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Sake (Recipe: roasted salmon teriyaki)

A delicious variation on a classic teriyaki sauce, in a favorite post updated with new photos and links. Add this cucumber salad to complete your bento box. Bento Week, Day Three.

Roasted salmon teriyaki

Accidents happen.

Blue cheese, vinegar, wine, yogurt, fish sauce, yeast breads, sake.

If modern government-regulated food storage requirements of today had been in place hundreds of years ago, we'd have none of these products, because all are the result of storage mishaps.

Thank goodness for accidents, for food left out of refrigeration too long, left in a barrel for too many months, left out in the sun or in a dark cellar, or carried through the desert in hot saddle bags on a camel's back.

Sake (pronounced SAH kay) most assuredly resulted from one of those fermentation accidents; somewhere in Japan, as early as the 3rd Century AD, some rice got wet and sat around, and turned into something drinkable.

The process for making sake today is a bit more controlled. Fermented from rice and water, sometimes aided by the action of koji (a fungus enzyme) and yeast, sake is brewed (like beer), without carbonation (like wine) or distillation (like spirits). In Japan there are at least 65 varieties of rice that are used for making sake. Generally the final product contains 15-17 percent alcohol.

Sake is not aged beyond six months, and is made to be consumed soon after purchase. Stored in the refrigerator, or in a cool, dark part of your pantry, sake will last 6-12 months. Once opened, it really does need to be refrigerated. After 12 months, throw it away; it will not turn into something cool like sake vinegar.


There are various types of sake, and more than 800 breweries in Japan alone, so how do you choose a good one? Go to your local liquor store; you'll be able to find a drinkable American-made sake (the Gekkeikan company brews in California), that is quite affordable and perfect for cooking.

Roasted salmon teriyaki

There are dozens of variations on a basic teriyaki glaze. This one works well on chicken or other white fish (like cod or halibut), too. Serves 8.


1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup sake
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tsp canola oil
1-1/2 lbs salmon fillet (skin removed; your fishmonger will do this for you)
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper


Preheat oven to 450°F.

Combine soy, sake, agave, orange juice, garlic and ginger in a glass measuring cup. Whisk together, and set aside.

In a deep, oven-proof 10x15-inch (approximately) roasting pan, pour the canola oil, and brush to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Cut the salmon into 8 portions, and place, skin side down, in the pan. Season lightly with salt and pepper on the top.

Place the pan on the stove top over medium heat, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the bottom side begins to brown. Pour the sauce all around the fish, and bring to a boil. Remove pan from the stove top and place in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, basting the top of the fish with the sauce two or three times.

Remove from the oven, and remove fish from the pan onto a platter. Place the roasting pan over two burners, and turn the heat to high. Stirring constantly, cook for 2 minutes or until the sauce is reduced to a slightly thickened glaze but does not burn. Paint the glaze over the fish, and serve.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Pesto soba
Shrimp teriyaki
Asparagus, pepper and peanut soba
Grilled tofu with soba noodles

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Having sampled this chez you-know-who.....it's a great twist on a favorite!

That sounds delicious!

I'm embarrassed to say that I thought Sake lasted forever. I have a bottle in the fridge that I think I moved with me from my last place.... 7 years ago!

That is a beautiful bento box! I know there are various views on Sake, but I've actually become quite fond if it when it's paired with the right dish. There's a famous restaurant in Virginia that pair it with ceviche, which is just dynamite.

I love bentos. What a great article.

Lydia, you have just reminded me that I bought a bottle of sake months go (to make a panna cotta) and haven't used it ever since. :D
Thank you, darling!

This looks delicious. Does Sake degrade over time like wine? I thought it did.

Also Gekkeikan is the kind I buy as well, if you are drinking it it is meant to be drank warm. I would advise not buying a cold drinking sake for cooking as the flavours will change significantly on heating.

I love how we get a different view of the same bento box featuring the salmon this time! Love this week full of posts, very informative as always and very delicious! I will consider cooking with sake in the future (instead of just drinking it) :)

I had no idea that sake didn't age well! I think my bottle is about 3 years old!

I'm with the others and had no idea about Sake's shelf life. Eeeks!

You have educated many of us about sake's shelf life. Thanks for the heads up, Lydia!

Julia, Patricia, Katerina, Pam, Kristen, Susan: I had no idea about the shelf life, either, until I did a bit of research for this post. I'm learning more about my pantry items right along with you.

TW, sake and ceviche, despite their cultural differences, sound like a perfect match. I'm going to borrow that idea.

Hillary, whenever I look at the bento boxes unfilled, I think they are really small, but by the time each compartment is filled (sometimes I use one of the compartments for rice), the box is really an entire meal. (I heard of someone who made dessert bentos once, and filled each compartment with candy. Doesn't that sound like fun?)

Interesting commentary on the origination of some of the foods we enjoy! I wish I had that bento box for my lunch today!


I've never cooked with sake, but this sounds great. Love seeing the printer-friendly recipe too!

Yum! I am always looking for a new way to make salmon.
Liking the use of the Sake.

I second the applause on the printer-friendly version!

The candy bento box sounds very festive. We shared a chocolate bento box at a Philadelphia restaurant and had a lot of fun trying everything.

I have never cooked with sake, but I must try this recipe. Pennsylvania has a state store system for selling alcohol, but I assume I can buy sake in an Asian market.

Your teriyaki seems so bright and fresh! Now I've got to pick up some salmon...

Kalyn, Judy: Thanks for noticing! I'm just starting to implement printer-friendly recipes. I hope you find them useful.

Joan, for me bento boxes take me back to when I was a kid who didn't like different foods to touch on the plate. That was a short-lived thing for me, but a bento would have been the perfect solution. Now I think of bentos as a bunch of little gifts, each in its own compartment.

Bridget, Peabody, Sam: I really think I could eat teriyaki salmon every day. I've tried several different ways to make the teriyaki marinade, and each one has been delicious.

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