wabi-sabi and some wasabi salmon cakes

Wasabi always makes me think of wabi-sabi – the Japanese art of finding and embracing beauty in flaws and imperfection. It is a concept derived from Buddhism and based on the idea that nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.

Wabi-sabi is the beauty in old, weathered wood; in cracked pots; in sea glass and stones worn smooth by water and ice; in well-used, much-loved, and slightly rusted cake pans; and ancient, fraying, faded quilts. It is the recognition that everything on earth is composed of atoms and everything eventually returns to the earth.

Kintsugi pots are a beautiful example of wabi-sabi.  Kintsugi is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a resin mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.  A Kintsugi pot might look like this…

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kintsugi

I love the concept of wabi-sabi. Of not throwing things away just because they are imperfect and of taking the time to fix things or find new uses for them. I’m trying to incorporate more wabi-sabi in my life.

Maybe because I’ve been thinking about wabi-sabi – these wasabi salmon cakes were on my mind. I made them a while ago and didn’t take a photograph. Today I made them again. I really like them. They’re incredibly tasty, simple, economical and remarkably healthy. I don’t know how available canned wild sockeye salmon is around the world but in Canada, it’s a staple. You could use any tinned or cooked salmon but sockeye is impressive. For those of you not familiar it is a red, as opposed to a pink salmon, and is a fantastic source of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.

Wasabi Salmon Cakes

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

To make your life easier, you’ll need a half-decent non-stick fry pan

  • 1- 213 gram can sockeye salmon
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (I used Hellman’s)
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1-2 teaspoons of wasabi paste (I used 2 teaspoons because I love wasabi)
  • 1 tsp soya sauce
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup very finely chopped onion
  • extra breadcrumbs
  • olive oil for frying

Drain the salmon lightly. Mash it up including the bones and skin. Add the mayo and stir. Mix in all remaining ingredients. Add extra breadcrumbs one tablespoon at a time, if needed, to get a mixture that is a suitable consistency for making patties. Roll into balls and press flat. I made five salmon cakes. The smaller you make them, the easier they are to deal with. You’ll probably need 2 cakes per serving.

Pour some breadcrumbs into a flat bowl and one at a time – coat the patties with the extra crumbs.

Add a little olive oil to your non-stick pan and cook the patties over medium heat until browned. Resist the temptation to flip them about too much – they hold together better if you manage to flip them only once. Although if you can’t resist and you end up with slightly mangled salmon cakes – remember the whole principle of wabi-sabi – the beauty in imperfection. Serve like a hamburger on a bun with condiments or just dish ’em up with a salad. I used some fabulous jalapeno mayonnaise as a condiment but you could be creative here – mango chutney, curry mayonnaise, tartar sauce….


27 thoughts on “wabi-sabi and some wasabi salmon cakes

  1. I didn’t know anything about this art, but I do love the concept: nothing is perfect. How truthful! Love this salmon cakes, I’m sure wasabi gives them a very impressive flavour!

    1. And I love that you stopped by to comment – thank you! Wabi-sabi is a great concept and makes me think of things in new ways. I like the challenge. And yes, the wasabi is the perfect enhancement to the salmon and just lifts these from ordinary to a little bit extraordinary.

  2. I am a wabi sabi wannabe. I keep things that are broken or imperfect thinking that I will re purpose or fix and end up with way too much stuff that I have a hard time throwing out. I do love your wasabi salmon cakes, they look wonderful great photo too!

    1. This made me laugh. I fear I am the same. I have moved a lot of old boards (lovely old wood – we cannot throw that out?!), several very old windows (wouldn’t they be charming cleaned up and put to use?), and a number of broken things (could be repurposed) & old duvet covers (they could be quilted…) etc. A fine line between hoarding and wabi-sabi-ing!

  3. My favourite post yet. Not the recipe, but the reminder to find beauty in imperfections. Words to live by….
    (Although the salmon is likely delish, and that looks like my favourite broccoli salad as well!)

  4. I had no idea that there was a word for a concept so abstract and beautiful. Wow. You really enlighten me with your posts. I love that about languages and cultures…Some cultures have words for phenomena that other cultures don’t. The language reflects the culture. It seems that the Japanese have such a rich language in terms of description. These salmon cakes look delicious. I really love salmon and I love your suggestion of a jalapeno mayonnaise or a mango chutney. Yum! Beautiful as always.

    1. thanks Amanda! I’m a bit of a Japan-o-phile. Have been a couple of times and found it beautiful and fascinating. Also love Japanese food – at least – what I know of it and particularly sushi. Also loved the preservation of the art, culture and history juxtaposed against the high tech world, bullet trains, and concrete – pretty wonderful. It’s a great term – wabi-sabi – isn’t it.?! We should all add a little wabi-sabi to our lives. xo

      1. I totally agree. I studied Japanese literature and poetry for a while. My interest started around when I was 16. Yukio mishima, basho…I used to suffer through the ny winters as a kid and pretend to be in kyoto.

  5. Wabi-sabi. A concept I, unknowingly, live by! Although I have heard the word wabi-sabi I never knew what it meant. This exists on so many levels in our (my) life. We are remodeling our house (the 10 year plan!) and using all reclaimed materials. It feels right to take old growth beams, windows and doors, clean them up a little and install them into our home. If you can imagine my husband brought home two gorgeous 20 feet tall bamboo plants that had busted through their pots. They were headed to the clean green dump. Someone was going to just throw them away! He made new pots for them and now they are thriving. And I couldn’t agree more about the fine line between hoarding and wabi-sabi. LOL! You should see my husband’s work shop. He ask me once if I thought he was a hoarder. 🙂 Lindy, I am going to make your salmon cakes. I have never noticed canned wild sockeye. I’ll look for it. I love the recipe and I really like the look of your delicious salad too!

    1. That’s funny Seana – a concept that you unknowingly live by! I wonder how many concepts I unknowingly live by? So fantastic that you are remodeling using reclaimed materials. And I love the story about the bamboo plants. Bamboo won’t grow here (too cold in winter) but we had a forest of bamboo behind our house in Brisbane, Australia and I loved the way the wind moved through it. As for the salmon – I think you can get it in Seattle because there is a lot of Alaskan salmon that comes your way. Pretty sure you can find wild Alaskan sockeye – or even wild Canadian sockeye. SO good & so healthy. Love hearing about your life Seana & always love your comments.

    1. Thank you Fae. I really love this concept although I don’t know where I’d find gold to fix my broken pots! I use them for putting in the bottom of plant pots. Somewhat less aesthetically fabulous!

  6. I LOVE the Idea of wabi-sabi! Now I have an excuse for keeping the worn, chipped things I love…anyone makes a comment, I have an answer for them! And the Wasabi Salmon Cakes! I make Salmon cakes a lot and this will be a wonderful change; I know my husband will love them.

  7. What a delicious post, Love! The musings on wabi-sabi and kintsugi are lovely and ethereal enough, and then you give us those magnificent, socko sockeye cakes!!! Guess I know what should go on the menu very, very soon. 😀


  8. Wabi Sabi. Love it. I always love to read your posts, Lindy. You’re so smart…and I always walk away having learned something new…and a smile on my face.
    Someone just asked on FB not too long ago, what was one of the worst meals that you remember your mom making as you were growing up… and I honestly answered “Canned Salmon Patties”… lol. 🙂 I remember that I hated the smell of them… and I didn’t skip many meals, but that was one that I would always skip!
    Now your patties, on the other hand, look so delicious. The wasabi, the soy sauce, the onions, and lemon juice work. I think you might have just changed my opinion on salmon patties. This is something that I’m definitely going to try.
    That salad looks fab too… ❤ Love your posts. Love you. ❤

    1. So interesting. My mother made fish fried in gravel (well it tasted like it anyway) with gelatinous parsley sauce and lima beans every Friday night. And I died at least a bit – every Friday night. I LOVE salmon. And I only wished my mother would have served me canned salmon patties instead of the torture test Friday fish fest! I guess if you cooked frozen white fish in gravel and parsley sauce with lima beans – I’d probably like your version too. Cuz love is just like that. ❤

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