Sichuan Style Grilled Salmon and Cracklin's

There's a common Sichuanese technique used for braising or roasting whole fish in which scallions, garlic, ginger and herbs are placed into large slits cut into the sides of the fish. But most everyday cooks are intimidated by cooking whole fish.

A great variation of the whole-fish, slit-flavoring concept is offered in Jamie Oliver's book and TV series "Jamie At Home".

He cut slits into the flesh side of salmon fillets and stuffs them with fennel fronds. Drizzle both sides with olive oil, salt and pepper, then grill.

For my Sichuanese version I used scallion, garlic, ginger, cilantro, and drizzled with a light mixture of soy sauce, Xiao Xing rice wine, and sichuan peppercorn oil. If you don't have access to Chinese markets, you can substitute sherry and hot-sesame oil for the last two ingredients.

Over high heat, grill whole fillets skin side down for about three minutes. A careful flip and few minutes of grilling on the other side and you're done.


As the skin side was grilling it should have gotten charred a bit. Carefully, with a sharp knife, you can begin to peel off the skin while the other side of the filet is cooking. In the picture above, I've just begun to peel it back. Don't worry if it breaks into more than one piece.

Once the whole skin is off it's probably time to remove the filet from the grill. Now take the skin and put the non-charred side over the hottest part of the grill to crisp it up. This may take up to 4-5 minutes, and you should turn the skin to ensure both sides are cooked to a crispy texture.

I'll admit it doesn't look too pretty at this stage. But I dare you to make it from the grill to the kitchen without tasting the craklin' and then having one more immediately.

You can break the craklin's up and sprinkle them over the whole salmon filet, or serve individual salmon portions with a nice size chunk of cracklin'.

Not the clearest picture, especially of the craklin'
between the pasta and salmon -
but it's best of the bunch from a smile perspective.

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