When I was younger, a culinary staple in my family was Japanese miso salmon. Stereotypically known as a breakfast dish, miso salmon is often accompanied with miso soup, sticky rice, and nattō (Japanese fermented beans). When my mum cooks it, she tends to cram in as many probiotics as possible, so our version of miso salmon also includes Korean kimchi as well as nattō on the side, making the rice bowl extra delectable. 

The truth is, I used to hate this miso salmon. In fact, I dreaded dinner when I saw my mum defrosting the fish, as we would have had fish for dinner at least three times a week. I was often bored of eating the same thing all the time and asked my mum why she couldn’t cook more ‘western’ food, like pasta. I used to think: Why do we always have to have nattō? I wondered whether people in the UK thought we were strange for eating such slimy fermented beans when they were more used to baked beans. Rather than admitting that my mum’s Japanese cooking was in fact amazing, I grew resentful of the food I was eating at home in order to eat what everybody else was eating. But I don’t even like baked beans, so I’m not sure what all the fuss was about.

It was only when I first went to university that I realised I had a miso-salmon-shaped hole in my heart. When all I could cook was pasta (with the same tomato pasta every time), I discovered that my wish to stop eating salmon had radically changed. I missed having nattō and kimchi, both of which I was unable to buy and store in university accommodation due to their strong smells. What is more, I found myself craving miso salmon – but not just any, either. I yearned for my mother’s food, and suddenly started kicking myself for rejecting such fabulous food at home. 

In Oxford, there are not many Japanese restaurants, and my search to find already cooked miso salmon fell short when the closest I could find was teriyaki salmon. Although this was equally delicious, it didn’t quite hit the spot for me. I decided to then venture into Tesco, grab myself a pack of salmon and scour the tiny Asian section for white miso, the star ingredient of this recipe. While traditionally miso salmon includes the use of mirin (white rice wine used for cooking) and sake (alcohol), I eventually decided that it wasn’t quite worth the effort or money and that miso and soy sauce will do. 

Once I got back to my kitchen, I completely slathered the salmon in this paste and threw it into a ziplock bag for a day to marinate as much as possible. When I grabbed it out of the fridge, I was delighted to see that it resembled the fish that my mum would use. I thought: this must be a good sign! I popped the fish on the pan and seared it for about ten minutes, leaving me with a gorgeous caramel brown colour. While I had rice at home, I knew that my other side dishes were going to be impossible for me to use, so I substituted it with tenderstem broccoli, which I also sauteed for a few minutes. My salmon turned out beautifully. While slightly different from the fish I’d had at home, I felt accomplished that I managed to embrace my cultural heritage and cook something that not only tasted amazing, but reminded me of home. I’ve been cooking it ever since, and it’s safe to say that when I go back home, the first thing I ask for is my mum’s miso salmon.

Here’s the recipe:


  • Salmon
  • Soy sauce
  • Miso paste (white miso is best)
  • Rice, veggies, or other side dishes (around 75g rice per person)
  • Mirin, sake, and sesame oil (if you’re feeling extra fancy)
  1. Marinate the salmon with the above pastes for at least an hour using a ziplock bag. 
  2. Cook your rice. If you’re pressed for time, you can find rice that you can cook in the microwave or boil the bag in hot water until fluffy. Otherwise, look for short grain rice (the sticky kind used in Japanese cuisine) which you wash thoroughly before putting into a pot. Pour in enough cold water to reach as high as the knuckle on your index finger. Cover the pot with a lid or hot towel and do not remove for around 20 minutes, adding water if needed. Stir with a fork until fluffy!
  3. Fry the salmon in the pan until golden and crispy. (To get the juiciest taste, fry it with the skin-on!) 
  4. I like using tenderstem broccoli as my side vegetable but other vegetables like carrots, courgette, or even making a salad would work well too. Season your vegetables with salt, pepper, and soy sauce before frying them in the pan with some olive oil. For tenderstem broccoli, cook them until you can easily poke a fork through the stem.