Updated June 17, 2009
Originally posted November 23, 2007
Lomi Lomi Salmon
We made this lomi lomi salmon recipe for our recent “Ultimate Backyard Lu’au”. "Lomi lomi" means "massage" in Hawaiian, and it refers to the way the ingredients for this dish are massaged together. I don't really know how salmon came to be the fish of choice for this style of dish but it's all good.
We got our salmon from (who else?) our favorite fish monger, Pat from Mission Fresh Fish. He’s the same guy who supplied us with the ahi for the Ahi Limu Poke, all the seafood for our Cioppino Hot Pot meal, and the salmon bones for our Wild Salmon Cakes. We bought the salmon on Thursday at the San Carlos Farmer’s Market . That night, I skinned the fillets, pulled out the pin bones, and salted them with some Hawaiian sea salt before putting them in the fridge.
Salting the Salmon Fillets for Lomi Lomi Salmon
On Friday night, I took the salmon fillets out of the fridge and rinsed off the salt, then patted the fillets dry. Annie cut the fillets into 1/2 inch-wide strips, then diced the salmon up. The diced salmon went back into the fridge.
Dicing Salmon for Lomi Lomi Salmon
We had purchased over 10 pounds of Roma tomatoes at the San Carlos Farmer’s Market. Since we didn’t want to carry the box around while we shopped the rest of the market, we left the box with the vendor. There must have been a mixup, because when we came home, we found our box full of less-than-ripe globe tomatoes!
Since this was early June, these tomatoes didn’t have nearly the flavor of the Romas, let alone fully ripened heirloom tomatoes from our own garden. But what could we do? I cut each tomato in half and seeded them.
Halved and Seeded Tomatoes for Lomi Lomi Salmon
The Tomato Dicing Expert
Now began the arduous task of dicing up the tomatoes. I am not as skilled with the knife as Annie is. I was cutting each halved tomato into slices, then strips and finally dice. I wasn’t getting very far when Annie came up.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m trying to dice the tomatoes.”
“You call this a dice?” She held up an irregularly shaped piece of tomato.
“Well, how can I dice this tomato so it looks uniform?”
“Why don’t you slice the tomato in half, then make strips one way and then cut perpendicular to make the dice?”
“I’m doing that but the stupid knife isn’t sharp enough and the tomato keeps slipping.”
“Oh, so it’s the knife that’s stupid, huh?”
“Look, don’t use a sawing motion. Let the knife do the work for you. Just lay the point of the knife on the board, and cut the tomato with the back of the knife using a rocking motion.”
“A rocking motion? How…?”
“MOVE!” (slice, chop chop chop chop, chop chop chop chop) “There, see? Was that so hard? Hand me another one.”
Before I knew it, she had diced all the tomatoes as well as a red onion. She handed me back the knife so I could chop up some green onion. “By the way, a-you’re welcome!”
Diced Tomatoes and Red Onion for Lomi Lomi Salmon
(Note: I have taken creative license with the previous story. The real Annie is nothing like a “Nick Burns of the kitchen”. Love you, honey!)
After adding the chopped green onions to the tomatoes and red onions, I poured the whole pile into a large aluminum tray, then added the diced salmon. Here’s where the “lomi lomi” massage technique comes in. With both hands, I gently mixed the ingredients together until everything was well distributed. As a final touch, I squeezed some lemon juice onto the lomi lomi salmon to brighten up the flavors.
Lomi lomi salmon needs to be served chilled, so I put some ice in another aluminum tray, and put the salmon-filled tray on top of the ice.
Tray of Lomi Lomi Salmon
The lomi lomi salmon was a very popular dish at our lu’au. The saltiness of the salmon was tempered by the sweetness of the tomato. The red onion’s crunch and bite stood out against the salmon and tomatoes’ softness.
Lomi Lomi Salmon
Back in Hawai’i, the lomi lomi salmon served at lu’aus often was more tomato than salmon, and those tomatoes were usually hard and mealy. Our lomi salmon was better because it had a higher ratio of salmon to tomato. The best lomi lomi salmon recipe, though, would be if we used some of Annie’s own homegrown heirloom tomatoes instead of under-ripe globes.
Down with soulless tomatoes!
Links to Hawaiian Lu’au Food recipes
Kalua Pig with Cabbage Recipe
Chocolate Haupia Pie Recipe