Japanese-style Yuzu-Ponzu Grilled Salmon

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  6 servings
Prep Time:  15 minutes Marinating Time:  1 hour Cook Time:  7 minutes

Japanese-style Yuzu-Ponzu Grilled Salmon

Yuzu, a lemon-lime fruit from Japan, is key to making a Japanese ponzu sauce and both have been a hit in U.S. Chef-landia for about 30 years for good reason. It has great balance and both supports and cuts through any fatty fish. These ingredients, once very exotic here, are now widely available at retailers like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, specialty and Asian markets and online, making this delicious recipe accessible to everyone.


1 cup dark soy sauce

1 cup ponzu sauce

½ cup mirin

¼ cup sesame oil

2 tablespoon yuzu juice or lemon juice

2 teaspoons togarashi (Japanese hot pepper mix)

12 cloves garlic, peeled and grated, any green centers discarded

2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated

½ teaspoon ground white pepper

3 stalks lemongrass, trimmed (see Kitchen Tips) and whacked with the side of a knife

6 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, any pin bones removed (see Kitchen Tips)


  1. Combine the dark soy sauce, ponzu, mirin, sesame oil, yuzu, togarashi, garlic, ginger, white pepper, and lemongrass in a resealable plastic bag and squish to blend. Place the salmon into it, seal and tilt the bag carefully, working it gently to coat the fish with the marinade. Marinate for at 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. When you are ready to grill the salmon, heat gas grill over medium-high heat (see Kitchen Tips), until it is very hot when you hold your hand over it. (If you are an expert griller, you know this is when it is almost smoking.) Drizzle a little canola oil onto a paper towel or kitchen towel and using tongs, wipe the oil on the hot grill grates or pan.
  3. With tongs, remove the salmon from the marinade and place it on the grill, skin side down. Discard the marinade (see Kitchen Tips). Cook for 4 minutes and reduce the heat to medium. Turn with tongs or a spatula and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, depending upon the thickness of the fish and the desired degree of doneness. Note that the fish will continue cooking for a minute or so after you remove it from the grill so factor that into your timing.

Kitchen Tips

  1. Lemongrass adds a wonderful hint of lemony flavor and fragrance to your cooking, but you need to peel off and discard the tough outer layers in order to use it. Then cut off the bulb at the root end. Cut the softer white-yellow-green stalk that remains as your recipe directs. You can cut it into chunks or slice in smaller slices to reveal a purplish blush at the interior (slicing on a diagonal works well). Or if you don’t need neat slices, you can place the stalk on a work surface and whack it with the side of a large chef’s knife to crush it and chop it a little more if need be. If you are slicing it and the thin top section becomes too hard to work with, whack it and chop it up.
  2. To remove needle-like pin bones from a fillet of fish such as trout, salmon or arctic char, place the fillet on a work surface. Run your finger along the top (not the underbelly or the tail) and you will feel the tiny bones, no bigger than a pin. With fish tweezers or tongs, grasp one pin bone firmly and pull toward the head end of the fish; don’t pull toward the tail because the bones don’t face that way and they will snap in half. Gently but firmly pull out the bones one by one. If one does happen to snap, feel for the piece you left behind and with your finger and pull it out.
  3. If you wish, you can grill the salmon on a grill pan, working in batches as necessary.
  4. Discard marinades that have been used for meat, poultry, or fish when you are ready to cook, as they can harbor dangerous foodborne bacteria. Some recipes suggest that you can kill any bacteria by boiling it for 15 minutes, but this is not true—and not  safe. The same is true for drippings that are released from partially cooked meat, poultry, or fish. By exposing cooked food to these uncooked or partially cooked marinades and juices, you can recontaminate the cooked foods. Likewise, don’t place cooked chicken on any previously used platters, where bacteria might lurk.

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