By now, we’ve all heard of pork belly, and if you are a sushi enthusiast, you may have even tried yellowtail belly and tuna belly. Bellies are fatty delicious meat. As long as they’re not ours, bellies are great.
Last month, I took a cooking class and learned to fillet a salmon. The instructor was busily removing the fins, head, and bones when something horrifying happened. He said, “Cut off the belly meat and discard it.” He did exactly that. Right then and there, I felt like leaving the kitchen. Throwing away salmon belly?! I suffer through ridiculous traffic just to drive across town just to buy it.
If you have a Japanese neighbor, you’ve probably experienced the smell of grilled fish wafting in through your window. I can admit it–it’s not pleasant. It’s different from smelling a burger or a steak being grilled. When you smell that grilled beef aroma, you’re already mentally debating the pros and cons of each local steakhouse. But smelling grilled fish? It just stinks. It must be horrible for my seafood loathing American husband. I try to be strategic, waiting until he leaves for work before I cook it, but no luck–even after a breezy afternoon with the windows open, he can smell that fish. So I made a change; I started grilling using the BBQ grill in our backyard. I figured, if the grilling is the worst part, let my neighbors suffer. See, I’m half considerate, half selfish especially when cooking salmon belly; since it’s VERY fatty, there’ll be extra smoke coming out of the grill.
Just like pork belly, which was only available at Asian grocery stores 10 years ago, salmon belly too, has not hit the American grocery scene. But if you want to try this amazing dish, venture to your nearest Asian grocery store, then wash the bellies, soak them in salt water overnight, and grill them. When fish is fresh enough, you really don’t need much preparation. I usually put a little bit of ponzu sauce (a citrus based soy sauce) over the grilled belly. If ponzu isn’t available, squeeze a bit of lemon and you are really in for a treat! I suggest grilling the belly until it’s well done. Because some parts are pure fat, it tastes better when it’s crispier.
Grilled salmon belly is an essential component to my perfect Japanese breakfast, along with rice, tofu with ginger and soy sauce, and miso soup. You can’t tell from this picture, but my husband is next to me, eating his bagel, saying “I’ve got the better breakfast.” My simple reply? “You’re wrong”. This argument happens a lot at our breakfast table.