Capt. Mike's

Lomi Lomi Salmon


If you've travelled in the South Pacific, you may have noted that there is an great affinity for salted, jerked, and tinned meats. South Pacific islanders were exposed to these foods by the early European explorers, missionaries, whalers, and by the armed forces during WWII. Did you know that Hawaii residents consume SPAM more than four times the national average!

Who first brought salt salmon to Hawaii has been lost in time. More than likely, it was introduced in the mid-1800's by whalers. However, lomi lomi salmon became an integral part of Hawaiian food culture, that no luau would be truly Hawaiian without it.

Lomi lomi salmon recipeSimple to make, and oh so good:

  • 1 lb. salt salmon
    preferably hook caught fresh wild Coho ;-)
  • 2-3 tomatoes
    you'll be removing most of the seeds and
    juice, so a meatier variety of tomato works
    well. Dice into pencil eraser sized pieces.
  • 2 medium onions, diced
    preferably Kula onions, but any of the
    sweeter varieties work.
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced

You'll want to soak the salt salmon filet in cold water for 3-6 hours, changing the water several times. On your last water change, add a tray or so of ice cubes, as lomi lomi salmon is best when it's very cold. It's also easier to dice, which is the next step.

Drain the salmon, and remove all bones and skin. Dice the salmon into small cubes, about the size of a pencil eraser. It's o.k to use any smaller pieces, so as not to waste any of the salmon filet.

Put the salmon cubes, diced tomatoes, and diced sweet onion in a glass bowl. Gently combine them with your fingers. Lomi lomi means “massage” in Hawaiian.

At this point, you can cover the glass bowl and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Again, lomi lomi salmon is best served very cold. Prior to serving, add a half dozen or so ice cubes (or better yet, a cup of shaved ice) and the sliced green onion. Toss gently and serve with a slotted spoon. The finished dish should look like the picture below.

Lomi lomi salmon is generally served as a side salad type dish, so figure to serve about 1/3 to 1/2 cup per person (unless you're serving me, then figure a cup). This recipe should be enough for about six 'normal' people.

Some folks (like me) like to shake a little Hawaiian "chili peppa watah" on theirs, or a shake of ground red chili flakes.

Even if you don't make this yourself, it's a 'must try' on your next Hawaiian vacation.

Salt Salmon

Salt salmon may be hard to find, but it's easy to make:

Put a 1 1/2 lbs. salmon fillet (no more than about 1/2" thick) in a 9x13 glass dish and cover both sides with a thin layer of Hawaiian salt (rock/kosher style sea salt, not iodized table salt).

Cover with Saran, and refrigerate for 3-4 days. This removes most of the moisture and cures the fish.

Hawaiian Chili Pepper Water

My Hawaiian chili pepper water is sort of like Tabasco-lite, but you can regulate the 'heat' by the number or type of chili peppers used.

  • 6-10 small Hawaiian red chili peppers,
    dried or fresh. You may also use red Thai or Asian peppers.
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons white or rice vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 1 teaspoon Hawaiian salt (rock/kosher style sea salt, not iodized table salt)
  • 2 cups of hot distilled water, but not boiling.

I usually chop about 1/2 the peppers into small pieces and leave the others whole. Warning: Hawaiian chili peppers are very hot! Don't get any in your eyes and wash your hands well after chopping them.

Combine the peppers, ginger, garlic and salt in a glass jar. Add in the hot water and let the mixture steep at room temperature overnight.

In the morning, fill one or more appropriate sized 'shake n serve' bottles. Clean Tabasco or soy sauce bottles work great. Be sure to divide the garlic, ginger, and peppers between each of the bottles. Keep refrigerated.

Chili pepper water is great on rice, eggs, meats, seafoods almost anything.

An interesting side note for you organic gardeners: Hawaiian chili peppers make a fantastic organic insecticide for tomatoes and bell peppers. Simply run 20 or so peppers and a cup of water through your food processor or blender to liquefy. Pour the mixture into your Hudson sprayer, add 1 gal. of water and spray your tomatoes and bell peppers. You have to reapply the spray every two weeks or so, or if it rains.