Better known as lomi-lomi, this popular Hawaiian side dish is made from fresh salmon, tomatoes, onions, and scallions, and is always served cold.
What's the Story Behind this Recipe?
Love sushi and sashimi? You definitely want to check out Lomi Salmon!
Lomi-lomi is a popular Hawaiian side dish is made from salted fresh salmon, tomatoes, onions, and scallions. You will find it on virtually every Hawaiian food menu in Oahu, and it is a standard on touristy luau menus as well. Lomi lomi is always served ice-cold; most often alongside such other Hawaiian plate staples as Kalua pork, poi, laulau, macaroni salad, and fresh fruit.
With lomi salmon being such popular island fare, it may surprise you to learn that fresh salmon is not found anywhere near Hawaii. Salmon was first introduced to the Islands back in the 1880s, when mainland sailors began bringing it in with their provisions from the Pacific Northwest. Naturally, the salmon the sailors brought with them was preserved in salt, and even today, Hawaii remains one of the few places where salted salmon is available for sale.
Why this Recipe Works
Mr B and I asked a number of Oahu locals about the proper way to make lomi salmon. Everyone seems to have their own recipe for making it; and people hold some strong (often conflicting) opinions about the basic ingredients and process. For example:
You have to use fresh salmon and a handful of fresh chopped chilis.
My grandma always uses canned salmon.
The lesson here is, use the basic lomi salmon recipe as a guide, and make it your own. We gave our version a decidedly PNW spin with some of our own beautiful, wild-caught Sockeye salmon.
What Goes into this Recipe
Ingredient Notes & Substitutions
WARNING: Consuming raw or undercooked seafood may increase your risk of food borne illness. For more information, please consult current FDA guidelines.
★ Salmon: Use only "sushi-grade salmon" when making lomi lomi.
We use sushi-grade sockeye salmon when making this lomi recipe. Sushi-grade fish is a term applied to fish is caught live and iced immediately during transportation, or stored in sub-zero freezers prior to preparation.
Store-bought salmon is acceptable as long as it has been previously frozen and labeled “sushi-grade” or “sashimi-grade” or “for raw consumption”.
NOTE: Wild-caught Pacific salmon are typically considered to be the healthiest salmon.
★ Tomatoes: We think of this as a summer dish, because vine-ripe tomatoes make all the difference.
★ Onions: We recommend using Maui Sweet Onions. If you can't find Mauis, use any sweet onion. Do not use red or yellow onions: their flavor is too sharp.
★ Green onions: Use the entire green onion; white and green.
★ Salt: Although a mixture of Kosher salt and cayenne are popular for salting the salmon, we recommend using Hawaiian Chili Pepper Sea Salt.
How to Make this Recipe
The method of preparation, lomi, takes its name from the Hawaiian word meaning to knead or massage - “as the claws of a contented cat" - wherein the salmon and other ingredients are massaged with the hands until everything is broken up and thoroughly mixed.
Wash off salmon and pat dry. Generously salt the salmon on both sides with Hawaiian Chili Pepper Sea Salt (or Himalayan Rock Salt, or kosher salt).
Wrap the salted salmon tightly in plastic and allow to cure 8 hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator.
Remove salted salmon from fridge and soak in ice water for one hour, changing water every 30 minutes.
Rinse salmon once more under cold water, and pat dry. Remove any salmon skin.
Using a sharp, wet knife, dice the salmon into ¼-inch cubes.
Mix the diced salmon, tomatoes, and onions together, massaging the ingredients by hand to mix thoroughly.
Chill salmon mixture in the fridge for at least 1 hour, and up to 12 hours.
FAQs & Expert Tips
Lomi Salmon is always served cold, as fresh a side dish alongside other Hawaiian plate staples as Kalua pork, poi, laulau, macaroni salad, and fruit.
Short answer: It depends. Only use salmon labeled “sushi-grade” or “sashimi-grade” or “for raw consumption” when making lomi lomi.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists salmon as a known source of parasites, bacteria, or other pathogens that can cause infections. Salmon is also a source of environmental contaminants.
More Island-inspired Recipes
Fresh Lomi Lomi Salmon
- 1 Sharp Knife
- ½ pound raw salmon sushi-grade, sashimi-grade or for raw consumption only
- 2 tablespoons Hawaiian Chili Pepper Sea Salt or Himalayan Rock Salt, or kosher salt
- 3-4 medium tomatoes chopped
- ½ medium sweet onion chopped
- 2-3 whole green onions chopped
- Wash off salmon and pat dry. Generously salt the salmon on both sides with Chili Pepper Sea Salt (or kosher salt and a dash of cayenne).Gently massage seasoning into salmon.
- Wrap the salted salmon tightly in plastic and allow to cure 8 hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator.
- Remove salted salmon from fridge and soak in ice water for one hour, changing water every 30 minutes.
- Rinse salmon once more under cold water, and pat dry. Remove any salmon skin. Using a sharp, wet knife, dice the salmon into ¼-inch cubes.
- Mix the diced salmon, tomatoes, and onions together, massaging the ingredients by hand to thoroughly combine.
- Chill salmon mixture in the fridge for at least 1 hour, and up to 12 hours.Serve ice-cold.
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