The thick cut salmon has a super crispy skin and a juicy medium rare texture. The savory, simple and straightforward spicy seasoning goes perfectly with the creamy mustard yogurt sauce. The mentsuyu sauce is light, refreshing and full of the umami of the sea. The transparent silky sauce is like a soothing melody to connect the down-to-earth soba noodles with the heavenly, succulent salmon. It all comes together like a wedding in your mouth.
It is all about Fusion
Crispy Spicy Salmon with Soba Noodle is a very adventurous dish that I created last weekend. It was so successful that I was really proud of myself the moment I tasted the dish. OK, I admit, this idea was inspired by some beautiful pins I came across on Pinterest. I saw some food bloggers creating fusion dishes using Asian style noodles and seafood, and they looked really delicious. So I started to play with all kinds of ideas in my mind – salmon with udon noodles, salmon with soba noodle soup and poached egg, fried salmon with rice noodles etc.
My original idea was a simple one. I was planning to top noodles with salmon, a few slices of avocado, and a drizzle of soy sauce. I’d call it fusion style sushi. I knew it’d work because avocado goes well with grains and soy sauce. To make the salmon more interesting, I decided to use some Chinese spices as a dry rub. To add a mild creaminess to balance the heat and texture, I came up with the yogurt sauce idea. Then, I started to worry that soy sauce is too salty and heavy, that it might overpower the whole dish. So I chose the mentsuyu sauce (a diluted soy sauce infused with bonito flavor) instead. The mustard idea was just impromptu.
I was quite nervous before cooking the dish, because the idea was pure imagination. I really didn’t know how the yogurt would go with the noodles or mentsuyu sauce. I also worried about how to cook the salmon. These salmon filets are quite expensive in Beijing and I didn’t want to ruin them. After thoroughly researching how to cook salmon in the oven and on the stove top, I decided that I should cook them in a skillet on stove top, in order to get the skin nice and crispy.
The truth is, as a blogger, after you write three posts in a row, which all include the sentence “I had a major failure in the kitchen today”, you start to realize that doing research and learning basic theory before putting your plan into action is always necessary.
Making Perfect Pan Fried Salmon
After I went through an article on how to cook a perfect pan fried salmon from Serious Eats, I felt more confident about stepping into the kitchen that day. I had cooked some good salmon dishes in the past, but I must say, the cooking will be no-fail if you follow the rules. Below is a summary to help you create a perfect medium rare salmon with super crispy skin:
– Dry the salmon thoroughly before cooking.
– Remember to dry the salmon again after seasoning. The surface of the salmon will get moist again due to the salt.
– Heat oil until hot before adding the salmon into the skillet.
– Always cook the skin side first.
– Use a fish turner or a spatula to hold the thin part of the salmon immediately so that the the skin is pressed against the skillet. Otherwise, the skin will start to crumble when it touches the hot skillet, leading to an unevenly cooked skin side.
– Do not move salmon during the first 1 minute of cooking.
– Nudge salmon gently after about 2 minutes. The filet will be easy to move if the skin is cooked through.
– Always use a thermometer to test the inner temperature of the salmon. It should reach 50 degrees C (120F). Remove the salmon from the frying pan immediately once the temperature has reached this point.
Mentsuyu + Mustard Yogurt = Perfect Sauce
A few more words about mentsuyu. If you decide to shop for mentsuyu, you might come across several types. The base of the sauce is similar, but personally I like to use the type for Japanese soumen noodles. Please read the instructions on the bottle regarding the amount you should use. Some types are condensed, so you should dilute those with water before using. The one I used was already diluted, so the amount in the recipe may not be the one that suits you. You can find the mentsuyu recipe from Just One Cookbook.
My experiment with mentsuyu and yogurt went surprisingly well. I found the yogurt sauce to be a hidden treasure, that it adds great texture and richness to a dish. It tasted even better after blending in the Dijon mustard. The sauce is super creamy and tangy, and way better than mayonnaise. Yes, it goes well with salmon of course, but I didn’t expect it to go even better with the soba and mentsuyu. It is the Asian version of a creamy pasta with a savory flavor.
The dish is definitely a keeper and I’ll save it for my next wine party. The nice appearance, great flavor, and interesting concept of this dish will be a pleasant surprise to my guests!
- 4 pieces salmon (200 grams/half pound each)
- 4 teaspoons cayenne pepper (or to taste)
- black pepper and sea salt
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 400 grams (half pound) soba noodles
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
- (optional) 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn
- (optional) 1 avocado, sliced
- 4 stalks green onion, chopped
- 1 cup mentsuyu (Japanese noodle dipping sauce) (*see footnote)
- Dry salmon thoroughly with paper towel. Rub both sides of salmon with cayenne pepper, black pepper and sea salt. Allow salmon to sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. Please note, the surface of salmon will get moist again after salting. You should gently pat the salmon with a paper towel again, to remove moisture before cooking.
- Combine Greek yogurt and Dijon mustard in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.
- Boil noodles according to directions. Rinse the boiled noodles under tap water, drain and set aside.
- Add the oil into a nonstick skillet and place on medium high heat. When oil is hot, add Sichuan peppercorn and stir a few times until fragrant. Turn to low heat, carefully scoop out peppercorns with a spoon, and discard them. Turn back to medium high heat. (If you don’t use peppercorn, heat oil until hot before adding salmon.)
- Place salmon into skillet, skin side down. Immediately press the filet against the skillet with a fish turner. (If you don’t have a fish turner, use a spatula to press against the thinner part of the fish) Hold the spatula for 20 to 30 seconds, until the skin part is cooked. Once the skin side has turned dark brown and crispy, after about 2 minutes, flip the salmon to cook the other side. If the salmon filet is thick, like the one in the picture below, you should cook the cut sides too, about 30 seconds on each. Adjust heat to medium or medium low, if the temperature of the skillet gets too high.
- Insert a thermometer to test the temperature of the salmon. When the temperature registers 50 degrees C (120F), immediately transfer the salmon to a plate. Continue to cook the rest of salmon in the same manner. Quite a lot of grease will come out of the salmon during cooking, so you won’t need to add extra oil to cook the following pieces.
- Place noodles on a large plate, add salmon on top, top with avocado slices, mustard yogurt and green onion. Serve immediately with mentsuyu. Drizzle mentsuyu on the noodles before eating. Pair the dish with a glass of dry white or dry sparkling wine.
The nutrition facts are calculated based on 1 of the 4 servings generated from this recipe.