Let me take a few moments to explain why I love this shit so much: Salmon that has been fucked with in some way (whether smoked or cured) is one of the few fish items that has an almost meaty persona. When you start sucking down slices of that beautifully bright colored shit, you almost feel like you’re eating raw beef. The texture of it, the chilled temperature, the addition of some capers, onion or a little olive oil… it’s difficult not to see the similarity to something like beef carpaccio. Just imagine this picture being a red color instead of pinkish-orange:
One thing I’ve come across in my chowing of this delicious stuff is that it is called by many names. Lox, cold-smoked salmon, Gravlax, etc… and then there is almost invariably a location element, which is sometimes just a way to add descriptive and fresh sounding words to a menu item: Nova Scotia, Scottish, Wild Alaskan, etc. What does it all mean? Check out the essentials below:
Lox: In the days of old, this was strictly sourced from salmon belly only, though now other parts of the fish are used. It is either brined or salt-cured, usually for a few weeks, but it is not smoked or cooked in any way. This would be the purist’s pick.
Gravlax: This shit is the Scandinavian version of lox. Dill, peppers, sugar, juniper berries, horseradish and even liquors like brandy or aquavit are used while curing to accent the flavor. It is not smoked, and it is often pressed while it cures, to eliminate moisture.
Nova Lox: This lox is cold-smoked after brining/curing, and, as the name obviously suggests, it hails from Nova Scotia. That being said, the words “Nova Lox” are increasingly being used to specify the curing process as opposed to being a strict geographical marker. Fuck that. Words have meaning, people. Let’s not get too crazy.
Cold-Smoked Salmon: Essentially it is Nova Lox that comes from a place other than Nova Scotia. Any part of the fish can be used (not just the belly), and “cold” is somewhat of a misnomer, as the temperature is typically about 80 degrees while it is exposed to smoke
Hot-Smoked Salmon: This is essentially BBQ’d salmon. The salmon gets completely cooked through. Like poached or grilled salmon would, the meat will flake apart. It has a smoky flavor but a more firm, dry texture.
So now you’re armed with the lingo, and you’re no longer a Nova Lox Novice: You’re a cold-smoked pro, and you know what to expect from your salmon. Which do you prefer?
What do I like? Pretty much all of it except for hot-smoked. I generally don’t like my salmon to be cooked, unless it’s on crispy skin. My ideal preparation would have all the spices and flavors from the Scandanavian Gravlax preparation, but it would also be cold-smoked to add a little more manliness. Fuck yeah… and with some capers, red onions and a little bit of olive oil or truffle oil on top…