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Ming Tsai's Tea Rubbed Salmon

In Asian, Chefs, Cookbooks, Fish and Seafood, Main Course, Recipe, Rice and Grains
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It's confession time, my friends.

OK....are you ready?

I really don't care for salmon.

These are words of a heretic, I know.

Of all the fish in the sea, most folks go on and on about the wonders of salmon, but to me, its just a little too....how shall I say this.....FISHY.

Whatever taste buds I have in my mouth that are responsible for tasting "fishy" things must have been inherited from my Dad, who won't eat even a molecule of fish unless you put a gun to his head.  My Mom on the other hand, resides at the other end of the spectrum and believes anything milder than mackerel, bluefish, or bagna cauda is just plain tasteless and boring.  I have to say that I've got the "fishy" thing kinda bad, because just the thought of smelling mackerel on the grill makes my stomach go all queasy.

Given that I am the primary cook around these parts I have quite easily been able to keep "at home" salmon consumption in my family to around ZERO grams over the past few years.  The family has come to look forward to salmon as a "special" restaurant treat, sort of the way I look forward to eating foie gras when I dine out.  Unfair you might say, especially since everyone else in the family LOVES salmon, but ultimate menu planning authority is one of the levers of power available to me, and I am NOT afraid to use it to advance my own "I only kinda-sorta like salmon" agenda.

I thought the rest of the family had all reached some level of acceptance with the fact that salmon and I just don't get along, but recently, I have overheard mumblings of a potential work stoppage in the Oui, Chef kitchen if I didn't start taking their requests for salmon more seriously.....Ugh.  So....in order to avoid seeing their bullhorn fueled, picket-line chants being aired on our local access cable channel, I've decided to revisit one of the few salmon recipes that I really DO like, and offer it up to the gang as a sort of peace offering.

Given how I find even the freshest salmon to be just a tad fishy for my taste, I need a preparation that adds enough flavor to take the edge off the fishiness, without masking the underlying flavor of the salmon, and this Ming Tsai recipe from his cookbook Simply Ming: Easy Techniques for East-Meets-West Meals achieves the goal perfectly.  A light coating of the tea rub on both sides of the fish adds a wonderfully complex layer of flavor, as well as a shell-like crispness without overpowering the delicate taste of the fish.  If you, like me are iffy about salmon, then this dish will at least get you into the tent with the salmon lovers.  If you already like salmon, then it will send you over the moon. 

Strike averted....YIPPEE!

Cheers - S.


Ming Tsai's Tea Rubbed Salmon from "Simply Ming"

(Print Friendly Version)


1/2 cup Five-Spice Chile Tea Rub (or more to taste)*
4 center-cut skinless salmon fillets, 5 to 6 ounces each
2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
2 cups jasmine rice, washed
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts
Pinch of salt


  1. Spread the rub on a large plate and coat the salmon in it liberally.
  2. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the salmon and sauté, turning once, until the salmon is cooked, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the rice in a rice cooker, adding the lemon juice, half the zest, the scallions, and the salt to the water. Alternatively, place the rice in a medium saucepan fitted with a tight lid. Flatten the rice with a palm and without removing your hand, add water until it touches the middle and highest knuckle of your hand. Add the lemon juice, half the zest, the scallions, and the salt, cover, and bring the water to a boil over high heat, 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice stand, covered, to plump, for 20 minutes.
  4. Place a small mound of rice on 4 plates (there will be rice left over) and top with the salmon. Garnish with the remaining zest and serve.

Five-Spice Chile Tea Rub

3 cups lapsang souchong tea leaves
1/2 cup sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 cup red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chipotle chile powder
1/2 cup dehydrated garlic or regular garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1/4 cup cayenne pepper
1/4 cup dried chives or onions
1/4 cup five-spice powder

This recipe makes a LOT of tea rub.  Feel free to halve, or even quarter the recipe if you desire.  Store leftover rub in a ziploc bag in your freezer, where it will last practically forever.  Note:  Bulk tea leaves will generally be coarser and will therefor give you and more textured / crunchy coating on the fish.  Tea pulled from tea bags will be finer and leave you with a smoother rub.


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"Oui, Chef" exists as an extension of my efforts to teach my kids a few things about cooking, and how their food choices over time effect not only their own health, but that of our local food communities and our planet at large. By sharing some of our cooking experiences, I hope to inspire other families to start spending more time together in the kitchen, passing on established familial food traditions, and starting some new ones. Read more...
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