Sesame Crusted Salmon (Rikhyū-age Salmon) is a quick and flavoursome dish. Completely covered with sesame seeds, you can enjoy the contrast between the crunchy outside and the soft salmon inside.
Shallow-fried salmon has a subtle flavour that enhances the flavour of the delicate sesame rather than burying it with other strong flavour.
It is not only suited as a main dish but also a great finger food. You could even serve it as a side dish by putting only a couple of pieces of Sesame Crusted Salmon.
When the ingredient is coated in sesame seeds, then deep-fried or shallow-fried, the dish is called Rikyū-age (利久揚げ) in Japan. The ingredient can be fish, meat or vegetables. Similarly, when the sesame-coated ingredients are pan-fried or grilled, it is called Rikyū-yaki (利久焼き). The word ‘age’ (揚げ) means deep/shallow frying and ‘yaki’ (焼き) means grilling.
The name Rikyū (利久) came from the historic figure Sen no Rikyū (千利休). Rikyū influenced ‘chanoyu’ (the Japanese Way of Tea) and established a particular style of tea ceremony called ‘wabicha’, which emphasises simplicity.
It is said that Sen no Rikyū used sesame seeds a lot when cooking. That is why dishes with plenty of sesame seeds have this name.
Instead of using the word ‘Rikyū’, the same dish is sometimes prefixed with ‘Nanbu’ (南部), e.g. Nanbu-age (南部揚げ).
Nanbu is the old territory held by the Nanbu clan. It covers part of the current Aomori and Iwate prefectures in Tohoku region, and produces sesame seeds. You may have heard of the snack called Nanbu senbei, which is a large cracker covered with sesame seeds.
What’s in my Sesame Crusted Salmon (Rikyū-age Salmon)
The ingredients consist of the salmon fillets with marinade, sesame seeds and egg white. The list below is for 2 servings:
- A large salmon fillet with no skin – about 300-350g /0.7-0.8lb
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon cooking sake
- 1 teaspoon mirin
- 5 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 egg white
My salmon fillet was about 6cm / 2⅜” wide and came with the skin on. So, I removed the skin, then removed the tiny bones with fish tweezers. You can use 2 narrow fillets if wide fillet is not available.
Sesame seeds can be white only, black only or a mixture of black and white. How you apply black and white sesame seeds when coating the fish is up to you. I will explain about it in the subsequent section.
The egg is required to make the sesame seeds stick onto the fish better.
How to Make Sesame Crusted Salmon (Rikyū-age Salmon)
The process of making Rikyū-age is quite simple. The only tricky thing is to coat the salmon pieces with sesame seeds.
- Slice the salmon fillet perpendicular to the backbone, and then into 4 thin pieces. Cut each slice in half to make 2 large bite-size pieces. You should now have 8 pieces (see the photo above).
- Mix soy sauce, cooking sake and mirin. Marinate the salmon pieces in it for minimum 2 hours, preferably ½ a day.
- Drain the marinade and pat dry the salmon pieces.
- Dip the salmon pieces in the egg white, then coat them with sesame seeds.
- Deep or shallow fry the sesame-coated salmon pieces.
My thinly sliced fillets were about 1.5cm / ⅝” thick, but you can have slightly thicker or thiner fillets. You just have to adjust the time to fry them.
If you use your fingers to handle the salmon pieces and put them through the egg white and sesame seeds, you will probably end up with little bald patches on the salmon where your fingers were. Your fingers will take all the sesame seeds off the salmon when you let go of them!
Using tongs help a bit but if you still find it difficult to completely coat the salmon pieces with sesame seeds, try to fix the bald patches at least on one side of the salmon pieces so that you can place the perfect side up when serving.
I used a large frying pan with enough oil to just submerge the salmon pieces so that I could fry all the salmon pieces at once. The amount of oil was not a lot either. You could reduce the oil a little bit more if you wish. Just make sure that the oil is deep enough to submerge ⅔ of the salmon pieces.
Black and white sesame seeds combinations
I made different combinations of sesame coating – black sesame only, white sesame only, and black and white sesame mixed. I enjoyed all of them, but the white sesame or mixed sesame Rikyū-age looked more attractive when plated. The black sesame Rikyū-age was so black that it looked a bit strange when the several black pieces filled the plate.
However, if you serve black sesame and white sesame Rikyū-age together in a plate (like the first photo in this post), it makes the black sesame pieces stand out and the contrast of black and white makes the plate attractive.
It is also great to mix black & white sesame seeds and coat the salmon pieces with them (see the photo below). You can adjust the proportion of black and white to play with it.
The roasted aroma of the sesame seeds goes so well with the lightly flavoured salmon and they taste great. Rikyū-age is delicious even if eaten at room temperature or even slightly cold, which makes it perfect to pack in a bento box.
Japanese-style Sesame Crusted Salmon is crunchy on the outside with sesame seeds that completely cover the salmon fillet. Shallow-fried salmon has a subtle flavour so that you can enjoy the delicate sesame flavour with it.
Since each piece of Rikyū-age is small, you can even serve it as a finger food. It is also a perfect dish to pack in a bento box.
Cook Time assumes frying the fish pieces at once.
Don't forget to see the section 'MEAL IDEAS' below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and this recipe that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.
- 300-350g / 0.7-0.8lb salmon fillet (1 large fillet, note 1) no skin, tiny bones removed
- 2½ tbsp roasted white sesame seeds (note 2)
- 2½ tbsp roasted black sesame seeds (note 2)
- 1 egg white
- Oil to deep fry
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp cooking sake
- 1 tsp mirin
- 2 blanched okra (note 3)
- Lemon or lime wedges
Slice the salmon fillet perpendicular to the backbone, and then into 4 thin pieces (about 1.5cm / ⅝” thick)¾. Cut each sliced piece in half to make 2 large bite-size pieces. (note 4)
Place the salmon pieces in a zip lock bag without overlapping. Add the Marinade ingredients to the bag, remove as much air as possible and seal the bag. (note 5)
Marinate the salmon in the fridge for minimum 2 hours, preferably ½ a day.
Drain the marinade and pat-dry the salmon pieces with kitchen paper.
Place the egg white in a small bowl. Place the white sesame seeds and black sesame seeds on a separate plate.
Dunk a piece of salmon in the egg white, then coat the entire salmon piece with the white sesame seeds or black sesame seeds. Repeat and coat 4 pieces with white sesame seeds and 4 pieces with black sesame seeds. (note 6)
Heat oil in a frying pan to 180°C / 356°F. The depth of the oil needs to be just enough to submerge the salmon pieces or a bit lower (note 7).
Cook the salmon pieces for 1 minute, turn them over and cook another 1 minute. Do not over-crowd the oil. If your frying pan is small, cook in batches.
Transfer the salmon pieces to a tray lined with kitchen paper.
Place two each of the black and white sesame coated salmon pieces on each serving plate.
Serve with okra and lemon wedges if using.
1. My salmon fillet was about 6cm / 2⅜” wide.
Instead of salmon, you can use other fish fillets. In Japan, shiny bluish-skinned fish such as mackerel, sardines and Spanish mackerel are often used.
2. You can make Rikyū-age with only white sesame seeds or black sesame seeds if you like. Or mix both and make black & white sesame coating (see the photo in the post).
3. Adding something green makes the dish more attractive.
4. If your salmon fillet is narrower than mine, you may want to slice it into three. You may even have two thin fillets and make two slices from each fillet. The thickness of the sliced fillet can be anywhere between 1-2cm / ⅜-¾”.
Depending on the size and the thickness of the fillet, your salmon pieces might be thicker/thinner and larger/smaller than mine.
5. Instead of a zip lock bag, you can marinate the salmon pieces in a small tray. Use a tray/container that can snuggly fit the salmon pieces without overlapping too much. This way every salmon piece will be covered in the marinade. You may want to turn the salmon pieces over half-way through the marinade process.
6. If you are making black and white mixed sesame coating, mix black and white sesame seeds in a plate and follow the instruction.
7. You can fry with less oil but it is easier if the depth of the oil covers at least ⅔ of the fillet.
8. Nutrition per serving. It is assumed that the weight of salmon is 300g / 0.7lb oil absorption rate of sesame coated salmon is 6%.
serving: 214g calories: 572kcal fat: 43g (66%) saturated fat: 7.1g (36%) trans fat: 0.1g polyunsaturated fat: 13g monounsaturated fat: 17g cholesterol: 83mg (28%) sodium: 410mg (17%) potassium: 730mg (21%) carbohydrates: 9g (3%) dietary fibre: 4g (16%) sugar: 1.2g protein: 38g vitamin a: 6% vitamin c: 9.8% calcium: 23% iron: 27%