Salted raw salmon, fresh tomatoes, scallions for one of the most famous Hawaiian dishes: lomi-lomi salmon.
Between the kitchen and the spa
If you are visiting Hawaii and want to relax in a spa, you will be treated to the popular lomi lomi massage. And you will not need to go to Hawaii since this lomi lomi massage is a massage that will be offered to you in many spas around the world.
After this divine massage, you may attend a luau, the traditional Hawaiian celebration. At this luau, or elsewhere in all the restaurants of the archipelago, you will find lomi lomi salmon. You may be a little confused. Will you get a massage with a salmon? Or will you receive a free massage while eating salmon?
Hawaiian lomi lomi is a ubiquitous traditional massage, often practiced to relieve physical and emotional stress. Lomi means “to rub”, “to massage” or “to work with the fingers”.
You will understand, this recipe is prepared with the hands and it is not you who will enjoy a massage but the salmon!
How to make lomi-lomi salmon
First, the salmon must be salted. Salted salmon is a kind of gravlax but with no sugar or dill.
When salted salmon is not available, some cooks simply add salt to fresh raw salmon to give it the flavor of salted salmon, but this method will never give the most traditional lomi-lomi flavor.
If you can not find salted salmon for sale, do not panic. There is nothing simpler than to salt it in your kitchen.
A layer of Hawaiian salt or coarse salt should be poured over the bottom of a dish. Especially note that table salt is not suitable for salting fish. You must therefore use coarse salt.
Salmon should be placed on the salt layer and covered with salt making sure all parts of the fish, even the edges, are completely covered with salt. Two or three days in the fridge to dry it well and your salmon is ready! The salted salmon should be well rinsed and pat dried, then diced and mixed with tomatoes and green onions.
Lomi lomi is often served with ice on top because it must be eaten very cold.
Other ingredients and seasonings can sometimes be added, such as vinegar or fresh chili (or chili flakes). The result is the Hawaiian replica of Peruvian ceviche.
Lomi-lomi is similar to a traditional Polynesian dish called “poisson cru”. This poisson cru is fresh tuna or mahi mahi marinated with cucumbers, onions and tomatoes, and mixed with coconut cream.
The lomi-lomi goes very well with another traditional luau dish: the poi, which looks a little like a porridge of boiled taro root.
What is the origin of lomi-lomi?
In the first half of the nineteenth century, lomi lomi became a staple of Hawaiian food. No one knows for sure how a dish made almost entirely of non-native ingredients appeared and has evolved to become one of Hawaii’s essential dishes, alongside poi, coal kalua, poké and laulau.
Lomi lomi was not created in a single day. It took a little time to assemble all the ingredients that make it up.
The first ingredient to be introduced to Hawaii was the onion, from seeds brought by the British explorer James Cook in 1778, as well as the concept of canned fish and meat, usually salted cod, and salted beef, which have been feeding sailors from Northern Europe for centuries.
Whalers and traders arrived immediately afterwards at the end of the 18th century, followed by American missionaries in 1820, all of whom arrived with lots of salted cod and salted beef barrels.
Then arrived the tomatoes, in 1790. If James Cook did not expose them, he was the first to cultivate them in 1799 and to plant tomatoes with success. He also popularized onion plantations that give lomi lomi a crisp texture and excellent flavor.
The main ingredient of lomi lomi, salmon, is a perfect example of interconnected businesses and culture. The first commercial fisheries in British Columbia were operated by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), founded in 1670 for the fur trade in Hudson Bay, Canada. This company, as early as 1829, bought salmon from the Indians and stored it in barrels. During this year, the Hudson’s Bay Company established an office in Honolulu and commercialized abundant wood and northwest salmon resources.
Apparently it was the Hudson’s Bay Company workers who introduced salmon on every return to Hawaii, where it immediately became popular and quickly became an essential ingredient in all of the archipelago’s larder. The parts of the fish chosen for lomi lomi were the belly and the back, while the tail, difficult to handle for lomi lomi, was cooked with vegetables.
At the same time, local traders engaged in a dynamic trade with the fisheries, exchanging their premium salt for salted salmon and other products. By 1835, 3,000 to 4,000 barrels were exported, mainly to Hawaii and Asia.
The life of a salmon
Salmon takes care of our skin, our heart and our mood.
Some would say that the word salmon is derived from the Latin word salmo or salire, which means “to jump”. If you have ever seen salmons leap out of the water on the journey to their spawning grounds, you will probably agree with this theory. Another theory is that the word salmon is derived from the word salmun, which more simply means “sea fish”.
The ancient Romans called it salmo salar, from the verb “climb”, obviously referring to their incredible journey in fresh and salt water.
Salmons are termed anadromous, which refers to species living in salt water as well as freshwater. Salmon comes into the world in freshwater, where it will grow from a few months to a few years, depending on the species, before heading to the ocean. When it comes time to spawn, it makes the trip back to return to fresh water.
It goes down to the sea and then back in a long and tiring way against the current, to go to lay eggs. A journey that ends for the most part with death; only the strongest resist, even if they do not succeed more than two or three “ascents” in their life.
Very few fish species can adapt to such a variation in salinity because, when a saltwater fish is exposed to fresh water, it can cause its cells to explode. Conversely, a freshwater fish poured in salt water will see its cells shrivel.
Fortunately for them, salmons have a phenomenal capacity for physiological and behavioral adaptation that allows them to feel at home in both fresh and salt water. After spending years in the ocean, salmons travel phenomenally long distances up the river that gave birth to them, in order to reproduce themselves.
Several theories have been developed to explain how salmon manage to swim back to their place of birth. Some think that the Earth’s magnetic field serves as a guide, others that they use their developed sense of smell to find their original river. Be that as it may, habitat changes, or even their disappearance, have a definite effect on the ability of salmon to return to spawn in the waters where they were born.
Salmon in the world
Salmon is in fact a typical fish of the cold seas of the north: Norway, but also present in the Scottish and Canadian seabeds. Atlantic salmon (salmo salar) live from two to six or seven years.
The species that inhabits the Norskehavet, the world-famous Norwegian fjord mirror, is generally about 3 feet and has a brown, green or blue back with silver flanks. It is characterized by a pink and tasty meat and is considered the most popular. This same species is also present along the American coasts up to New England and in the south of Greenland. It looks like sea trout but is recognized at first sight for the much larger mouth. It reaches 5 feet long and weighs up to 40 lb.
Today, after shrimp, salmon is the most consumed seafood in the world. It is said that Neanderthals already ate salmon 200,000 years ago. The Gauls and Romans even built fishponds to keep salmon caught in the river as long as possible.
In France, this fish was already a particularly popular dish present on the tables of kings, like Charles V (1338 – 1380). As early as the 14th century, in Guillaume Tirel’s famous medieval cuisine collection, known as Taillevent, there are mentions about salmon, which could be cooked or smoked. The medieval lords then controlled fishing and hunting on their estates.
The health benefits of salmon
Do you know all the nutritional properties, nutritional values and health benefits of salmon? Doctors and nutritionists strongly recommend eating salmon.
Specially consumed fresh, salmon has many health benefits, high nutritional properties and a high intake of protein, vitamins, minerals and calories.
Salmon is one of the main sources of essential fatty acids (Omega 3), polyunsaturated fats, good, allied with our health, and carotenoids.
Salmon is a food rich in protein, minerals and vitamins and it provides our body with a considerable amount of vitamin D.
Wild salmon or farm salmon?
Wild salmon are often considered to be healthier and tastier than farmed, antibiotic-fed and pesticide-fed salmon. However, many farms are making efforts to provide better salmon under better conditions.
It is therefore important to take this aspect into consideration. Wild salmon are not the panacea, they also have some disadvantages: the seas are increasingly polluted and trawling damages the marine ecosystem and coral reefs.
How to choose salmon?
To choose a salmon, it is necessary to take into account the feeding practices, the quality of life and the fishing conditions.
Farmed salmon: The diet of farmed salmon is controlled to ensure good growth for fish. For is also given in fair quantity so that they remain somewhat hungry, just like in the wild. The catch is effective and the salmon struggles less than a wild salmon: it is less stressed and the meat is better.
Wild salmon: wild salmon has a firmer texture because of its dense musculature. Indeed, the hunting of its prey makes it tonic. It is also less fat than farmed salmon but is richer in omega 3 fatty acids.
At the time of fishing, wild salmon are under greater stress than farmed salmon: trawling is stressful for struggling fish and they secrete lactic acid, a substance that builds up in muscles and can leave a taste.
It is therefore preferable to choose a wild salmon, which will have a more pleasant texture and taste: make sure that the salmon comes from serious and responsible fishing.
If you choose a farmed salmon, it is imperative that you choose a salmon that is GMO-free.
I prepared this lomi lomi for one of the greatest critics in this world: Mike! It was during his last visit to Paris, and, you may ask him but I think he loved it.
- 4 salmon filets (salted)
- 4 tomatoes , seeded and diced
- 1 small onion , diced
- 2 scallions , diced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or powder)
- Crushed ice
- Coarse salt
Pour a layer of salt into a large glass dish.
Rinse the salmon filets, dry them well and place them on the salt in a single layer.
Sprinkle salt on top of salmon, making sure all sides of the salmon are covered with coarse salt.
Cover the salmon with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate the salmon for 2 to 3 days.
Rinse the salmon thoroughly and pat dry before using it to prepare the lomi-lomi
First taste the salmon and, if it is too salty, soak it for 3 hours in a large bath of cold water by changing the water every hour.
Drain and pat dry the salmon well with a cloth or paper napkin.
Mix all the ingredients by hand and serve the lomi lomi with crushed ice on top.