot style dishes and rice when the temperature drops.
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What is Nitsuke?
This recipe comes from one of our contributing chefs. He learned it from a colleague while visiting Japan. Normally, you would see this dish in restaurants listed as Tai-Nitsuke (鯛煮付け). Tai refers to Madai (真鯛) or fish that belong to the snapper family, but the literal translation is “sea bream”. There are debates over the terminology of fish depending on where you come from. In one instance a fluke or flounder might be called halibut somewhere else. Sea Bream is a term used for porgy fish from New Zealand that share similarities with red snapper in look and flavor. In any case, the recipe provided used “snapper” cheeks which are braised in a sweet dashi soy broth with root vegetables. Super simple and healthy!
Traveling Coach Class
One of the best memories was on a 15 hour trip to Vietnam with a 5 hour layover in Osaka, Japan. I love traveling, but getting there is exhausting. The highlight of my coach class trip through multiple time zones was the meal after we left Osaka. For dinner that evening I was served tai-nitsuke with steamed rice. I was so excited that I wanted to jump out of my seat and high-five the stewardess. It was such a comforting and satisfying meal. The last few hours before landing was spent in a food coma with a smile on my face.
Nitsuke is a beloved dish that I actually don’t really get to eat that often. I have eaten it with Kinmedai (金目鯛) or Goldeneye Snapper while visiting the coast of the Izu peninsula in Japan. All I can say is yum! In some iterations of this dish, there is Saba (Japanese mackerel) and Sanma (秋刀魚)or Pacific Saury. The combination of oily and supremely healthy fish work well with the sweetness and soy flavor that soaks into the fish. This inspired me to think that salmon would be a perfect fit. I have actually never seen it made this way, but I’m sure it’s been done. The results were still amazing and the fans were pleased with another version of Nitsuke that I can add to the menu.
PREPARING THE VEGETABLES
Have four medium bowls ready with fresh water to soak some of the vegetables. The most labor intensive part of this dish is preparing the vegetables. In Japanese cooking there is a lot of trimming to provide not only a visual aspect, but textural as well. Using a peeler, most of the sharp edges from cutting are rounded out.
Soak in hot water (200F) for 10 minutes, then drain.
Peel then cut into 2″ sections. I used my peeler to round out the edges. Any carrot scraps were used as part of my Shiba’s dinner. Soak in water till ready to use.
Cut daikon into 1″ sections. Same with the carrots, I used a peeler to round out the edges. I saved the scraps and processed them for a different use. Soak in water till ready to use.
Sato Imo Potatoes (substitute regular potatoes)
Peel then cut into slightly larger than bite sized portions. Soak in water till ready to use. You can find Sato-imo in any Japanese market and most Asian markets. They are slightly smaller than a Russet and hairy looking from the tiny roots still attached. When peeled raw they have a sticky texture. They are great for braising as they pick-up some of the flavor from the braising liquid. The texture when cooked is softer than a potato with a mild, but unique flavor.
Peel the string off the snow peas. Drop them into boiling water for 20 seconds. Remove then ice bath and drain.
Slice thin then soak in water. The remaining lotus root can be frozen for up to 60 days.
Sometimes fresh gobo root can be very long (up to a couple of feet). Fortunately, I was able to find some that were shorter and at an even length. These can be peeled, but I just washed and scrubbed the outside. Using a sharp knife cut into 2 inch long sections, then cut in half lengthwise. Soak in water till ready to use.
PREPARING THE SALMON
I saved the tail section of the salmon specifically for this dish. First, I removed the scales because I wanted to braise half of the salmon with the skin on. The rest of the salmon skin I froze for later use. Split the tail in half and cut into even sections.
The recipe lists 12 ounces for two servings. Whatever section of the salmon you are using, cut into equal portions.
IF, you plan on cooking skin on. Heat 1 tablespoon of cooking oil in a small sauté pan over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, cook the salmon skin side down for 20 seconds then remove.
SOY DASHI BROTH
For the dashi water, dashi kombu stock would be the optimal choice. Click on the link for the recipe. As a faster method, you can also use powdered hon-dashi and water. Use 1/2 teaspoon powdered dashi for 1 cup of hot water. Mix till the dashi is dissolved.
PREPARING SALMON NITSUKE
Make sure you drain the water from all the vegetables first.
Sato Imo potatoes are amazing, but they take a long time to cook. Boil them in water for 5 minutes then drain.
Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a nabe (鍋) or wide cooking pot that has a lid over medium high heat. Add the gobo and stir fry for 2 minutes.
Combine all the soy dashi broth ingredients except soy sauce in the pot. Add the par boiled sato-imo, ginger and shiitake mushrooms to the pot.
Bring to a boil for 1 minute, then reduce heat and add soy sauce. Cook at a low simmer for 15 minutes.
Next, add the lotus root and carrots. Cook for 10 minutes at a low simmer. If the broth becomes too salty, add the additional 1/2 cup of water.
Add the salmon and cook for 10 more minutes. Right before serving, add the snow peas.
Reduce heat to low. Divide salmon and vegetables evenly between bowls with some broth. Serve with hot steamed rice, fresh ginger and some green onions.