Salmon (and tuna) tataki are some of my very favorite dishes at sushi restaurants. This Japanese salmon tataki with homemade ponzu sauce is ultra easy and healthy and comes in at about ¼ the cost of your favorite Japanese restaurant. Thin slices of fresh fish are a great way to showcase premium salmon and traditional delicate citrus soy ponzu sauce is the perfect dip.
What It Is + Why I Love It
Tataki is raw fish that is given a quick sear in a cast iron skillet or grill but remains raw in the middle. It can be tricky to get a smooth cut on your salmon after cooking but I have some tips below to help make neat slices.
Ponzu sauce is the traditional accompaniment and is generally made with soy sauce, lemon juice, and mirin along with few other ingredients. (I'll walk you through it.) A quick note: If you are using the katsuobushi, make the ponzu sauce together the day before to let the flavors infuse the soy sauce.
Love Japanese food? This recipe pairs really well with my mango kani salad or asparagus gomae. Easy fish katsu is a great main course to follow it with and plum flan is a great way to finish this Japanese meal.
When To Serve Tataki
In Japanese cuisine, sashimi and tataki are served at the beginning of the meal to show off the great quality of the fresh fish. It makes a perfect appetizer by itself or you can serve it over greens and thinly sliced vegetables for a salmon tataki salad. Paired with rice and some radish or edamame (Japanese soy beans) it makes a tasty main course.
- Salmon - Use sashimi-grade salmon. If in doubt, ask when it was brought in or even ask to smell it. It should smell fresh and faintly of the sea with no strong unpleasant fishy smell. If you're shopping at a grocery store, often you'll find better quality in the freezer section by finding frozen-at-sea (FAS) fish.
- Ponzu Sauce - This recipe has an easy, no-cook homemade ponzu sauce with some great authentic flavors but I know bonito flakes and dashi can be hard to come by. You can make a simpler one by using just the lemon juice, soy sauce and mirin (or swap in brown sugar) and chicken or veggie broth in place of the dashi. Or you can buy some. I won't tell 😉
- Katsuobushi - Katsuobushi is bonito (tuna) flakes, usually smoked and dried. It is a dried and shredded seafood product that gives rich umami flavor to dashi (popular Japanese broth used in soups and sauces) and other savory sauce recipes. It can be hard to find, and if that's the case, see substitutions below.
- Mirin - Sweet Japanese cooking wine. It is somewhat thick and viscose which adds great body to the soy-based ponzu sauce. It's a lovely and versatile kitchen ingredient for salad dressings, marinades and glazes for fish or chicken too.
See recipe card for quantities.
Substitutions + Variations
- Katsuobushi - Dashi or dashi powder make a perfect substitute. If using dashi powder, use ½ tsp. If you're using actual dashi broth, substitute it for the water. If you have neither of these ingredients, you can swap an equal amount of chicken or veggie stock for the water or just use the water as the soy, mirin and lemon already give a lot of flavor.
- Mirin - Can't find mirin? Use 2 teaspoons of brown sugar instead, and stir well to dissolve.
- Spicy Mayo Dip - Ponzu sauce is the traditional dip but spicy mayo makes a pretty spectacular dipping sauce too. Simply mix ½ cup of Japanese mayonnaise with 2 teaspoons of sriracha sauce or hot garlic chili sauce and serve it alongside.
- Grilled - This recipe is wonderful cooked on a grill in the summertime. Preheat your grill to high and sear the salmon quickly on all sides. Let rest 10 minutes and then slice. Throw some whole scallions on the grill too, and then chop and serve alongside the tataki.
How To Video
The cooking process for this Japanese salmon is fast so make your ponzu sauce ahead of time and have everything ready to go before starting the salmon.
Step 1. In a small bowl or pint mason jar, whisk together soy sauce, lemon juice (or other citrus), mirin, water, nori and katsuobushi (or dashi powder).
Store in the refrigerator overnight. Strain through a mesh sieve and set aside while prepare the salmon
Step 2. Trim salmon of any skin and bones. Run your hands gently down the center of the fillet to check for any bones. Remove any bones with small pliers and pat the salmon dry with some paper towel.
Preheat oil in a cast iron pan or other heavy bottomed skillet to medium-high heat. Season the salmon lightly with sea salt.
Add salmon to the hot pan and sear each side quickly, just 30-60 seconds per side, turning it gently with tongs.
Step 3. Once all sides are seared, remove it to a cutting board to rest for a few minutes.
Step 4. Once it has cooled enough to handle, gently slice it across the grain on the diagonal as thinly as you can, ideally about ¼" thick.
Step 5. You can make thick slices if you like but thin slices show off the delicate texture of the raw salmon better. Plate slices either flat or slightly overlapping on individual plates or a long, rectangular serving platter.
Step 6. Garnish with slivered scallions, sliced radishes, or toasted white sesame seeds and serve the ponzu sauce alongside for dipping.
Serve salmon tataki with the ponzu sauce for a great appetizer. To serve it for dinner, serve it with steamed Japanese short grained rice (often known as sticky rice), seaweed salad, slivered daikon radish and steamed edamame. For an appetizer, oysters motoyaki are always a hit. For more side dishes, try steamed spinach with goma sauce (gomae) and fish katsu.
Salmon is much harder to slice neatly after cooking than tuna because it is less dense and firm. Keep the salmon cold or even half frozen before searing it. This will help keep the fish from cooking too much and make it easier to slice after. After the salmon tataki is cooked, let it rest under a foil tent to help the outside stay soft enough to slice through neatly.
Shopping for your seafood at local fish shops will often get you better quality fish than grocery stores. Better yet, if you live on the coast, watch for fishermen selling their fresh seafood off the docks. It's a fun way to really see where your food is coming from.
Pin It For Later
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This is a matter of personal preference but any species of Ocean Wise wild salmon is always my top choice. Sockeye and coho are great for making bite-sized pieces that are large enough to sear without overcooking but still narrow enough to eat in one bite.
Covered and stored in the refrigerator within 2 hours of cooking, this partially cooked salmon will last up to 3 days in the fridge. But...the longer it stays in the fridge, the more the flavor will deteriorate. I recommend eating leftover salmon within 2 days for the tastiest flavor. The ponzu sauce will last up to 2 weeks, covered in the fridge.
More Seafood Recipes
Cheers and happy cooking, Friends! Sabrina
Japanese Salmon Tataki With Homemade Ponzu Sauce
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- ⅓ cup lemon juice or a mix of lime lemon, and/or orange juice
- 1 Tablespoon mirin
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- ⅓ cup water
- 2 tbsp katsuobushi or ½ teaspoon dashi powder
- 1 sheet of nori or kombu
- 1 lb salmon filet skinless, boneless, partially frozen
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- ½ cup sliced daikon or radish
- 2 tablespoon slivered pickled ginger
- ¼ c slivered green onions
- 1 teaspoon slivered chili pepper
- ½ c cooked edamame
Make Ponzu Sauce
- Combine ponzu sauce ingredients in a jar with a tight lid, and shake to mix. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, strain ponzu through a mesh sieve (or tea strainer) and set aside while preparing the salmon.
- To sear salmon, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle when a drop of water hits it, add the salmon filet or salmon pieces.
- Sear each side quickly, just 30-60 seconds per side, turning it gently with tongs.
- Once all sides are seared, remove it to a cutting board to rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Slice across the grain into ¼-½ inch thick slices. Gently arrange in single or slightly overlapping layers on a platter or individual plates.
- Garnish with toasted sesames seeds, scallions and any other desired garnishes and serve right away with ponzu sauce.