My recent obsession with Kokoro Japanese Restaurant finally bled over into my own kitchen. I wanted more Japanese food, but I wanted it to be as quick and simple as it was delicious. Paging through my copy of Japanese Soul Cooking, I saw a gorgeous picture of a bowl of vibrant red tuna slices brushed with a wasabi soy sauce and served over rice – a simple Japanese dish called tekka-don. It looked amazing, and I decided we would have it as soon as possible.
The market, however, didn’t quite cooperate. At the Whole Foods fish counter, I did find some okay-looking tuna… but not great-looking tuna. (Frankly, I hardly ever find great-looking tuna, shiny and red without gapping.) Moreover, the tuna was twice as expensive as the lovely, tight-fleshed salmon further down the case.
The answer was obvious, especially since my favorite sushi fish is salmon (sake in Japanese, as confusing as that seems when you’re drinking sake on the side). Sake-don it would be.
Choosing the fish was probably the hardest part of the preparation. And you should choose yours carefully: Like runny eggs or rare burgers, raw fish has potential health risks. Make sure the salmon looks beautifully fresh, and look for sushi-grade or previously frozen fish. There is a possibility for raw fish to contain parasites, which are killed by freezing. You won’t be killing them by cooking – there’s hardly any of that involved here, especially if you have a rice cooker. (If you don’t, simple instructions for cooking Japanese rice are included in the recipe notes.) A little slicing, brushing, and attractive piling, and it was done. And what a huge payoff!
Really, this is sushi for the lazy. The rich salmon looked beautiful lounging on its bed of rice and nori seaweed, glistening with wasabi-laced soy sauce. And it tasted wonderful, slightly warmed by the rice, almost melting in our mouths. So simple, so divine. The dish does benefit from something fresh and green alongside. Try a simple salad topped with Japanese carrot-ginger dressing, or Smitten Kitchen’s terrific avocado-cucumber salad (which is what we had). I think we’ll be eating this a lot this summer!
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine) or 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon wasabi, to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon dashi powder or granules, optional
- 8 ounces very fresh raw salmon
- 1 sheet nori seaweed
- 3 cups cooked short-grain rice, warm
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
The total cooking time reflects the time needed to cook the rice.
To prepare about 3 cooked cups Japanese-style rice on the stove, measure 1.5 cups Botan, Calrose, or other good short-grain rice. Rinse well and drain. Move to a pot with a well-fitting lid, and add 3 cups of water and a large pinch of salt. (For softer rice, add 2 more tablespoons of water.) Place pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Stir once, cover, and turn heat quite low. You want the rice to simmer gently, not boil.
Cook for 10 minutes, until the rice is almost done and the water is absorbed. You can lift the lid briefly to check. If the rice is still quite firm, don't worry. Turn off the heat, put the lid back on, and set aside for at least 10 minutes. After this resting time, the rice should be perfect. It will stay warm in its covered pot for another 15 minutes or so.