The name of the dish itself comes from the Swedish word meaning ‘to bury’. This refers back to the original gravlax, which was just salted and buried in the ground to ferment before being eaten. The use of white pepper and dill as aromatics, which is completely dominating gravlax recipes today, started in the eighteenth century, but before that the fish was probably not seasoned at all, except by the cure itself.


2¼  pounds salmon fillet, skin on, pin bones removed and patted dry
4   salt
4   sugar
20  white peppercorns, coarsely crushed
1   bunch dill, stalks and fronds separated


1. Remove the pin bones from a clean and evenly thick piece of fish fillet. Rub it all over with a mixture of salt, sugar and aromatics. I like to store the fish and the curing mix in a plastic bag, which makes it easy to keep the whole surface of the fish in contact with the cure, ensuring an even result. When the fish is thoroughly coated, place it in its bag on a tray and set a few plates on top to weight it down a little (or use something else flat and suitably heavy). Transfer it to the refrigerator to cure for the required length of time.

2. I like to cure the salmon for about 24 hours before washing off the cure mix. To stop the cure, take the fish out of the bag and either rinse it quickly under cold running water or scrape the cure and seasonings off it. Transfer the fish to a new plastic bag, place it back on the tray and return it to the refrigerator. This allows the cure to even out within the fish. Leave it for about the same length of time as it was in the curing mix.

3. The fish can be served straight away or after only a short rest, but it will appear more cured on the surface than in the middle. Fish prepared this way is either cut straight down, at a 90-degree angle relative to the chopping (cutting) board, in slightly thicker slices of 4 to 5 mm (1/8 to 1/4 inch) or else it is cut at a 45-degree angle into very thin and much larger slices.

Magnus Nilsson, Fäviken, the Nordic Cookbook



Inspired by the Kyoto restaurant Kitcho.


2   oz. kombu, cleaned with a wet paper towel
½   oz. dried bonito flakes
1   whole sea bream, red snapper, or black sea bass (about 1 1⁄2 lbs.), cleaned
    Kosher salt, to taste
½   cup plus 2 tbsp. sake
1   tbsp. mirin
14  oz. turnips, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
1   tbsp. light soy sauce
2   cups cooked rice (optional)


1. Combine kombu and 8 cups water in a 4-qt. pot and let sit for 30 minutes. Bring to a boil; using tongs, remove and discard kombu. Add bonito flakes and reduce heat to medium-low; simmer for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let steep for 15 minutes. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a small oval pot or 3-qt. high-sided skillet. Strain stock, discarding bonito flakes; set aside.

2. Using a knife, score fish 1⁄4″ deep, making one lengthwise cut down the middle of the fish from head to tail and two crosswise cuts spaced 2″ apart. Repeat on other side and transfer to a bowl. Season cavity and skin with salt and pour 1⁄2 cup sake over fish. Refrigerate, turning fish occasionally, for 20 minutes.

3. Heat the reserved stock over medium-high heat. Stir in the remaining sake and the mirin. Add turnips and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer turnips to a bowl. Drain fish, add to the pot, and simmer, skimming off any foam from surface and continually spooning broth over fish, until 
fish is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Nestle the reserved turnips in pot and season soup with soy sauce; let cook 2 more minutes. Serve soup directly from the pot with a side of rice, if you like.

Kunio Tokuoka, Kitcho, Kyoto, Japan