Shiogama-Yaki (protein cooked in salt crust) is a very popular technique used by Japanese chefs in Japanese-, Italian-, and French-kitchen in Japan, because of its stunning presentation and its ability to retain the maximum flavor of ingredient used. The popular ingredient used in this technique in Japan is tai, sea bream – a fish known as the king of fish. The whole sea bream baked in a thick layer of salt crust entertain the diners with its maximum juice and flavor.
The most respected Japanese chef, Yoshihiro’s Murata, uses Abalone with this technique in his elaborate cookbook, KAISEKI. My friend chef, Jiro Iida of Aburiya Kinnosuke learned the technique under a Japanese chef who cooks Italian cuisine in Japan. Now he prepares it at his Japanese restaurant in New York City.
So, I had a question. What is the origin of Shiogama-Yaki? Who invented this technique? Possibly from China?
I found an interesting story at red cook.net/2009/07/08/chicken-clay-grill. There is a dish called Jiao hua Ji. It is a dish in which a whole chicken stuffed with aromatics are covered with a thick layer of mad and baked. The author of the site tells the legend of this dish as…..”During Qing Dynasty a beggar, cold and hungry, stole a chicken. In order to hide the chicken temporarily from the owner of the chicken he buried it in mud. Later that night he retrieved the chicken. Since there were no cooking tools to use to cook the chicken, the beggar made a wood fire and throw the chicken, which is covered with a thick layer of mud, into the fire. After the mud crust became dry, charred and hard, he cracked it and opened it. Extremely juicy and tender chicken was disclosed”. There seems to be many variations of this story. At this site you can find a modern recipe of Jiao hua Ji, which is translated as beggar’s chicken. I remember that chef Alex Ong once cooked this delicious dish for us at his Betelnut restaurant in San Francisco.
In my next blog, I will go back to the Shiogama-Yaki and its story. The origin of Japanese version seems not to have any relationship with the beggar’s chicken. Anyway this is the Shiogama-Yaki which I prepared for my dinner guests recently.