The Shiogama , salt encrusted, technique is used for the remaining filleted blue fish described in my previous blog and it produced a gorgeous and delicious result.
French do it. Chinese do it. And also Japanese do it. Legend has it that this particular cooking technique in Japan is said to have been developed during the civil war era of the 16th century. Before leaving for the battlefield, a prominent warrior sent his mother a whole gorgeous sea bream cooked in a solid salt crust. The salt crust held in the natural juices and made the cooked fish moist, juicy and fragrant. And the salt crust allowed the cooked fish to travel a long distance without spoilage from the warrior to his mother. What a beautiful ‘oya-koko’ – parent and child – story showing great respect by the warrior for his mother.
The recipe for shiogama cooking techniques uses sea salt and egg white to prepare the salt crust. I have some small doubt about this beautiful warrior-mother story because eggs were not eaten until 17th century in Japan. Well, anyone who holds power like the warrior in the story can do what he wishes, so the use of egg white was perhaps possible even back in the 16th century Or, maybe the chef might have used a different ingredient instead of egg white to bind the salt. The real answer is unknown. Please read the insider story in my book, The Sushi Experience: ‘How the Chicken Came to Japan (page 67)’.
I learned Shiogama technique from Chef Jiro Iida. He was the executive chef at Aburiya Kinnosuke in New York several years ago. He showed me this technique at a Culinary Institute of America (CIA) Conference held in the early 2000s. I helped him to mix the egg white and sea salt. There was no recipe. He added salt to the egg white until the texture felt correct to him. I kept stirring it in a large bowl to catch his grin when he was satisfied with the mixture. I didn’t have a recipe either, so I did what we all do – searched online. Everyone seems to be using this recipe: 1kg (2.2 pounds) salt and 3 egg white.
- Observe the texture of mixed salt and egg white in the photo shown here. Also check out my video on my Instagram (hirokoshimbo). The correct texture of the mixture should feel fluffy, lightly firm and like marshmallow.
- When you are using already cut pieces of fish wrap them up in broad green leaves so that the fish does not have direct contact with the salt.
- Cook the fish in the oven at 400 F; cooking time varies depending on the size of the fish.
- Try this technique with other protein.
- Have fun and enjoy!