Tom Douglas’s Sake-Cured Hot-Smoked Salmon

Our friend Tom helped define Pacific Northwest cuisine, which draws heartily on influences from around the Pacific Rim. He does amazing things with meat and local fish at his popular Seattle restaurants, Dahlia Lounge. Etta’s Seafood, and Palace Kitchen. In this dish, smoking yields very rich Asian accented little tidbits for a small lucky group. The recipe first appeared in Tom Douglas’ Seattle Kitchen (William Morrow, 2001).

NotesThe sake marinade, or cure, is a brine mixture too, with most of the hallmark salt coming from soy sauce. The sake, a rice wine; garlic; and ginger “coins” all add a subtle flavor to the dish. To prepare the ginger “coins,” Tom Douglas peels the fresh root, and then slices it across into thin rounds, or coins. In marinades, don’t worry about getting off every bit of peel from the ginger since it will be discarded eventually.


Cooking Methodsmoking


Total Timea day or more

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Cooking for a date

Recipe Courseappetizer, main course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, kosher, lactose-free, low carb, peanut free, tree nut free



Taste and Texturegarlicky, rich, salty, savory, smoky, sweet, winey


  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup sake
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 8 slices peeled fresh ginger “coins,” 1/8 inch thick (see BBQ Tip)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1-pound salmon fillet, cut into 2-ounce pieces and skin removed
  • 8 fresh sage leaves


  1. The day before you plan to barbecue, prepare the salmon. Whisk together the marinade ingredients with ½ cup water, mixing until the sugar dissolves. Place the salmon in a nonreactive container and pour the marinade over it. Cover and refrigerate at least 12 hours, turning occasionally if needed to totally submerge the fish.

  2. Remove the salmon pieces from the marinade (reserving about ¼ cup of it) and place the fish on a rack sprayed with oil set over a baking sheet. Refrigerate, uncovered, for the glaze to set, about 2 hours. Refrigerate the reserved marinade also.

  3. Prepare the smoker for barbecuing, bringing the temperature to 180°F to 200°F.

  4. Remove the salmon from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Arrange a sage leaf on top of each piece of salmon and brush with the reserved marinade.

  5. 5. Transfer the salmon to the smoker, and smoke until just cooked through and flaky, about 20 to 25 minutes. Serve the salmon pieces hot or chilled, one per guest.

    Serving Suggestion

  6. We like the salmon with something light, such as a salad of frisée (curly endive) or other greens, with sesame seeds or radish shreds for crunch, and a vinaigrette of sesame oil and rice vinegar.


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