You too can cook washoku / Hokkaido’s butter-miso flavored fish

Courtesy of Mari Nameshida


By Mari Nameshida / Special to The Japan NewsI think this month’s featured dish is not so well-known even in Japan, but it’s one of the most famous dishes in my class in the United States. Called chanchan-yaki, the dish uses salmon cooked with vegetables and seasoned with a sweet miso-based sauce.

Hokkaido, where my mom comes from, is a place where people are crazy about salmon, so my family and relatives eat seafood like salmon very often. In Hokkaido, locals and fishermen originally started to eat the fish as chanchan-yaki in fishing villages.

In this recipe, we stir-fry a lot of vegetables such as cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots and mushrooms with salmon, and flavor it with miso sauce and butter.

It seems that everybody loves salmon. Students in my cooking class are always surprised in a positive way to have this dish for the first time, telling me that they didn’t expect dairy products would be used for Japanese cooking. Yes, we do use them and have amazing dairy products in Japan’s northern region. Many of them are made in Hokkaido because its climate is suitable for farming.

Surprisingly, dairy products go well with traditional Japanese seasonings. Let me say a bit more about this. For example, my favorite Hokkaido-style home cooking involves butter with soy sauce poured over cooked rice, mozzarella cheese with miso sauce for cooked fish, and milk with miso for chowder.

Without exception, this chanchan-yaki uses butter and miso, and this combination works really well.

As for miso, you can find various miso pastes in the grocery store or supermarket; any brown-colored ones will do.

If you love salmon and sweet miso-based sauces as much I do, try this delicious, easy recipe. The garlic is optional, but it adds a kick and goes really well with miso and butter. Just lovely.

For vegetarians, use atsuage deep-fried tofu or hard tofu instead of salmon. It’s nice to add more layers of texture, so I add different kinds of mushrooms and some nuts on top. It’s the perfect savory complement.

When people think about Japanese food, sushi and tempura have long been among the most common dishes for other parts of the world, but I hope local specialty dishes like chanchan-yaki will become more known.

Mari’s recipe for chanchan-yaki

Ingredients (serves 4):

4 slices of salmon (about 300 grams)

¼head of cabbage (about 200 grams)

150-gram pack of bean sprouts

½ naganegi long green onion

½ carrot

1 pack of shimeji mushrooms

30 grams salted butter


6 tbsp miso

2 tbsp mirin

4 tbsp sake

1½ tbsp soy sauce

2½ tbsp sugar

2 cloves of garlic, ground


1. Tear or cut the cabbage into bite-size pieces. Peel the carrot and cut into thin rectangular slices. Put all sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

2. Place the butter in a pan and saute the cabbage and carrot. When they’re nearly cooked, add the bean sprouts and shimeji mushrooms and saute for a few more minutes.

3. When all the vegetables soften, add half the sauce and cook for another few minutes. If there is too much liquid from the vegetables in the pan, drain the liquid before adding the sauce. At the same time, grill the salmon on a fish grill. You can use an oven or pan as well.

4. Plate the cooked vegetables and place the salmon on top. Pour the remaining sauce over the salmon.

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