This Vendredi lunch was inspired by my first visit to Japan in March 2014. While wandering the side streets of Tokyo, I found myself in a small restaurant, which catered primarily to locals. Since I couldn’t read the Japanese menu, I simply ordered the same as the person sitting next to me. What arrived on my table was delicious. Traditional Japanese cuisine, known as ‘washoku,’ presents several small dishes all served together. This particular recipe combines salmon with rice, a variety of vegetables, a small bowl of pickles and miso soup.

Preparing washoku for the Vendredi lunch was quite a challenge as it requires careful timing and preparation to get all the plates out at the same time. From my experience, I advise starting first with the Tsukemono as these need some resting. Then move on to the main dishes, starting with the vegetables, which can be served at room temperature. End with the salmon, as this one should be served immediately when ready.


Serves 4

For cucumber Tsukemono (Japanese pickles):
3 Japanese or Persian cucumbers
1 tsp salt
2 cm ginger, peeled and cut in julienne strips
1 sealable plastic kitchen bag

Slice the cucumbers and place into the plastic bag. Add the salt and ginger to the bag and mix well together. Remove all the air and seal. Place a heavy weight on the bag and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

For the carrots and daikon:
½ a daikon, cut in julienne strips
2 carrots, cut in julienne strips
1 tbsp vegetable oil
250ml dashi (Japanese stock)
1 tbsp sake, 2 tbsp mirin, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp soy sauce

Heat the oil in a saucepan on medium heat, add the carrots and daikon and stir well to coat with oil. Add the dashi, sake, mirin and sugar and bring to a boil, then add the soy sauce. Place a lid half over the pan and cook for a further 15 minutes, until most of the liquid is gone.

For the spinach:

250g fresh spinach
3 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 ½ tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp sugar, ½ tsp sake, ½ tsp mirin
pinch of salt

Toast the sesame seeds in a non-stick frying pan on low heat until they turn to an even golden colour. Grind the seeds with a mortar and pestle, keeping some texture, add the soy sauce, sugar, sake and mirin and mix well together. Rinse the spinach, drain briefly, transfer to a large pan, add a pinch of salt and place the lid on. Cook on medium/high heat for 2 minutes. Drain and press out the remaining water. On a chopping board, cut the spinach roughly and transfer to a bowl. Add the sesame sauce and combine well together.

For the rice:
2 glasses of Japanese white rice (480ml)
3 glasses of water (720ml)
50ml rice vinegar, 2 tbsp sugar, ½ tsp salt.

Place the rice and one and a half its volume of water in a heavy-base saucepan. With the lid on, bring to a boil on high heat, then lower the heat to the minimum and cook for 10 minutes, or until the water is totally absorbed. Remove from the heat and let it steam for another 10 minutes, with the lid on. While the rice is cooking, combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved, then take off the heat. When the rice is done, pour over the vinegar mix and gently combine to the rice with a wooden spoon.

For the miso soup:

600 ml dashi
3 tbsp miso
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp Wakame seaweed
120g tofu, cut into 2cm squares.

In a saucepan, bring the dashi to boil, then lower the heat. Put the miso paste in a ladle, and slowly add some dashi into the ladle to dissolve the miso completely. Make sure to not boil the miso soup once you have added the miso, as you would lose the nice flavours. Then add the tofu, the wakame and the spring onions.

For the Teriyaki salmon:
4 salmon filets with skin, about 150g each
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp sake for cooking plus 1 tbsp sake for the sauce
2 tbsp mirin, 2 tbsp sugar, 4 tbsp soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Combine the sake, mirin, sugar and soy sauce and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Season the salmon filets with salt and pepper on both sides. Dust the salmon all over with flour and gently remove the excess. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat, add the salmon filets, skin side down and cook for 3 minutes, until the bottom side is nicely browned, then turn over. Add the sake to he pan, cover with lid and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until cooked through, then remove to a plate (note that cooking time will depend on the thickness of your filets). Add the teriyaki sauce to the pan and increase the heat a little, when it starts to boil, place the salmon back into the pan and spoon the sauce over the fillets. Turn off the heat when the sauce begins to thicken.

Serve the salmon on individual plates accompanied by the cooked vegetables. Serve the rice and miso soup in individual bowls and the Tsukemono on four small dishes. Bring all the dishes to the table and enjoy with chopsticks.

This recipe is from Marina Bautier's cookbook Vendredi.