Updated: Oct 1, 2021
Baking food in salt (often but not exclusively fish) has a long history in Japan.
Apparently, it goes back several hundred years to the reign of one of Japan's great military rulers, Toyotomo Hideyoshi, who used to send whole fished baked in salt as a gift. At the time, salt was a rare and precious commodity, so much so that it was regarded as sacred. (So the gift of a fish baked in a coat of salt was both a symbol of wealth and divinity. My, how times have changed!
fast forward to the 21st century and sea bream (Tai, in Japanese) baked in salt is still regarded as a dish for a special occasion. Chefs still use the salt baking technique as it roasts, steams and seasons a fish all at the same time.
For this recipe, I used a half side of salmon (de-boned) and seasoned the fish with lemon and kombu (Japanese kelp) before packing in in a mixture of salt and whipped egg white. (There's a debate about whether the egg whites should be whisked or not - I find whisking reduces the cooking time a little and produces a nice firm, crunchy - but not too crunchy - coat.
When the dish is cooked, you simply remove it from the oven, use a heavy spoon or a rolling pin to break open the salt crust and inside you have a nicely seasoned piece of salmon. For something that's been cooked inside a salt jacket, the flavour isn't overly salty, no more so than if you'd sprinkled a pinch of salt over the fish.
One tip is to use a sheet of greaseproof paper if you cook this dish in a casserole dish rather than using an over tray, otherwise, the salt mixture will glue itself to your casserole which may end out cracking in the oven (as mine did when I made this recipe the other day!)
If you'd like to give this lordly cooking technique a try, you can find the youtube tutorial by clicking Salt Baked Salmon.
Happy cooking! Kurumi XXXX.