Salmon nanbanzuke (Marinated fried salmon) 鮭の南蛮酢け

SALMON NANBANZUKE ­— Marinated in soy dashi vinaigrette and served chilled, Salmon Nanbanzuke is a delightful seafood fare to enjoy in the summer. The unique preparation allows the salmon to store for days! You can serve it as an appetizer or a main dish. photo by Namiko Chen

Marinated in soy dashi vinaigrette and served chilled, salmon nanbanzuke is delightful seafood fare to enjoy in the summer. Its unique preparation allows the salmon to be stored for days! You can serve it as an appetizer or a main dish. Just don’t forget to chill your favorite sparkling sake or white wine to go with it.

When the weather is warm outside, I crave a meal with a simple and refreshing taste and this salmon nanbanzuke (鮭の南蛮漬け) is easily one of my favorite seafood fares to enjoy.

Nanbanzuke may not be on your radar when it comes to Japanese food, but it is actually a popular dish enjoyed both at home and at restaurants in Japan. Here, the salmon is first deep-fried and marinated in a tangy sauce along with colorful julienned vegetables.

The mixture is then chilled in the refrigerator and served cold. The result is light and incredibly appetizing.

What is Nanbanzuke?
Nanban (南蛮) literally means “southern barbarian(s)” in the Chinese-based Japanese words (or kango 漢語 — Chinese loanwords in the Japanese language), originally referring to the people of South Asia and Southeast Asia. In Japan, it was used for the Portuguese, who first arrived in 1543, and later other Europeans who arrived in the 16th to 17th centuries.

The word “nanban” also referred to something foreign and exotic, such as nanban kashi (南蛮菓子, foreign sweets) like castella, or food with exotic spices, marinades and sauces like nanbanzuke, as in -zuke meaning “being soaked.”

If, by chance you are familiar with escabeche, a fried fish dish that’s marinaded in a vinegar-based sauce in the Mediterranean and Latin American cuisines — nanbanzuke is essentially the Japanese interpretation of that. Instead of cider vinegar and spices, we enliven the fish or meat with the concoction of the Japanese pantry, such as dashi, mirin and sake. Its unique preparation ultimately helps conserve the dish so it can last for days in the refrigerator.

Besides salmon, you can also make nanbanzuke with these popular ingredients:

Aji (horse mackerel)

Saba (mackerel)

Shishamo (shishamo smelt)

Wakasagi (Japanese pond smelt)


3 Important Tips to Make Delicious Salmon

1. Coat the salmon with potato starch or flour.

This crucial step helps to seal in the umami and juice in the fish, and during the deep frying, it acts as a protective shield to prevent the flesh from breaking apart. If you don’t have potato starch, you can sub with corn starch or wheat flour, but don’t skip the coating.

You may remember that I use the same technique for teriyaki salmon ( and miso butter salmon (

2. Adjust the vinaigrette to your liking.

Everyone has a slightly different level of acceptance when it comes to “sour” food. Before finalizing this recipe, I tested different versions of the nanban marinade on my family because each member has an opinion on the sourness. So, use my recipe as a guide. Have a taste and adjust the ratio until the vinaigrette tastes right to your liking.

Speaking of vinegar, most Japanese recipes use rice vinegar (米酢). It is milder in taste and not as “sour” as other kinds of vinegar. If you plan to make sushi rice (for making sushi), cucumber salad and Japanese dressings, I highly recommend looking for rice vinegar.

For the summertime, I like to use a bit more vinegar for extra tanginess.

3. Marinate the fried salmon while it’s hot.

The most important technique for delicious nanbanzuke is to marinate the fried salmon as soon as it’s out of the oil. Remove the excess oil by shaking it off and dunk the salmon into the marinade. The hot fried salmon absorbs the flavors most.

Pairing with Mio
For this marinated fried salmon with vegetables, we paired it with Sho Chiku Bai Shirakabegura MIO Sparkling Sake. The sparkling sake is similar to a fruit cider, with flavors of apple, pear and summer fruits.

The sweetness and fruitiness of the sake match the vinaigrette really well and the tiny bubbles clean the palate so you’re always ready for the next bite. We love this sparkling sake with summer meal like salmon nanbanzuke.

Cheers! I hope this easy salmon dish will be another favorite of yours!

Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, visit

Salmon Nanbanzuke
Marinated in soy dashi vinaigrette and served chilled, salmon nanbanzuke is delightful seafood fare to enjoy in the summer.

Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 30 min
Chilling Time: 30 min
Total Time: 1 hr 30 min
Servings: 4

1/2 carrot (3 oz, 85 g)
1/2 onion (6 oz, 170 g)
1/2 green bell pepper (2 oz,
57 g; I use the Japanese “piman” bell pepper)
1/2 cup neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc.) (for cooking vegetables and salmon)
1 lb salmon
1/2 tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp potato starch/cornstarch

Nanban Marinade
1 cup dashi (Japanese soup stock; click to learn more)
3/4 cup rice vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce (I used usukuchi (light color) soy sauce)
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp sake (I used Sho Chiku Bai Classic Junmai Sake)
2 Tbsp mirin (I used Takara Mirin)

Garnish (Optional)
lemon slices

To read the recipe, visit the Just One Cookbook post here.

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