Mentaiko Smoked Salmon Chazuke

Chazuke: Tea and Rice

By Chinuck | Asia Polka | 15 Apr 2021

Drinking tea with rice might not be surprising, but I'm talking about tea on rice.


Way back even before the Wayback Machine and talking rice cookers, people used to cook rice in cast iron witch cauldrons. Without teflon, there would always be a layer of burnt rice stuck to the bottom. Chinese people, never wasting anything, would pour tea or broth into the pot and boil off the stuck rice to make "cha fan", or literally "tea rice" in Chinese. My mother always said this was the best part. The things we lose on the way to technological progress...sigh.

Not to fear though, as we can still enjoy these flavours now, and the Japanese have taken this frugal dish to luxurious heights. The Japanese version is called "chazuke". "Cha" is borrowed from Chinese, meaning tea and "zuke" means "to be soaked in". There is another word "tsukemono" ("tsuke" becomes "zuke" when in a compound word), which means literally "soaked things" -- it's the Japanese word for pickles.

There are many different toppings you could put in your chazuke, but the most popular ones are umeboshi, nori, shiso, sesame, toasted rice, fish or fish roe. At home, it's common to use leftover rice this way, as the hot green tea warms and rehydrates the rice as well as cooks any thinly sliced fish. At restaurants, it is more common to use dashi broth as it's more flavourful. This dish is so popular that you can buy instant chazuke at Japanese supermarkets that contain freeze dried versions of all these ingredients. Just add to tea and rice!

Mentaiko Box


This is my rather luxurious version with mentaiko and smoked salmon. Mentaiko is a spicy marinated pollock roe that can be found frozen or fresh and it can be eaten raw. It comes packed in a sausage-like membrane sack.



  • Rice - Fresh or leftover.
  • Mentaiko - 1 "membrane sack".
  • Smoked Salmon - A few slices.
  • Nori
  • Shiso
  • Green Onions
  • Genmai Cha - This is green tea with roasted rice in it.


  • Scoop rice in a bowl big enough to hold some liquid too.
  • Defrost the mentaiko if it came frozen. Slice the mentaiko membrane in half width-wise and squeeze the roe out onto the rice. (I like to eat the membrane and rest of the roe stuck to it and my fingers. Being the one cooking has its perks!)
  • Lay the smoked salmon on top of the mentaiko.
  • Chiffonade (I told you we were fancy!) the shiso and add it on top.
  • Cut the nori into thin strips over the bowl. Scissors are useful for this.
  • Top with chopped green onions. You can use scissors for this as well.
  • And finally...*drum roll* the table, right before eating, pour the hot genmai cha over the entire thing until the rice is just not covered. You will see the mentaiko and smoke salmon cook a little and change color. You can pour more to the middle or to the side depending on how cooked you want them.

Not only does this make a great breakfast dish, but it is also famous for being a great after-drinking and hangover dish. If you are planning on having a "fun night", you can even prepare the bowl ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. Then pour some hot tea over it when you are ready to instantly heat everything up. It certainly hits the spot no matter when you enjoy it.

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A Chinese-Canadian expat living in Poland. Filling in the time here blogging about Asian food and culture while waiting for my crypto positions to turn the right way.

Asia Polka
Asia Polka

Asian food and culture from the perspective of a Chinese Canadian expat living in Poland.

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