Salmon Nabanzuke is a salad or appetizer made with chunks of fish that are coated, fried and then marinated in a delicious sauce made with soy sauce, sweetened vinegar, onions and sometimes peppers. Nanbanzuke (南蛮漬け) translates into “Southern Barbarians pickles”. Japanese in the Meiji era knew the Portuguese as Southern Barbarians, and it was the Portuguese who probably introduced the escabeche marinaded dishes to Japan.
I first was introduced to Nanbanzuke when I moved to Japan and found it in the supermarkets. Just about every Japanese market features some type of chicken or fish Nanbanzuke in the deli. I was impressed with how delicious yet simple it was and how versatile of a dish it is. And it’s not only the market. If you ever go to a high end buffet in Japan, you can usually find Nannanzuke as a selection. And it’s easy to see why. It’s super easy to prepare a huge batch of this, it’s delicious and it keeps fresh for days.
While Salmon tastes great in Nanbanzuke, in Japan Nanbanzuke is often made with mackerel (saba) or jack mackerel (aji). Fried chicken is also a popular ingredient to use. When preparing Nanbanzuke I always like to add freshly fried fish or chicken into the marinade while it is still hot. There are two reasons for this – the marinade will soak into the coating and give each piece a delicious flavor, and the oil in the coating will mix into the marinade releasing oil into the marinade which gives it a fuller and balanced flavor.
The onions and red pepper marinade in the vinegar as well, and all of the tastes blend together fabulously. Salmon Nanbanzuke can be enjoyed cold or at room temperature, but never hot. Although you can serve it after just 30 minutes of marinating, I usually marinate this dish for at least a day to allow the flavors to blend and the sauce to thicken. The longer it marinates, the better it tastes.
You can serve this wonderful dish instead of a dinner salad and wow your guests. And you can refrigerate nanbanzuke for up to a week before serving – but I can guarantee it won’t last that long!