Japanese onigiri — small, stuffed rice balls wrapped in nori — are a ubiquitous snack in Japan. These hand-held snacks come with several fillings. One of the best though, is salty, flaky salmon onigiri, encased in seasoned rice. These Japanese salmon rice bowls take inspiration from salmon onigiri, but expand the flavors into a full, well-rounded dinner.
Japanese food is far more diverse than bento boxes, sushi, and teriyaki, as master chef Masaharu Morimoto’s Japanese Home Cooking cookbook teaches us. Despite being a successful celebrity chef and restaurateur, Chef Morimoto’s home cooking book stands out for its trustworthy recipes and smart explanations and pro tips. I recommend the book highly.
Recipe Notes: Japanese Salmon Rice Bowls
Grain bowls are always a good idea for lunch or dinner. But these Japanese salmon grain bowls are among the best of the best for several reasons.
First, the salmon. Here, fresh salmon gets brined with a generous amount of salt for about an hour. This keeps the traditional Japanese salt-grilled salmon (sake shioyaki) spirit in tact, and provides a boldly-seasoned counterpoint to the mild edamame and rice.
The rice also makes a big difference here. As with onigiri, use short-grain rice. The sticky, dense texture makes it easy to make your own hand rolls with the nori as you go, and just tastes good in general. You can use white rice, but this recipe uses brown rice, which is more nutritious than white and has a satisfying, nutty quality.
There’s more to this rice than the grain choice. The the rice also gets seasoned like sushi rice, with a sprinkle of rice vinegar mixed with kombu (dried kelp), sugar, and salt. Of course, plain brown rice would also be fine.
Fresh shelled edamame packs both an extra protein punch and a fresh texture. Sheets of dried seaweed, the nori, add tons of nutrition — and fun, should you decide to wrap your salmon and rice into a hand roll.
Why You Should Add Furikake
Furikake is a common Japanese seasoning you’ll want to add to the rice. Think salt, but kicked way up thanks to a shakeable blend of umami from toasted sesame seeds, crumbled nori, and other seasonings. Available online or at specialty stores, this adds great flavor and a bit of crunch.
More Japanese dishes you’ll love:
Japanese Salmon Rice Bowls
For the Sushi Rice Seasoned Vinegar
- 1-inch square of kombu
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
For the Salmon Grain Bowls
- 2 cups brown short-grain sushi rice, agitated in cold water and and rinsed multiple times to release extra starch
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh salmon fillets, cut into four portions
- kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil
- 1 cup cooked, shelled edamame
- 4 sheets nori, cut into wide squares or triangles
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges, to serve
- Furikake seasoning, optional (but use it)
- 2 scallions, chopped on a thin diagonal
For the Sushi Rice Seasoning
- Warm the kombu, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small pot. Bring to a bare simmer, stirring just until the sugar fully dissolves. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.TIP: This recipe makes double the amount you will need for the recipe. Store the rest, with the kombu, in the fridge in an airtight container. Chef Morimoto says this will keep for several months.
For the Salmon Grain Bowls
- Salt the salmon fillets on both sides with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Refrigerate, uncovered, for one hour.
- While the salmon brines, rinse the rice multiple times under cold water and cook according to the directions.
- Remove the salmon from the refrigerator. Rinse off the salt and pat very dry. Preheat the broiler and place the rack 4 inches from the heating element. Brush the salmon on both sides with oil and arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet, leaving space between each fillet. PRO TIP: Do not use parchment when broiling. The paper will burn.
- Cook the salmon skin side up or down (depending on your preference) for about 5 minutes, rotating once, or until cooked to your desired doneness.PRO TIP: If you like well-done salmon and broiling is making the top too dark, change the oven to 350°F and place on the center rack until cooked through.
- Season the cooked rice by sprinkling with half the seasoned vinegar. Stir gently to combine.
- Scoop a heap of rice into each serving bowl. Top with a salmon filet, some edamame, nori strips, and a wedge of lemon.